A Critical Analysis of John Stuart Mill’s "On Liberty"

1403 Words3 Pages

An individual does not make a community, and a community does not make a society. In order to have a functioning and prosperous society, one must relinquish some free will in return for protection. According to John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, there are certain rights of the individual which the government may never possess. Centuries after the publication of Mill’s Essay, the court case Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegeta l , 546 U.S. 418 (2006) challenged the protective role of government against the free exercise of religion. In this instance, Mill would agree with the court ruling because, like his views concerning free exercise of will, government restriction and majority rule, both the court ruling and Mill’s ideals are concerned for the best interests of the individual rather than for the greater good of society. Complete free exercise of will inhibits individual and societal freedom. According to Mill, one may act as one chooses unless one is inflicting harm onto others. He argues that one is free to behave “according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself” as long as “he refrains from molesting” (64). The problem arises in the freedom allowed to the individual performing the potentially dangerous act. People are often blinded by the situation in which they are in and by their personal motives which drive them to act. Humans, by nature, have faults and vices that are potentially harmful. It is the responsibility of society to anticipate harm, whether to oneself or to others. Once dangerous patterns and habits are recognized it is imperative to anticipate and prevent injury from reoccurring. To allow any individual to be inflicted harm forces citizens to lose tr... ... middle of paper ... ...nturies. Mill presents a clear and insightful argument, claiming that the government should not be concerned with the free will of the people unless explicit harm has been done to an individual. However, such ideals do not build a strong and lasting community. It is the role of the government to act in the best interests at all times through the prevention of harm and the encouragement of free thought. Works Cited Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal. Supreme Court of United States. 2006. Google Scholar. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. . Mill, John Stuart, and Gertrude Himmelfarb. On Liberty. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. Print.

Open Document