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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberty based on utilitarianism rather than rights
"On Liberty" is one of the most important books on political thought of the nineteenth century. Fortunately for the 21st century reader it is also one of the most accessible. Mill was a libertarian who chose not to base his defence of liberty on natural rights but on his own revised version of utilitarianism:
"I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical...
Published on 2 Feb 2011 by Derek Jones

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American Spelling!?
I bought this book because it was cheap and I needed it for my uni course.
The print is legible and there is really nothing wrong with this book, except for the fact that the spelling of Mill's text has been changed to American spelling, for whatever reason. I find that quite annoying, since everytime I want to quote something, I have to change it back to British,...
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by Lingvist


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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 July 2014
Very interesting Book, a MUST for anyone interested in the politics of today!
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4.0 out of 5 stars To agree and disagree with much, 30 May 2014
By 
S. Meadows (UK) - See all my reviews
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In sitting down to review this book, I must admit that I found myself in a little difficulty. The book is written as an argument for a particular point of view, though Mill takes a number of tangents which distract from the main thrust of the book. One could choose to enter into a full-blown study of all these tangents and how they branch off from and feed into the core of his point. But to do so would require a great number of essays and I am aiming for a review of reasonable length. So I shall try to stick to the point.

As I began to read I found myself thinking "I agree, I agree, I agree." The opening argument over a person's right to liberty provided that it does not infringe on another's was an argument I have heard before, often from others citing Mill. The further I read and the more I thought about it, though, the more I doubted the soundness of the argument. Just to pick a few points, Mill slightly paraphrases the old adage "no man is an island" but doesn't really follow through with this. After all, if it is right to state that the no person should be hindered from any thought or action that doesn't affect anyone else, does such a situation exist in real life? While at first glance something I think in the privacy of my own home may seem as isolated as one can get, can one really think that it is isolated from every subsequent thought, and hence action, that I undertake? If any of those thoughts and actions affect another, can one really say that were devoid of influence from earlier thoughts and actions? I would post not, though it is another matter to question whether or not any influence on another is a form of impingement on their liberty; a question that Mill does not seem to properly address.

After his initial discussion on liberty, he turns his attention to religion. His portrait of what religion is, in particular christianity, seem to be particular to his experience and from this experience he extrapolates to take his negative views to apply more widely than can reasonably be justified. It is rather unfortunate that his rather skewed views on this topic have perpetuated.

From here, he moves on to his view on individualism as the paramount virtue which much must be protected. Though he doesn't use the word, this is a founding exhortation of libertarianism. In some places, he makes a very good case, particularly with relation to not inhibiting genius. In terms of the argument that is there, one could find it very convincing, as indeed many who call themselves neoliberals do. That is, until you think about it. What he does is to try to play a false dichotomy between liberalism and authoritarianism, without considering alternatives or properly following through the consequences of individualism.

What makes it doubly bizarre is that he appeals to Bentham on a couple of occasions, and others comment that this liberalism is grounded in utilitarianism. Yet the conclusion that Mill draws is that the needs of the individual are paramount. In other words (to twist the familiar summary of utilitarianism which may be found in a popular film), the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many. I would disagree with Mill on this. favouring a more "communitarian" approach whereby, whilst preserving our individual freedoms as much as possible, the needs of others must be put ahead of our own.

Whether you agree with me or with the view of Mill that I have portrayed here, I would encourage you to read it. Even though I would not wholly endorse his view, there is a great deal that is merit worthy contained within this small volume. Given its influence on modern thinking, it also serves as a useful education in the roots of how many neoliberals think.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 7 Nov 2012
It is the official book of the Liberal Democrats, and although their current actions do not reflect their ideals now (the Lib Dems I mean), anyone interested in the Party should read this. In particular Nick Clegg needs to read it to understand the core values of Liberalism.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberty consists of doing everything which doesn't harm others (Lafayette), 30 May 2010
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Liberty (English Library) (Paperback)
In this rightly famous essay, J.S. Mill explains his vision on the `Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen' adopted by the National Constituent Assembly in Paris in August 1789 on a proposition by the marquis de La Fayette.

The individual (liberty, sovereignty, responsibility)
The individual is sovereign over his body and mind. His liberty concerns thought, opinion, sentiment, taste, pursuit and combination (freedom to unite and to trade).
The limit to his liberty is based on one very simple principle: 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.
He has also responsibilities: it is a moral crime to bring a child into existence without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind.

Society
Society has jurisdiction over any part of a person`s conduct which affects prejudicially the interests of others. Also, everyone who receives protection of society owns a return for the benefit (e.g., bearing one's share in defending one's country).
But, the (majority of) people or the government has no right whatsoever to control the expression of opinion (media). Any doctrine, however immoral, has the fullest liberty to be professed or discussed.
A culture without freedom never makes a liberal mind. A genius can only breed in an atmosphere of freedom.

Philosophy (utilitarianism), religion
J. S. Mill regards utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions, but utility in the largest sense, grounded on permanent interest of man as a progressive being.
For J. S. Mill, religion has no utility: `the notion that it is one's duty that another should be religious was the foundation of all the religious persecutions ever perpetrated.'
For Calvinism, human nature is corrupt and should be killed in all human beings.
The Catholic Church is a monument of censorship.

Criticism (free trade)
J.S. Mill is a staunch defender of free trade. For reasons of efficacy, producers, sellers and buyers should be completely left free. Restrictions on trade (also of opium) are indeed restraints; and all restraint is an evil.
We saw, lately, the havoc tree trade could inflict on the world economy. Without governmental intervention, the whole free trade system would have collapsed.

J.S. Mill's brilliant defense of the liberty of the individual is a must read for all liberals and democrats.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Relevance of Mills Concept of Civil Liberties Today, 24 Oct 1998
By A Customer
John Stuart Mill deals with the issue of "civil liberties" --not the metaphysical issue of "free will". While most attacks on cilvil liberties have historically occurred from the right, Mill deals with threats against liberty from within the institutions of democracy itself. While the aim of the early libertarians was to limit the power of the ruler over those governed, Mill identifies a need to limit the power of elected governments as well. He argues that those who exercise powers in democratically elected governments are not the same as those over whom that power is excercised. Those exerting the power of the government (elected officials, bureaucrats, the judiciary, etc) develop their own interests and are influenced by special interests often at odds with the interests and liberties of individuals. Writing as he did in the 19th Century, Mill is all the more remarkable for his insight in light of what is happening today. In every literate criticism of "special interest groups", PAC's, "over-zealous prosecutors", etc., one sees the lasting influence of John Mill. Mill may be considered the heir apparent to John Locke and his work is most valuable when it is considered in an historical context which includes Locke's influence on our own founding fathers and James Madison's authorship of the "Bill of Rights", arguably the most effective limit on those forces tending to undermine civil liberties.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neo-cons and socialists should read and learn., 16 Dec 2006
By 
Mr. G. E. Cartwright "A_Pedant" (Somerset, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Liberty (English Library) (Paperback)
Perhaps the seminal work of liberalism (in its classical sense rather than the one imposed upon it by the American right), On Liberty is based on one simple principle namely that "over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."

This simplicity, which results in a welcome brevity rare in political philosophy, is the entire basis of modern liberal thought. Mill's approach to his subject is unique and shows his pedigree. The son of utilitarian philosopher James Mill, JS Mill grew up in a setting where his father's friends, such as Bentham were frequent visitors. This clearly rubbed off on him. Rather than the usual assumption that liberty is a self-evident end in its own right Mill sets out the benefits of liberty to society.

A must for the student of political science, this book is also invaluable for those who just take an interest in politics. If you believe the state should interfere in private life, from sexuality to economy, read this before you next have a pop at a "liberal", then at least you will know where we come from.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Piece of 19th Century Liberal Thinking, 7 Mar 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: On Liberty (English Library) (Paperback)
Initially, it can be hard to read Mill as he often makes his position then goes on to criticise it! His writing style is also quite dry and Dickensian with none of the flare of continental philosopers. However, the book is a major contribution to British political philosophy addressing issues at the time such as colonialism and democracy, Mill tries to derrive a political system from Utility.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read, 10 Jun 2010
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I suppose there are many books that are regarded as essentail reading. However, if you are a fair, liberal minded person who cares about how to cooperate and work with your fellow man then this really is essential reading. All though written in an age when words were used by the bucket full this work is still quite clear, concise and fairly succinct. Well done to Cosimo Classics, therefore, for ensuring that this work is still in print 151yrs after it was first published.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Increasingly relevant, 26 Jan 2004
This review is from: On Liberty (English Library) (Paperback)
Positive and negative freedom was the crux of this book for me. Positive being the intervention of the state on behalf of the individual, negative the right to exercise complete autonomy over ones own life without harm to any other.

In any increasingly controlled and regulated society Mill's work is of more relevance than ever before.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a book..., 21 May 2013
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I'm not giving Amazon credit for Mill's work...! The book is decent enough if you're into social or legal philosophy. Set out well too.
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On Liberty (English Library)
On Liberty (English Library) by John Stuart Mill (Paperback - 16 Jun 1998)
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