On Liberty Analysis
“On Liberty” is a philosophical text written by John Stuart Mill and Published in 1859. The text highlights the core values in society as exhibited by authority and liberty. Mill puts more significant pressure on individuality and its essentiality in society and authority. He asserts that the earlier individuals used liberty to protect themselves from powerful political tyrannies because of the leaders’ oozed authority. Consequently, society tried to fight for its freedom through legal processes. They fought for their political rights against tyrannies, and the most challenging form of societal freedom is implementing policies that would protect against power abuse.
According to Mill (2004), the power of democracies to liberate is as hard as a camel going through the eye of a needle. He believes that such a path is more hazardous than tyrannical authorities. The authorities are capable of infiltrating into the society in the name of democracy through their influence. Therefore, Mill concedes that democracy is a mere tool that the political class used to dictate the majority’s needs after making it a law.
Mill (2004) observed as his country’s government, the UK, slowly became the exact situation he denoted in his essay. He was an influential member of the government, working as a civil servant of the East India Company that controlled India as its colony. The British government did not allow the middle class to vote until twenty years earlier when it was granted. At the same time, women and the working class did not have the freedom to vote and choose the government of their choice. Mill views the middle class as a great asset to the society and the ultimate conformers. Similarly, the UK was reenacting Mill’s thoughts on the government’s assertion on its citizens.
Mill (2004) does not believe it is the right thing for the government to believe in its citizens’ popular opinion. Freedom of expression is a catalog for the government’s oppression and should not be remarkably free. Mill says that an individual does not have the power to silence an opinion, and therefore, it will be challenging to silence the majority. However, everyone’s opinion deserves a fair hearing to dictate the truth from falsehood. He gives an example of The Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War as cases where opinions never heard. Consequently, it is difficult to understand how truthful an opinion may be extracted if the authority does not guarantee the freedom of expression according to Mill’s assertions.
Mill (2004) believes that individuals should not emphasize the values of Christianity and forget their values and integrity. He became controversial to most Christians when he claimed that Christianity was a dead dogma than a living truth as believers thought. Additionally, he distinguished between personal belief and honesty, saying that both did not correlate. One does not become honest because of his or her faith but personal quality. Mill’s thought on personal values related to personal quality was a recipe for objectiveness. Personal quality is shaped more by religious doctrines, thus resulting in great personal values.
According to Mill (2004), society and authority should grant individuals freedom of freewill. As a result, they will reach a maximum level of happiness. However, people should not take advantage of the freewill proposition and subject other individuals or authority to social dilemmas. However, individuals should make sure their freedom to follow personal goals are utilized to realize their happiness. Therefore, society should not become between one’s happiness as long as it does not adversely affect others’ peaceful coexistence. Freedom of expression should be regulated under different circumstances so that individuals do not jeopardize a whole society’s peace in the pretext of freewill to express themselves.
The author asserts that there is a limit to individuals’ liberty. If the limit is crossed, society needs to contravene and take necessary measures to trim such a character. Additionally, Mill says that once an individual is in a society, he must adhere to its terms and conditions by not violating others’ rights and freedom to satisfy self-pleasure and benefits offered by society. Like the usual phrase, “society will judge you,” Mill says that society should punish individuals that hurt others but cannot be punished by law, by society’s opinions.
The writer’s unlikely support for coercion is exhibited in this context, saying that harmful individuals should be put under public scrutiny and criticized according to society’s protocols. Mill’s claims on society’s safety are a welcomed assertion to protect society’s integrity, sovereignty, and people from people who see the goodness in suspending peace. It is worth noting that that Mill is putting pressure on individual values and morals. If they contravene the societal policies, then society should pass judgment to them.
Mill is hesitant about the government and the need to empower it. He knows that he has made contradictory assumptions on people and their desires before. It is quite a dilemma for him to empower an organization that sells dangerous materials because he cannot draw the line between preventive and precautionary. He believes not everyone would be able to support such marketing, calling it an effectual prohibition. Additionally, he endorses warning labels in products and goods, asserting that it is imperative because everyone would want to know the possible effects of a product, like poison. Mill’s stand on illegal business is today’s society’s modern-day activity through drug sales and its effects. The society feels the impact through the involvement of individuals in criminal activities and social vices.
Slavery is wrong in all aspects for Mill because it takes away the crusaded liberty he is preaching on individuality. Additionally, he analyses education by claiming it is a father’s responsibility to offer quality education for their children. The author adds that education should be universal standards that education stands on for every child to achieve. Therefore, a parent has no right to deny a child the liberty to be educated as it is a path towards success. Mill (2004) connects the desire to be given quality education amongst the cleverest in the world by his father to other fathers of the world. Therefore every father should commit to achieving the goal as a parent. Mill is so enthusiastic about educating children. Parents should be committed to achieving the goals of child education. He places the father’s responsibility, knowing that the father has to teach his children the right virtues through education. Furthermore, the father is the head of the family and should take the mantle in securing the whole family through education.
In conclusion, Mill’s book is a reflection of the current society and its governance. The instability of current society is as a result of poor governance and greed from influential individuals. They contravene and stamp on the citizen’s rights to fulfill personal objectives. On the other hand, people live a life of choice, but societal protocols and regulations regulate their choice. Different societal groups shape them like religion, education, and the whole society. Emphasis is put on education’s essentiality to brighten children’s future and solve societal issues using the knowledge and skills acquired.
Mill, J. S. (2004). On liberty and utilitarianism. WORDSWORTH EDITIONS.