Discussion Questions on Mill, Book VI, ch. 11

1. Mill notes that there are statistical regularities in rates of murders, suicides, accidents, and so forth. What in his view do such regularities show? How does he think that such regularities should be explained?

2. In the 1990s the murder rate by age in Chicago peaked at about 900 per million for young men at about age 24. Before 24 the rate rose steeply and after 24 it tapered off more gradually. In England and Wales during the same period the murder rate peaked at about 30 per million, but showed a virtually identical age distribution, rising steeply to a maximum at age 24 and then tapering off at the same rate. How would Mill explain this?

3. If murder rates are so regular year after year, doesn't it follow that murders are not caused by individual choices? Don't the large differences in average incomes between Americans of European and African ancestry show that individuals are not responsible for their own incomes?

4. Is history a social science, like economics, sociology, anthropology or psychology? Is there anything special about history? Some people grant the existence of economic, sociological or psychological laws but deny that there are any historical laws. Why?

5. Mill thinks that "great men" are very important to history, but he denies that they can alter the general sequence in which societies develop. Just how are they so important then, and why can't they alter the general sequence in which societies develop. How important do you think that Monica Lewinsky has been to the history of the world?