John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

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In John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” the idea of liberty is examined through a lens that is applicable regardless of form of government. John Mill, son of James Mill, the father of utilitarianism, had a rough childhood that heavily influenced his political ideologies. His harshly studious upbringing revolutionized the way his ideologies were formed, and he was very politically developed from a young age. His work bears the hallmarks of liberal political theory, showcasing individualism, the strong defense of the freedom and rights of the individual, and a strong faith in laws to limit the worst of human behavior. However, his work appears to be riddled with contradictions. His ideas of liberty and the freedom of expression are exclusive. While…show more content…
Mill backs up the logic in this statement by assigning the role of freedom to the caretaking of the individual. If the individual needs to be protected from itself, that is the inherent role of freedom. However, the three principles of freedom do not apply to this subgroup of people. Mill states that “those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury” (Mill 597). Those who are incapable of reason, including the legal definition of minors of the respective states, have the normalized freedom which Mill applies to everyone else taken away. In accordance with Mill’s theory, that freedom is taken only to be replaced by a different liberty of protection, but it does not follow the path that Mill laid out for the rest of acceptable…show more content…
While the previous limitation addressed to whom the liberties apply, this limitation addresses the way in which liberty should be given. In a political climate in which there is a powerful majority and a dissenting minority, the dynamic of power can be difficult to navigate. To further complicate this, Mill meddles with the application of liberty to this specific situation. Mill states that self-government is more of a misnomer than an accurate representation of people ruling over themselves. Instead, those “who exercise the power are not always the same people over whom it is exercised” (Mill 594). The will of the people is often misconstrued to be “the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people… those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority” (Mill 594). Mill continues on to state that the tyranny of the majority is to be prohibited by the applications of the freedoms of the individuals. He introduces the idea of a majority rule, minority rights system, one that is strictly adhered to in modern democracies scattered across the globe. In this sentiment, Mill addresses the ideas of positive and negative liberties, which can be described as the liberty to do something, and the liberty to be safe from others. He takes the negative liberty of keeping society from encroaching on the rights of the minority, while allowing for the positive liberty of the
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