quote unquote: John Stuart Mill on the limits of individualism

"That 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, Abused libertarianeither physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." -- John Stuart Mill (On Liberty)

1 comment:

John Gabree said...

I referred previously to this passage, but realized in subsequent conversations that the quote was too abbreviated. The meat, of course, is that the state has the right, nay, the obligation, to limit individual freedom to deter evil. Authoritarians, right wing anarchists and oligarchs in contemporary America try to transform libertarianism into license, but I doubt Mill could read Ayn Rand's odes to selfishness without revulsion.

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