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What would Mill say about Libya?

March 29, 2011

As we have all been seeing in the news, the situation that Libya is facing is getting more and more serious by the minute. With the adoption of armed intervention by the world’s most powerful nations, there seems to be no backing down for the protests. But what would John Stuart Mill say about this situation?

Thinking through Mill’s concept of wrong opinion, I thought to myself: What would he think about the rebels opinion? I realized that this question had to be further expanded into 2 periods: the one with the current crisis; and the one that was on before the protests, say during 2010.

Thinking about Libya’s situation in its pre-rebellion state, during 2010 for example, one would think that any opinion against the government regime would be wrong. No one would accept the idea of rising up and confronting a regime that has been in power for more than 40 years, and who’s opinions were accepted by the population as the correct ones. But they have proven not to be.

Under Mill’s point of view, those who have been expressing their opinions against the government shouldn’t have being deemed as having a wrongful opinion. The lack of tolerance for these opinions that were deemed as “wrong” might have made the problem in Libya much worse now than it would have been if they had listened to these opinions and contrasted them with those opinions that were imposed as right by al-Gaddafi.

Before the rebellion began, Mill’s would have probably said that the wrong opinions should have been heard in order to have “the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth.” It is important to try to put Mill’s theory in use with problems that occur today. We can only learn from the past, and Mill’s teachings still apply today. Thousands of lives could have been saved if Mill’s concepts were applied when analyzing this situation.

One Comment
  1. Shane Malone permalink
    March 29, 2011 11:10 PM

    While you bring up a good point that if Libya would have used Mills ideas then lives would have been saved, I don’t think that the leaders of Libya would ever consider using the ideas. Even now Libya’s leaders think that what they are doing is right and that they should stay in power. In contrast what the people are thinking they think is right and that they leaders thoughts are wrong. Neither party is willing to “realize” that their idea is wrong. That being said, I don’t believe that using Mill’s ideas in this situation would be effective. Still I believe that your post brings up an interesting argument, and one that should be considered.

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