Weekly Discussion and Review Questions

 Chapter 5 Modern Liberalism

Questions of the Documents:

Define Locke's "majority," and Rousseau's "General Will." Why is Rousseau not content with "majority?" What problems arise in determining the General Will? What does Rousseau mean when he asserts that the general will is "always right?"

What is Jeremy Bentham's "principle of utility?" How does this principle help in administering the state? in forming individual decisions?

Like most liberals of his time, Karl von Rotteck asserts that only an "elected assembly" can safely be entrusted with runing the state. What advantages does such an assembly have?

Why does Alexis de Tocqueville think that conditions of equality (such as in a democracy) might lead to despotism? What does this despotism consist of? Is it from the government?

To counter this despotism, Tocqueville says Americans have come up with "free institutions" or "intermediate bodies." These are private organizations, groups of individuals or even businesses, which fulfill a semi-public function by influencing&emdash;directly or indirectly&emdash;all three branches of government as well as other social institutions to protect individual freedoms. Give some of the examples which Tocqueville cites. How do they work? Why are they the equivalent of former aristocracies?

John Stuart Mill agreed with Tocqueville in asserting that the new tyranny was not over the body, "but over the mind." What do they mean by that? What makes it particularly dangerous?

In his essay "On Liberty," Mill suggests that previously liberals worked to curb the authority of the government. How had they succeeded in doing that?

Liberal successes, however, caused problems. What is Mill's definition of "society," and the role of individuals in it? Why is Mill so concerned with differentiating these two aspects? What, according to Mill, is the only ground upon which society can interfere with the activities of an individual?

Why does Mill reject the whole idea of "abstract rights?" What position does he take concerning "certainty" or certain "truth?" Is this relativism?

Why does Mill say that Freedom of Speech is the most important weapon against social intrusions? Why does he insist on freedom of speech even for ideas which the majority of people would reject?

Why does does William Lecky attack certain principles of democracy ? What is "liberal" about his position?

What is "liberal" about Lord Acton's criticism of authority?

Why did John Stuart Mill change his mind about the necessity for intervention of the State? Summarize some of his arguments in favor of this intervention.

What common themes seem to be present in the excerpts from various interventionist laws? Would Mill have supported all of them?

Is Herbert Spencer's argument valid that these laws represented a betrayal of liberal principles? How would Mill have answered him?

What does T.H. Green advance as the justification for state intervention? Why is this a departure from Mill's principles? What are some implications of his suggestion?

What does L.T.Hobhouse mean by the concept of "social wealth?" How does this differ from earlier liberal ideas of "property." Is Hobhouse very different than Proudhon?

Chapter Summary Questions:

To review and synthesize the material of the preceding chapters, use the following chart to organize an overview of the various ideologies. We have inserted some "sample" sentences to illustrate how you should fill in the chart:


View of Human Nature

Role of Religion

Religion is a grand deception designed to keep the masses ignorant and thus subservient.

Individual vs.Society

The indivudal alone has rights. Society exists ONLY to maintain and guarantee those individual rights.

Role ofTradition

Role of Positive Law

No state laws should interfere with the operations of the individual entrepeneur and the sel-regulating market


Terms to Know

General Will
Tyranny of the Majority
Intermediate Body
Free Institutions
"Freedom as Power"
"social wealth"
"responsible power"


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