John Stuart Mill

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A famous philosopher of liberty and political economist. He adopted many socialist views in later life. He was never a libertarian: he always understood limits and exceptions to his ideas of liberty.


Millian Liberalism and the Irish Famine [More...]
Tyler Cowen wrote that progressivism needed a dose of Millian liberalism because it endorsed eugenics. Henry Farrell points out that Millian liberalism was guilty of much greater actual crimes during the Irish Famine.
Principles of Political Economy with Some of their Applications to Social Philosophy (7 ed.) Book V Chapter XI [More...]
"Of the Grounds and Limits of the Laisser-faire or Non-Interference Principle". Where Mill establishes himself as not a libertarian by endorsing government regulation of family affairs, provision of education, public goods and welfare, regulation or production of natural monopolies and laws to prevent races to the bottom.
Sorry, John Stuart Mill Was Not a Libertarian [More...]
"For Mill, who gets what is a social decision. The only thing that causes anyone to ever have entitlement over pieces of the world are the laws and institutions of society. It is police violence in concert with legal rules that actually demarcate what belongs to whom, and there is no demanded-by-the-universe way of orienting those institutions."


John Stuart Mill spoke eloquently of liberty, but when it came down to it, he believed that some people are "more or less unfit for liberty" even if they "prefer a free government," and are incapable and undeserving of one due to their "indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice." Mill said that in the case of those people, "a civilized government... will require to be in a considerable degree despotic [and impose] a great amount of forcible restraint upon their actions." Mill deemed some "unfit for more than a limited and qualified freedom," giving as an example "the Hindoos, [who] will perjure themselves to screen the man who has robbed them." Probably best not to give much credence to Mill, then, on the subject of when to withhold democracy.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
The true liberal tradition is represented not by Locke, but by John Stuart Mill, whose wholehearted commitment to political freedom was consistent with his eventual adoption of socialism (admittedly in a rather refined and abstract form). Mill wasn’t perfect, as is evidenced by his support of British imperialism, for which he worked as an official of the East India Company, and more generally by his support for limitations on democratic majorities. But Mill’s version of liberalism became more democratic as experience showed that fears about dictatorial majorities were unfounded.
John Quiggin, "John Locke Against Freedom"
"Let them eat liberty and secure property rights" is not an efficacious program for immediate famine relief, whatever its abstract and/or long term merits.
Henry Farrell, "Millian Liberalism and the Irish Famine"
There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others, which he may rightfully be compelled to perform; such as, to give evidence in a court of justice; to bear his fair share in the common defense, or in any other joint work necessary to the interest of the society of which he enjoys the protection; and to perform certain acts of individual beneficence, such as saving a fellow-creature's life, or interposing to protect the defenseless against ill-usage, things which whenever it is obviously a man's duty to do, he may rightfully be made responsible to society for not doing.
John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"
In the particular circumstances of a given age or nation, there is scarcely anything really important to the general interest, which it may not be desirable, or even necessary, that the government should take upon itself, not because private individuals cannot effectually perform it, but because they will not.
John Stuart Mill, "Principles of Political Economy with Some of their Applications to Social Philosophy (7 ed.) Book V Chapter XI" pg. 606.
The laws of property have made property of things which never ought to be property, and absolute property where only a qualified property ought to exist. They have not held the balance fairly between human beings, but have heaped impediments upon some, to give advantage to others; they have purposely fostered inequalities, and prevented all from starting fair in the race.
John Stuart Mill, "The Principles of Political Economy"
In so far as I live in society, everything that I do inevitably affects, and is affected by, what others do. Even Mill's strenuous effort to mark the distinction between the spheres of private and social life breaks down under examination. Virtually all Mill's critics have pointed out that everything that I do may have results which will harm other human beings.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
Without exception the great thinkers of classical liberalism, like Benjamin Constant, Thomas Babington Macaulay and John Stuart Mill, viewed universal suffrage democracy as a threat to property rights and capitalism.
Michael Lind, "Why libertarians apologize for autocracy"