If I were forced to choose a term to describe my political philosophy I would select the term, “Liberal.” However, that is in the sense in which that was defined by John Stuart Mill in his essay, “On Liberty.” I think that within today’s re-defined terminology that would translate to Libertarian.
“On Liberty” has been continuously re-printed since it’s initial publication in 1859, attesting to the significance of the message it conveys. The essay is relatively brief and should be something that everyone who votes in the November 6, 2012 election should read before they cast their ballot. Sadly, I know that will not be the case.
There are several essential ideas which Mill states clearly in his essay.
“Over himself, over his mind and body, the individual is sovereign.” Mill goes on to talk about how the “Tyranny of the Majority” can attempt to force their will on the individual and how this is endemically contrary to the nature of men joining together in a political union.
Before those of you reading this ask, “Does that mean that people are free to commit murder or do anything else that we view as contrary to our view of living in a lawful society?” The answer is resoundingly, “No.”
Mill goes on to describe the “Harm Principle” which addresses this issue. “Neither the state nor any other social body has a right to coerce or restrict the individual unless (my emphasis) the individual causes harm to others.”
This is a message not unlike that which the Founding Fathers incorporated in The Declaration of Independence and framed in the Constitution of the United States almost a century earlier than the date of publication of Mills’ essay. It is a message that established America as the world’s first great modern democracy. It is a message that has increasingly been overlooked, ignored and blatantly violated.
It is a message which needs to be revived with the support of all of us who live in this land and call ourselves Americans.
There are now five remaining contenders for the highest post in the land, President of the United States. There is only one who has been consistent in supporting the principles that the Founding Fathers established and which Mills echoed in his essay.
I will leave it to you to figure out who that candidate is and to do the intelligent thing if you are in a state with an upcoming primary or caucus and are eligible to voice your opinion in it. You really owe it to yourself to do the right thing. If you don’t take the responsibility to do that, who do you think will do it for you?