ABSTRACT

Open discussion is a political ideal that today stands atop the hierarchy of the common political values of the West and of the world at large. Its nineteenth century origins are to be found in James Mill, who took it from the physiocrats of the century before. As John Stuart Mill put it in his autobiography, “so complete was my father’s reliance on the infl uence of reason over the minds of mankind, whenever it is allowed to reach them, that he felt as if all would be gained if the whole population were taught to read, if all sorts of opinions were allowed to be addressed to them by word and in writing, and if by means of the suff rage they could nominate a legislature to give eff ect to the opinions they adopted” (cited in Dicey [1914] 1962: 161-62). As John Austin said, the elder Mill “held, with the French Economistes, that the real security of good government is in a peuple eclaire” (quoted in Dicey [1914] 1962: 163). The language reappears in Habermas, as does the sentiment (1973: 282).