Quote of the Week: On Liberty

John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873)

…the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That 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 a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else.

The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

(John Stuart Mill: On Liberty)

You might also like:On Liberty by John Stuart Mill on Project Gutenberg

Image credit: Public domain via Wikipedia

“Le bien publique” (The Public Good)

Thought for today, courtesy of Tolstoy:

As long as the world has existed and people have been killing each other, no one man has ever committed a crime upon his own kind without calming himself with this same thought. This thought was le bien publique, the supposed good of other people.

This is Tolstoy’s comment in War and Peace after the governor of Moscow, Rastopchin, offered up a political prisoner to the mob as a scapegoat for his own failures.

“In the interest of the public good.” We all heard this before. History brings countless examples, most of them horrific beyond belief.

Because who decides what’s in the interest of public good? And how far are we willing to go in the name of this public good?

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