Literature of Liberty: J. S. Mill and the Social Sciences

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The resurgence of interest in John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) began in the early 1940s stimulated by F. A. Hayek whose efforts and enthusiasm inspired new publications of collections of Mill’s works, his letters, and biographies. Hayek’s own study, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), commemorated the centenary of the publication of Mill’s On Liberty.

Hayek was particularly fascinated by Mill’s views of the influence of intellectuals on public policy. A statesman adopts a policy, not because of objective reality, but because of public opinion. The statesman takes public opinion for his objective reality, and he is successful to the degree that he operates within the accepted framework of thought. On a deeper level, however, the framework of thought which guides human action is derived from those intellectuals whose profession it is to apply abstract ideas…