John Stuart Mill and the cream-buns theory of liberty

Britain’s Liberal Democrat History Group provoked a mid-summer controversy with its search for the greatest British Liberal of all time. Its short list, to be voted on at the party’s annual conference in September, consisted of William Ewart Gladstone, David Lloyd George, John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes. The front runner for most of the summer has been Mill. Roy Hattersley disputed Mill’s pre-eminence in an article in the Guardian . His article persuaded me that Mill did indeed deserve to win the competition. Below my reply to the Guardian in which I conclude that Mill’s policies on seat belts and drugs are ones with which I would have agreed.

John Stuart Mill and the cream-bun theory of liberty
Saturday August 11, 2007

Roy Hattersley (Liberty is not what it was, 6 August ) argues that Gladstone, not John Stuart Mill, was the most important Liberal in British history. He quotes Mill’s famous dictum – “all errors which [a citizen] is likely to commit against advice and warning, are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem his good” – and proclaims it out of date. He could not have chosen two better examples, compulsory seat belts and the prohibition of recreational drugs, to make the case for Mill…
Full letter here [PDF]
More on drugs here>

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