Essay on Mill 's On Liberty : The Tyranny Of The Majority

1828 Words Sep 22nd, 2016 8 Pages
In the past, people worried about one main problem: the perpetual struggle between themselves and the government. The people wanted protection against those with the power to control them. However, Mill worried about a much subtler yet even more devastating problem: the tyranny of the majority. While people were more tolerable since rulers’ powers were limited, they failed to see another authority, an authority that controlled them without their knowledge—the tyranny of the majority. Many times, this “majority” opinion developed, without society even realizing it, through the power of custom. Custom works through people and societies in the form of preferences, whether they be social, political, or religious. However, according to J.S. Mill’s On Liberty, we have a duty to strive towards reason, not simply control others with our likes and dislikes. We accomplish this by following the harm principle. The harm principle states 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” (Mill, p. 9). Mills very carefully distinguishes harm and mere offense. We can prevent actions if they harm others, but we should not prevent actions solely based on offense. Yet, this makes us wonder where the line of offense ends, where harm begins and what exactly Mill means by differentiating the two.
Mill’s argument for liberty of thought and discussion relies on distinguishing harm from…

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