Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, 29 April 2013
This review is from: An Essay on the Principle of Population (Norton Critical Editions) (Paperback)
[Treating women as breeding factories] 'is a degrading slavery to a brute instinct in one of the persons concerned, and most commonly, in the other, helpless submission to a revolting abuse of power' Fighting words from John Stuart Mill in 1848 (cf the recent case of the woman who didn't want any more children but consented to unprotected sex with her husband provided he withdrew, a promise he reneged on; the judge - male, one presumes - sided with the husband). A third of this stunner among Norton anthologies is devoted to contemporary comment of this kind, a third to Malthus himself and a (generous) third of this 2nd edition to the present century

There follows another irresistible piece of Mill
'While a man who is intemperate in drink is discountenanced and despised by all who profess to be moral people, it is one of the chief grounds made use of in appeals to the benevolent that the applicant has a large family and is unable to maintain them'
What does Mill advocate? First, education and 'leading by example'; remember 'shame'? Second, some equivalent to the Chinese one-child policy. Of course, as long as our frontiers are porous to immigration, something inconceivable in Mill's day, this self-restraint would be in vain. We have the wrong moral compass. Knowing as we now do the horrifying finiteness and interconnectedness of so much of our 'life support systems', if we are not to be damned as utterly selfish all our actions beyond brute survival should take account of the yet unborn - and their grandchildren. Immigration? The most criminal short-termism. We need FEWER people, LESS growth (Zadie Smith's husband first articulated this - before he became a dad), above all we need to moderate our appetites. In the words commonly attributed to Hippocrates, DO NO HARM - though in writing this, and in you reading it, I am afraid we are using power. (When Nick 'Mr Zadie Smith' Laird finally junks his WPC, I'll listen)

Live in the 21st century? You need this book
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Location: london, england

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