"JOHN STUART MILL once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who have been busy reinventing conservatism for a new era. As Lexington sees it, the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans". So says the Economist's publication of November 13, 2008 in an article entitled "Ship of Fools".
By shifting the term "Ship of Fools" to the U.S. Republican party, we as a country, might inadvertantly overlook the precarious position of a mantra that takes up anything John Stuart Mill. So, who was John Stuart Mill and why should we care?
Mill is the embodiment of the philosophy known as Utilitarianism, which at first blush, gathers the mind into a romance with our destiny as if one espoused by the Woodstock wranglings of the 60's. Many pundits recall these Woodstock interludes in life as if to embody the thinking of an entire generation. It did not.
As a college student in the 60's, who took up life as a challenge and not a curse, I graduated, got a job, and worked. While taking such a path did not provide enough income to sustain the life of a "wanna be" or a "drop out", I was able to participate in the clean-up aftermath no one ever talks about. I was employed as a counselor in Juvenile Hall.
This was not just any Juvenile Hall. This was a San Francisco Bay Area Juvenile Hall. It was there that I saw the once bright lights of well-educated minds snuffed out by the Haight-Ashbury lifestyle. Youngsters caught up in the desperation of turning on and tuning out while touting a joint or dropping LSD just as Timothy Leary would recommend. This is Utilitarianism personified. It is not a pretty sight. It demolishes lives. Brains were fried. Souls died. A ship of fools in real life.
Utilitarianism is a modern form of the Hedonistic ethical theory which teaches that the end of human conduct is happiness, and that consequently the discriminating norm which distinguishes conduct into right and wrong is pleasure and pain....... The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, utility or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.
By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure (Utilitarianism, ii, 1863)......while the system had already been advocated by many English philosophers, it may be said that, with the important exception of Helvetius (De l'esprit, 1758), from whom Bentham seems to have borrowed, all the champions of this system have been English. The favour which it has enjoyed in English speculation may be ascribed in a great measure to the dominance of Locke's teaching, that all our ideas are derived exclusively from sense experience. ...... its ethical complement (is) in the theory that our moral ideas of right and wrong, our moral judgments, and conscience itself are derived originally from the experienced results of actions. (New Advent Encyclopedia),
Is it any wonder, then, that many American's attribute the trouncing that Republicans took in the elections of 2008 as indicative of that party's turn from conscience? Others say that in betraying the ideals that introduced the conservative movement full force into U.S politics during the Reagan era, the Republican party was not a ship of fools. Rather, the conservative values of the Republican ship was dry docked. With no clear message that would appeal to the conscience of America, Woodstock attempted to rally. It remains unclear what role, among the general electorate, was played by John Stuart Mill.