On Liberty (Broadview Literary Texts) Paperback – 1999
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One of the interesting ideas behind 'On Liberty' is that this may in fact be more the inspiration of Harriet Taylor (later Mrs. J.S. Mill) than of Mill himself; Taylor wrote an essay on Toleration, most likely in 1832, but it remained unpublished until after her death. F.A. Hayek (free-market economist and philosopher) noticed this connection. Whether this was the direct inspiration or not, the principles are similar, and the Mills were rather united in their views about liberty.
'On Liberty' is more of an extended essay than a book - it isn't very long (104 pages of the text in the Norton Critical Edition, edited by David Spitz). It relates as a political piece to his general Utilitarianism and political reform ideology. A laissez faire capitalist in political economy, his writing has been described as 'improved Adam Smith' and 'popularised Ricardo'. Perhaps it is in part the brevity of 'On Liberty' that gives it an enduring quality.
There are five primary sections to the text. The introduction sets the stage philosophically and historically. He equates the histories of classical civilisations (Greece and Rome) with his contemporary England, stating that the struggle between liberty and authority is ever present and a primary feature of society.Read more ›
The author basically explains his ideas regarding the preservation of individual liberties, not only due to the fact that they are rights owed to everyone, but also because they benefit society as a whole.
For example, when he says that liberty of thought and of discussion must be preserved, he tells us that "Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument: but fact and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it". How can mistaken beliefs or actions be proven wrong, if dissent is forbidden?. The loss for society is clear: "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".
In order to preserve the liberties included in the concept of Civil Liberty, the author points out that there must be limits to the action of the Government. He says 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". Any other reason is simply not good enough. Thus, Stuart Mill highlights the rights of the individual, but also the limit to those rights: the well-being of others.
"On Liberty" is not too long, and I think you are highly likely to enjoy it, if you can get past the first few pages.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Beware, the kindle edition is not the edition shown, edited by Elizabeth Rapaport. There is no introduction, there are no annotations or comments at all to help the reader gain a... Read morePublished 7 months ago by vlopez
Very good. Having it on my computer and cell phone is very convenient. Can read it everywhere. No need for paperPublished on June 23 2014 by JosÃ©phine
JSM's On Liberty certainly stands among the classic works of the Age of Reason. Mill's encyclical is a perfect example of the tendency of the Enlightenment to believe something to... Read morePublished on July 20 2003 by Arthem
It was not Socialism itself that is an evil, but the way it was implemented in some countries, in response to white-anglo-whatever's totally value-less review. Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2003 by Nathaniel Avery
Unlike the clueless and completely contradictory rantings of "white_anglo_saxon_muslim", this book is entirely in favour of the freedom of the individual - personal... Read morePublished on Oct. 10 2002 by Conno
This book represents the beginning of the peversion of classical liberalism (Algernon Sidney, John Trenchard, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry) into the tyranny of modern day... Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2001
John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty, defines the nature of civil liberty, and most importantly, the harm principl. Read morePublished on Nov. 13 2000 by Christy
In On Liberty, Mill attempts to define when the authority of society can rightly limit individuality and the "sovereignty of the individual over himself. Read morePublished on Nov. 6 2000
John Stuart Mill was a liberal's liberal or a socialist's socialist- ahead of his times (or just hanging on Karl Marx's coattail. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2000 by R. Setliff