Sunday, July 18, 2021

#199 / Mill's Conjecture


Shortly after writing the blog posting published yesterday, I happened to run across a short little bulletin from Tyler Cohen, sent to my email address by the website Marginal Revolution.
Cohen is a professor of economics at George Mason University, and that is not Cohen's picture at the top of this page. That's a picture of John Stuart Mill.

Cohen's little bulletin said the following (and this is, essentially, the whole of what Cohen wrote):
High wages and universal reading are the two elements of democracy; where they co-exist, all government, except the government of public opinion, is impossible.
Cohen says the statement comes from Mill’s State of Society in America, and Cohen calls this statement "Mill's Conjecture." In other words, Cohen is not absolutely certain that Mill is right in this claim. It's just a "conjecture." 
I am, actually, not sure that the quoted language is properly quoted. It would seem to me that the quotation should state: "... where they fail to coexist, all government..., etc." Nonetheless, we know what Cohen means, and if Mill is right, and democracy ultimately depends both upon high wages and literacy, then my blog posting yesterday, highlighting the "creeping mediocrity" that Nicholas Kristof thinks is afflicting our nation, is of significant concern. 
As Kristof notes, the United States is slipping in the areas of both "high wages" and "literacy."

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