John Stuart Mill predicted the outrage over Trump

As we approach the inauguration, I think of a wonderful insight of John Stuart Mill: everyone loves executive power – when his party wins the election.

Back when representative government was still an uncommon idea, John Stuart Mill – a pioneer of Classical Liberalism – advocated for it.  However, in "Considerations on Representative Government," he put forward a problem that could arise.  Specifically, people might begin to value their party holding power more than freedom itself.

Members of parties are willing to abdicate his personal freedom of action into the hands of his general provided his army is triumphant  and victorious and he is able to flatter himself that he is one of a conquering host. (88)

Mill thought individuals can be seen as members of an army, and the only thing they will care about is if their general is in charge.  Partisans love dominance when their party is the one dominant.

This is why the left did not protest President Obama using what is now a fifteen-year-old Declaration of War to bomb seven countries.  Furthermore, they applauded the initiative taken to negotiate the Iran nuclear deal despite many knowing that it was an overreach of the executive's power.

Similarly, this is why those on the right chose to ignore President Bush's actions in going against the Geneva Conventions' restrictions on interrogation techniques.

Outrage Over Trump

Many people throughout the country have staged vitriolic protests against the president-elect.  Articles have been penned, petitions have been signed, Golden Globe speeches have been made, with the goal of preventing the next president from taking power.  Yet the power they fear is the power they bestowed.

With regard to power, Mill wrote that people are "very jealous of any attempt to exercise over them … but they in general care very little for the exercise of power over others" (91). 

In other words, members of one party do not have an issue with handing power over to a member of same party, nor do they mind if that person uses that power over others in the society.  However, if another party gains hegemony and that power is used against them, they become outraged.

Tiberius is here: Now what?

"The despotism of Augustus prepared the Romans for Tiberius" (57).

Augustus was one of the most beloved leaders in the history of Rome.  He was a key player in transitioning Rome from a republic to an empire.  He largely ignored the Senate, keeping the absolute control of the military to himself, and dubbed himself the first among all Romans.  Augustus's son, Tiberius, following his father's example, also ignored the Senate but took his power one step farther and assassinated all of his political enemies.

I am not claiming that Trump will hire an assassin to kill Bernie Saunders.  However, Americans should be prepared: when they bestow near limitless power on a leader they love, one day a leader they despise will come along and use that power for something they find despicable.

Yet individuals will continue to give up that power for the chance of becoming a "conquering host."

As we approach the inauguration, I think of a wonderful insight of John Stuart Mill: everyone loves executive power – when his party wins the election.

Back when representative government was still an uncommon idea, John Stuart Mill – a pioneer of Classical Liberalism – advocated for it.  However, in "Considerations on Representative Government," he put forward a problem that could arise.  Specifically, people might begin to value their party holding power more than freedom itself.

Members of parties are willing to abdicate his personal freedom of action into the hands of his general provided his army is triumphant  and victorious and he is able to flatter himself that he is one of a conquering host. (88)

Mill thought individuals can be seen as members of an army, and the only thing they will care about is if their general is in charge.  Partisans love dominance when their party is the one dominant.

This is why the left did not protest President Obama using what is now a fifteen-year-old Declaration of War to bomb seven countries.  Furthermore, they applauded the initiative taken to negotiate the Iran nuclear deal despite many knowing that it was an overreach of the executive's power.

Similarly, this is why those on the right chose to ignore President Bush's actions in going against the Geneva Conventions' restrictions on interrogation techniques.

Outrage Over Trump

Many people throughout the country have staged vitriolic protests against the president-elect.  Articles have been penned, petitions have been signed, Golden Globe speeches have been made, with the goal of preventing the next president from taking power.  Yet the power they fear is the power they bestowed.

With regard to power, Mill wrote that people are "very jealous of any attempt to exercise over them … but they in general care very little for the exercise of power over others" (91). 

In other words, members of one party do not have an issue with handing power over to a member of same party, nor do they mind if that person uses that power over others in the society.  However, if another party gains hegemony and that power is used against them, they become outraged.

Tiberius is here: Now what?

"The despotism of Augustus prepared the Romans for Tiberius" (57).

Augustus was one of the most beloved leaders in the history of Rome.  He was a key player in transitioning Rome from a republic to an empire.  He largely ignored the Senate, keeping the absolute control of the military to himself, and dubbed himself the first among all Romans.  Augustus's son, Tiberius, following his father's example, also ignored the Senate but took his power one step farther and assassinated all of his political enemies.

I am not claiming that Trump will hire an assassin to kill Bernie Saunders.  However, Americans should be prepared: when they bestow near limitless power on a leader they love, one day a leader they despise will come along and use that power for something they find despicable.

Yet individuals will continue to give up that power for the chance of becoming a "conquering host."