John Stuart Mill was a political philosopher during the nineteenth century who held the philosophical belief

of liberalism (Andrews and Nield in Mill Ex). Throughout his life he has written and supported the idea of liberalism at various extents. According to Mill, liberalism involves the belief that as long one’s action does not affect the interest of others, it should not be restrained. Moreover, being a defender of this idea, Mill has considered the society where the individual lives and has taken into account that the society would eventually exert interferences on the liberty of the individuals, which he seemed to think to be dangerous if it is taken to a certain extent. In this essay, we are going to focus on the emphasize Mill has placed on the idea of the importance of individual liberalism in relation to the society-individual relationship, why should it receive minimized interference from the society and why is it dangerous if it is not. The explanation will be presented with references to Mill’s ideas on liberalism it will cover the principle of individualism and the principle of economic liberalism respectively. The principle of individualism is one of the reasons why society must exert minimal interference on the individuals’ liberty (Mill On Liberty). Firstly, it is often argued that interference on individual liberty is wise because it rescues people from selfdamaging situation due to their particular incapability. However it is important to understand that this could only be wise in short term situation. In long term situation, it is not wise to interfere on people’s liberty because it will not bring them any advantages. Stafford (1998:93) supported this by stating that human would feel happier if they feel like they are self-made and not manufactured by others. This could be obtained by learning from their own mistakes to attain independence and build up their own characters. Moreover, another reason why individuals should be able to act upon their

beliefs with minimized interference is because every individual is the best judge of their own interest, since they are driven by wants and passion from within (Vincent 1995:32). This means, we cannot decide what should be done by other individuals because we are not driven by the same desires and passion as them. By frequently interfering with the liberty of individual to have their freedom of actions, we would be forcing something which is against the nature and it would be dangerous because it is potential to kill the real desire and passion of the individual. In addition to that, it is a fact that if somebody is being infringed from acting upon their desires and being forced to be involved in something he is not interested in, lack of motivation and desire would affect the results in a mere negative way. To get into more depth, the freedom of speech or opinion of the individuals should also be taken into consideration because it is also important and ought to receive a very minimal interference from the society. The reason to support is that when the individuals’ liberty in speech is being restrained, it will then place the whole society into a situation where a clear perception and truth from the individuals are unable to be perceived. It is important to remember that the honest opinions from individuals are very essential because they are the people that make up the society, and the society’s development as a whole depends on people who live in it. Moreover, if the individuals are free to express their individuality, both in terms of action or speech as mentioned above, it will also contribute greatly to their personal happiness and the society’s well being as a whole. Stafford (1998:91) stated that “In the first place, liberty is not other than happiness. It is a part of happiness, naturally or chemically associated with pleasure.” Subsequently, it is a fact that when humans are happy, they will feel more valuable and therefore, is capable of being valuable to other people. Hence, happy

individuals do not just make a happy society—they also make stability possible which means less crime, more love for the society and the developments would be influenced abundantly in a positive way. The last point for the principle of individualism is that the individuals must also be given freedom of speech or opinion to challenge the beliefs of the society (Mill On Liberty). Mill suggested that the danger of restraining individual to question the beliefs is the plantation of ‘unhealthy’ habit of not putting the brain into a lot of thinking and just merely accept anything being told to them. This could result in a severe danger where individuals rely on society to ‘think’ for them, or ‘believe’ for them, which basically means people are starting to neglect logic and analytical thinking. In other words, the beliefs of society such as religious beliefs, moral and politics must not be made ‘infallible’ by providing the individuals with liberty to argue or question it, in order to save them from being deprived from true knowledge which they could obtain through logic and analysis. Too much society’s interference would result in individuals holding their beliefs as dead dogmas, blocking their access to true knowledge and thus, would put the growth of their self-development skills to an end. To sum up, society should minimize interference on individual liberty because the violation to principle of individualism could result in unfixable situation in long term situation. Secondly, minimal interference on individual liberty in terms of their participation in economy must be exerted in accordance to the principle of economic liberalism. Extreme economic liberalism is the belief that economics run best unrestricted. However, Mill himself was also not an extreme believer in economic liberalism. Like most people, he also believed that interference on economics should be exerted at minimized amount—no more than that, but at the same time it cannot be totally

abolished. He asserted that it is essential for government to interfere with individuals in terms of their participation in economy because it would be chaotic if it is completely left to run by itself. This is due to human nature who tend to be selfish and without some amount of rules, it allows them to harm and violate others for their own interest. Moreover, based on Mill’s ideas, the government is only allowed to interfere by doing what the market cannot do for itself (Friedman 1962:27), for examples are applying taxes, tariff, price support scheme, price ceiling, price floor, quota, attacking illegal cartels, and also help the market by providing public goods and services, when necessary. The interference in a small amount on the individual liberty in this context is very important in a sense that as the most powerful body of people in a society, government could apply some rules to maximize justice for public good or even come to a rescue when problems arise. For example, in 1988, during the very famous monetary crisis which attack some parts of Asia, the Hong Kong government made a crucial interference by putting billions into the Hong Kong stock market to prevent it from collapsing. We can imagine if government interference in market is not allowed; big chance Hong Kong stock market would have not survived. However, other than the minimal interference allowed, government’s interference in economic matters is considered unnecessary because economy itself is a series of interrelated market which operates by self-regulating mechanism (Heywood 1992:52) and it simply needs no extra external guidance from government. Self-regulating mechanism is the term used to describe the relationship between supply and demand, which naturally enhance and enforce the growth of market. The supply and demand relationship could also solve problems without the interference of government because they tend to shift to attain equilibrium, the point where everything

is balanced and can maintain public good. To get into more detail, the evidence that supply and demand controls the market is that producers cannot set the price of a commodity by themselves or ask the government for it, because the market will decide it for them based on the demands and number of commodities. Therefore, government interference on the market should be minimized because that is just how the market naturally operates the best—by self-regulating mechanism. Furthermore, (Mill On Liberty) claims that that some things are better to be done by individuals with minimized amount of interference from society because if they are the ones who are interested in it, then they are the best people to decide how to make it develop and successful. Mill also believes that individuals pursuing their passion for wealth can stimulate the economy and benefit the society as a whole, which once again, is good for the society’s financial welfare. In addition, limited government interference would mean less restriction, and it could lead to more free innovations where ‘sky is the limit’. This is good for the society’s benefit as a whole because innovations would lead to development and to achieve this, government’s interference on what could be produced by market should really be limited. In conclusion, in terms of economics, minimal government interference is very important in order to maximize profit of the whole market and at the same time, keeps the competition and operation in market healthy and safe. To sum up, John Stuart Mill’s ideas on liberalism have helped the individuals to realize what the best is for them—which are having minimal interference from the society. Mill’s central idea here basically involves human acting as dynamic creatures, where they must be given the liberty to satisfy their needs to improve and develop, and that society must have limited interference on their liberty for the good of the public. In

other words, both of the aspects discussed in this essay are based on Mill’s ideas on ‘human rights’ which is the term we use more frequently in the modern world and this rights must not be violated because of the two very major reasons we discussed; the principle of individualism and the principle of economic liberalism; respectively. Finally, I conclude that society must minimize their interference on individual liberty because, by all means, human are born with rights to satisfy their desires, be the person they want to be and to live in relation to each other to enhance each others’ life.

Bibliography: Primary source: Mill, J. S. 2003. On Liberty. Edited by D. Bromwich & G. Kateb. New Haven: Yale University Press. Secondary source: Vincent, A. 1995. Modern Political Ideologies. Oxford: Blackwell. Stafford, W. 1998. John Stuart Mill. Houndmills: Macmillan. Heywood, A. 2003. Political Ideologies: an Introduction. (3rd ed.). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Friedman, M. 1962. Capitalism and Freedom pp. 22–36. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

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