John Stuart Mill was a classical liberal political philosopher, economist and social reformer. He was the son of James Mill, a close friend and associate of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Although J. S. Mill continued in this tradition, he advanced a more nuanced perspective.
He is best known for his defence of freedom of expression, his advocacy of women’s rights and his formulation of “the harm principle” - the idea that the only legitimate grounds for limiting individual liberty is to prevent people from doing harm to others. His best-known work, On Liberty, an essay advancing the case for freedom of the individual, remains influential for liberals as well as libertarians.
1) To tax the larger incomes at a higher percentage than the smaller is to lay a tax on industry and economy; to impose a penalty on people for having worked harder and saved more than their neighbours. Principles of Political Economy (1848)
2) A bureaucracy always tends to become a pedantocracy. Representative Government (1861)
3) 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. On Liberty (1859)
4) The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest. On Liberty (1859)
5) If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. On Liberty (1859)
6) The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. On Liberty (1859)
7) To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. On Liberty (1859)
8) Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom. On Liberty (1859)
9) A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government. On Liberty (1859)
10) No government by a democracy or a numerous aristocracy, either in its political acts or in the opinions, qualities, and tone of mind which it fosters, ever did or could rise above mediocrity. On Liberty (1859)