Ideals of Liberty

The Marquis de Condorcet and John Stuart Mill were philosophers concerned with the idea of liberty and governments. Condorcet was a Frenchman writing during the time of the French revolution, undoubtedly inspired by the values of the revolution and the Enlightenment, putting reason above all else and valuing the progression of nations towards equality. He advocated for liberties that resembled the U.S. Bill of Rights, that is freedom of speech and press, abolition of torture, a simpler civil code and ensuring the security of innocent people. ((Condorcet, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1795. Mill focused his writing on the struggle between liberty and authority and how this progression had changed government forms over time, as well as his views on individual liberties. He thought that human’s needed to have liberty of individual thought, liberty of one’s tastes and pursuits and the liberty to unite with others for a purpose that does not harm other people. ((John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1869.

Condorcet and Mill have similar views on what liberties individuals are entitled to, mainly focusing on freedom of individual thought and opinion, as well as the fact that they were both known to be advocates for women’s rights, which was unique for men of their time. In 1795, when Condorcet was writing, women and many men did not have access to many of the liberties he discussed and this had not changed substantially in 1869 when Mill was writing in England. Mill was addressing the lack of these issues over seventy years later, implying that most individuals still did not have access to them.

There is still a lot of talk today about inequalities between men and women, with the obvious example being that women make 79 cents for every dollar made by a man. Women have made great strides in equality since Condorcet and Mill were writing but there is still a ways to go. Condorcet says at the beginning of his writing that the “perfectibility of man in indefinite”, do you think we will ever achieve full equality between men and women? ((Condorcet, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1795. Or between all members of society?

Dictators… Aren’t They All The Same?

Hitler and Mussolini standing together during a visit to Munich

Hitler and Mussolini standing together during a visit to Munich

Dictators. We tend to think of Hitler and Mussolini as having similar ideals and regimes based on the sole fact that they are both dictators. However, when analyzing their doctrines’ theories, one can see their goals and philosophies were not similar. In Hitler’s The 25 Points 1920: An Early Nazi Program the focus is on the purification of Germany. Contrastingly, in Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, the focus is on the State’s importance exercised through expansion.

Mussolini’s fascist state focuses on the State’s absolutism, expansion, and emphasis on man’s character. Mussolini came from a socialist background as an editor for a socialist newspaper. Once appointed Prime Minister in 1922, his career began in state leadership. In Mussolini’s What is Fascism he placed an emphasis on heroism of the man. He, as the spokesperson of the Fascist regime, believed man should not have any economic motive but rather see life as “duty and struggle and conquest”. For what purpose should man be dutiful and charismatic? The State, of course! Mussolini believed the State was the foundation of Fascism. As man provides ethics (discipline, duty, sacrifice), the State is able to expand.

Hitler’s philosophy focuses on maintaining the German population in all aspects. From the formation of a national army to restrictions on immigration, the Nazi program aimed to unify the Germans into one single ideal of biology, culture, policy, and geography. They attained this by an emphasis on nationality. Although in The 25 Points there is a demand of land and/or colonization for the German people, the physical land is not a central point. Rather, the significance is this sense of German priority. Contrasting to Mussolini and Fascism, the Nazi party placed an emphasis on economy. Hitler demanded nationalization of some industries and a division of profits for others.

The collective priority of the State over the individual is shared between both Mussolini and Hitler. Although they achieved “common good” differently through their individual philosophies and actions, the overarching concept of commonality is evident in both regimes.

Mussolini demands the deprivation of “all useless and possibly harmful freedom” but the retention of essential liberty. What are some examples of “useless freedom”? Do you think it is possible to place such a specific margin of liberty on a population?