Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Happy Birthday John Stuart Mill

The great Liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill was born in Rodney Street, Pentonville, on 20 May 1806.

To mark the day, let me point you to an article I wrote about the old boy for Liberator some years ago:
It seems we have become obsessed by Mill’s harm principle. Yet it is only a small part of On Liberty: the essence of that work is not concerned with curbing liberty at all but is a glorious hymn in favour of its expansion. 
Writing in Prospect magazine last year, Richard Reeves put it well: 
for Mill, liberty consists of much more than being left alone. It requires choice-making by the individual. "He who lets the world… choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation," he writes. "He who chooses his plan for himself employs all his faculties." For Mill, a good life must be a chosen life. 
Or as The Levellers said more recently: "There's only one way of life, and that's your own, your own, your own."
As it was to turn out, Reeves was a very good Mill scholar but less skilled as a special adviser to Nick Clegg.

No comments: