John Stuart Mill


May 20, 1806 — May 8, 1873


John Stuart Mill was an English journalist, Member of Parliament, and philosopher who is perhaps the most impactful liberal of the 19th century. Mill made invaluable contributions to the study of ethics, logic, and political economy.


Essential Thoughts


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. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. — On Liberty


The most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power. — On Liberty


A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice—is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. — "The Contest in America"


Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing. — On Liberty


We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. — On Liberty