Mill's On Liberty: Democracy and Diversity


I was wondering why J.S Mill believed that democracy hinders diversity (and societal improvement through that)? Or perhaps I've misunderstood him and he was really against populism?

A more powerful agency than even all these, in bringing about a general similarity among mankind, is the complete establishment, in this and other free countries, of the ascendancy of public opinion in the State. the very idea of resisting the will of the public, when it is positively known that they have a will, disappears more and more from the minds of practical politicians..

and even more overtly:

No government by a democracy.. ever did or could rise above mediocrity, except insofar as the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided .. by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few.

I believe that the core idea may be that democracy, one way or another (majoritarian/plurality/PR), is assuming that to do what the majority wants is the right thing to do for a government. However, it seems to me that by encouraging a sole 'wise ruler' (not unlike Plato's philosopher king), Mill would be encouraging the society to conform to the idea of this 'wise ruler', whilst at the same time encouraging diversity and non-conformity!

Would be grateful for any suggestions!

Many many thanks,


shine yang

Posted 2021-01-10T04:23:40.987

Reputation: 71

No answers