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John Stuart Mill
1806 - 1873

English philosopher and economist, administrator in the East India Company, member of Parliament (1865-1868). Early a proponent of the utilitarian philosophy promoted by his father, James Mill, and Jeremy Bentham, Mill became disaffected with it and explored other political and economic philosophies before writing his System of Logic in 1843. He followed it with Principles of Political Economy in 1848, securing fame and respect for his more-humanitarian form of utilitarianism. However his best-known work is his essay On Liberty (1859), a treatise which continues to interest contemporary libertarians and classical liberals, and which is published here on canadian conservative org.

Books by John Stuart Mill
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On Liberty (1986)
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Principles of Political Economy (1986)
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Click here for essays by John Stuart Mill
Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.

If the teachers of mankind are to be cognisant of all that they ought to know, everything must be free to be written and published without restraint. If, however, the mischievous operation of the absence of free discussion, when the received opinions are true, were confined to leaving men ignorant of the grounds of those opinions, it might be thought that this, if an intellectual, is no moral evil, and does not affect the worth of the opinions, regarded in their influence on the character. The fact, however, is, that not only the grounds of the opinion are forgotten in the absence of discussion, but too often the meaning of the opinion itself.

1859 - from On Liberty
The fact itself, of causing the existence of a human being, is one of the most responsible actions in the range of human life. To undertake the responsibility--to bestow a life which my be either a curse or a blessing--unless the being on whom it is bestowed will have at least the ordinary chances of a desirable existence, is a crime against that being.

1859 - from On Liberty
Government aid....should be so given as to be as far as possible a course of education for the people in the art of accomplishing great objects by individual energy and voluntary co-operation.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

The worth of the state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

1859 - from On Liberty
A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands, even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men, no great thing can really be accomplished.

That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.

Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit.

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

1859 - from On Liberty
He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.

The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favorable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.

1859 - from On Liberty
The mode in which government can most surely demonstrate the sincerity by which intends the greatest good of its subjects is by doing the things which are made incumbent upon it by the helplessness of the public, in such a manner as shall tend not to increase and perpetuate but to correct that helplessness.

A man of clear ideas errs grievously if he imagines that whatever is seen confusedly does not exist; it belongs to him, when he meets with such a thing, to dispel the midst, and fix the outlines of the vague form which is looming through it.

from Bentham
The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.

1859 - from On Liberty
All trust in constitutions is grounded on the assurance they may afford, not that the depositories of power will not, but that they cannot, misemploy it.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

What ever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter what name it is called.

Truth emerges from the clash of adverse ideas.

A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government - in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.

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. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.

The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.

1859 - from On Liberty