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Harvard Classics

June 30 – John Stewart Mill: On Liberty

“Democracy” has not always been the choice of oppressed people. The tyranny of the majority is a recognized evil as harmful as the misrule of a king. And rather than exchange a lesser evil for a greater, a rule by king has often been preferred to a republic.
Read: Mill‘s ON LIBERTY Vol. 25, pp. 195203

Essay not “the so-called Liberty of the Will” rather than civil or “social liberty.”
Social liberty = nature and limits exercised by society over an individual
Struggle between liberty and authority a conspicuous feature of history between classes of subjects and the government
Rulers traditionally conceived as an antagonistic position to the people they ruled
Power necessary but dangerous – established to protect weaker community members from the larger mass
Traditional patriots were to set limits of power which the ruler could exercise

Two methods: establishing immunities in the form of rights // if overreach by ruler rebellion was justifiable; second is establishment of constitutional checks
Modern methodology was establishment of elected representatives (democratic republic)

Too much importance on the limitation of power itself (desire for elected leaders to represent their will)
necessary for people to limit their power over themselves: Democratic Republic – majority can use their power against the will of the minority

The people who exercise power are not always the same people who have that power exercised over (not a true self government) // the will of the people most practically means the will of the most numerous and active part of the people (the majority or those who succeeded in making themselves accepted as the majority).

“Tyranny of the majority” – an evil which society requires to be on its guard

the only time individuals or society as a whole can interfere with individual liberty is for self-protection.

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