|Dr. Ellen Miller
Chapter Five --Some Key Points
In this last chapter, Mill restates his distinction between the sphere of the individual and the sphere of society. Next he provides some applicationshe shows how this distinction can be applied to important political issues. Ultimately, Mill gives some reasons why governments should not interfere with individuals in certain matters.
Mills analysis leads him to formulate two maxims. First, the individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself. Second, the individual is accountable to society for his actions if such actions are prejudicial to the interests of others.
Look at the arguments Mill gives for and against gambling houses, legitimate taxing of stimulants (ie: cigarettes) , state interference in family relations ("this obligation is almost completely disregarded in the case of family relations...")
Mill applies his maxims to many problems, one of which is education. So, our question is whether the state should require education to a certain standard (echoes of today!). In Mills time, fathers were given the choice of accepting or rejecting free education. It is obvious that a child needs education as well as food if he is to be a productive member of society. Since the interests involved are those of other societal members, this is a case where the state can claim legitimate control.
It is objected that state enforcement of education means state control of education. Mill claims that the issues of control and enforcement can be set up in terms of tests in order to determine if the child has been properly educated. The same arguments for liberty of thought and discussion would apply to the need for diversity in education.
Look closely to see how Mill thinks utilitarianism can truly work in a society of free thinking individuals.
There are other reasons for limiting government control, reasons independent of the concept of liberty. Note, Mill is not frightened so much by governmental control as he is by unnecessary power.
|Copyright © 2001 Dr. Ellen Miller. All rights reserved. Document last modified|