On Liberty – John Stuart Mill

The book On Liberty by John Stuart Mill written in 1859 is available here in PDF format for e-readers. You can download it below.  The idea of Liberty is central idea behind our nation. The US was founded on the ideals of the enlightenment, something I personally believe in.

Social values of justice, equality and liberty

The idea of individual liberty is to some extent has taken second place to the idea of the common good. Society has three main virtues, liberty, justice and equality Justice being the ultimate good, something you can never have too much of. However, between equality and liberty, the pendulum is swinging in favor of equality. Equality is often revised and renamed and the motive is expressed as the common good. However, that is a slippery slope.  As warm and fuzzy the notion of the common good is, it is not the way to run your life or a nation.

 

John Stuart Mill On Liberty explains why. Mill believed he stood in opposition to the idea that someone else has a greater wisdom to run your life than you, even if your actions are deemed immoral by current social norms.

Is the idea of liberty cracked today? For me no.

You can download it here -> On Liberty

Was John Stuart Mill smart or just another writer with ideas?

On a side note, John Stuart Mill had an IQ estimated to be 180 and the clarity of this though illustrates this. That is why reading On Liberty in pdf is so engaging it is written by a clear mind. When you read this book, it elevates your mind and you can see it was written by no ordinary thinker.

What is the idea behind liberty?

Although liberty is not an unlimited good and therefore, not the ultimate social virtue, it is a close second. The reason that liberty is not unlimited, is we do not have the right to do things that will harm others. We do not have the liberty to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie house. That is the least of the examples.  Justice you can never had too much of but liberty yes.  However, to get to that social optimal society, the path is through the promotion of individual action which is not restricted by the abstraction of the political economic systems.

The idea of liberty is simple, the individual rather than the state can bring individuals and in aggregate society to a greater level.  Mill writes:

over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill was also the first to articulate the Harm Principle. That is:

the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

These two ideas is largely the basis of libertarian political ideas and one of the reason why I am a Libertarian. It would be so easy for civilization to De-evolutionalize and resign oneself to state paternalism, but I for one will not because it is not good for me or good for society.

  • I also feel that Mill was insightful regarding the idea that the tyranny of the majority.

It is not that there is anything radically new in Mill’s ideas it was an explanation of the continued struggle for mankind to resist the state, the struggle between authority and liberty. The ideas were in the air and he was influenced by the German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, in his essay On the Limits of State Action.

In this book you can see the connection to Utilitarianism.

I have kept this post fairly short as its main purpose was to deliver a download of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill in pdf format for ebook readers, and not to analysis it to the end. It is a short book and better you skim it than read my analysis.

 


 

Leave a Reply