"The only freedom deserving 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."
by:
John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
Source:
On Liberty, 1859
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
This states it all in one short paragraph.
 -- S. Engel, Fredericksburg     
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    Exactly! One race, human. One right, voluntary relations.
     -- J. Jerry Jones, Ayden, NC     
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    Can anyone put it better? Better yet, can anyone live up to this?
     -- John-Douglas, Nassau     
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    Perfectly stated, and unfortunately so very little read these days.
     -- L. Monteiro, São Paulo, Brazil     
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     -- Mike, Norwalk      
    How did liberals evolve from John Stuart Mill and the truth, to the liberals of today with the likes of Ted Kennedy?
     -- michael Moss, Tampa, Fl     
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    This is the quintessential truth about Liberty. Not much need be said -- except by those who would try to twist its meaning into something else. For the most part, everyone is for their own liberty but few believe that 'others' should be allowed to live their own life in their own way -- hence organized religion. ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    It sounds great but many do not feel they have this kind of freedom. They are swayed or feel they are swayed by the media and the governments or social mores into thinking they have to do what everyone else is doing or living the way everyone else is living and thus they think their choices and freedoms are limited. I think it is the rare bird that can do this and even much rarer one that can do it all of their life. To be Aware that is ultimate freedom. Aware of our surrondings our options and our opportunities. This type of freedom seems to be totally different from Thoreau's "the great mass of men live lives of quiet desperation". The ideals of freedom expressed in these three quotes is a great thing to strive for.
     -- Bruce, 'Bama     
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    Where does health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, house insurance fit into Mills brave world of pursuing our own good in our own way? Insurance is the largest system of socialism going in which we all pool our resources in order to help a few unfortunates, with the management skimming off a nice little piece of the action.
     -- Bruce, 'Bama     
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    Archer: last time I checked organized religion was a voluntary association of like-minded individuals (at least in America ) for "the purpose of pursuing [their] own good in [their] own way." If it is not your own way, freely find another religion or none at all. Religions have the same failings as the individuals who make them up. It is certainly a fact that the only place you can find hypocrites seems to be in religious circles because of the mere fact that they have set standards that they can be hypocritical about. Those who have no standards can never be hypocrites.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    A person can certainly be honorable, compassionate, courageous, and responsible for oneself without religion or state 'standards'. For goodness sakes there have been literally thousands of religions and sects over the ages -- nearly all of which have claimed to be THE way. It is absurd to think that humankind requires organized religion or the government corporation to 'be good' or do 'the right thing'. Talk about self-righteous. No, today, people are not compelled to believe whatever the King believes (although most are 'born' into their religion and indoctrinated since youth), but the old religious orders have been around a long time, and should anyone dare challenge the authority and authenticity of these belief systems there is usually hell to pay -- dished out by the followers. A seeker of truth is not truly welcome by those that have already decided -- and boy do we chastize those seekers as immoral heretics that one day will get their just deserts when they die... LOL it is just another form of party politics -- our guy is better than your guy. Hardly a 'moral' standard from which to base one's actions.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    For those without the inclination to "work out their own salvation" religion can be a tool to help them make the correct moral decision. Some tools work better than others. The evidence for that can be based on the outcome of the decisions that are made based on the religious moral code. I do not care whether someone chastises me for being an heretic as long as they leave my throat or skull intact. I choose not to prejudge someone based upon their beliefs even if they are nutty. I judge them based upon their actions and how they affect those around them. Although there are negative aspects of religion in general, it cannot be legitimately denied that there have also been positive aspects as well for civilization. Those who are moral use religion for good. Those who are immoral use it for evil.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    By the way, Archer, if any crazed Baptists, attacking Amish, marauding Mennonites, or warmongering Quakers come to force you to convert try to hold out for a few days and let me know. I'll throw my guns in the back of my pickup and I'll be there as soon as I can to help you out.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    Remember that 'religion' includes those 'other' beliefs, too, like Islam, Hinduism, and many, many more. I work with several Muslims -- none of whom would I consider a threat. The point I make is that a great deal of harm has been done by extremists and fundamentalists in the name of their religion -- this goes across the board from Catholics to Protestants to Jews to Muslims to Hindus, etc., etc. Then of course some get organized enough to attempt to change the school boards and thrust their 'beliefs' as 'fact' and required 'education'. Missionaries around the world have not so much brought 'religion' to the savages, but more accurately brought their culture and power structure to 'convert' the lost souls to a different form of 'order' and thus control. Religion is primarily about control to turn them into sheep. Religion is a form of mind control, and many are ambitious about expanding their reach and power -- most, I would say. That arrogance and self-righteousness works its way into our political systems (religion IS politics). The ruling class laughs its way to the bank when they can get us all to argue and fight each other on whose religion is 'right' and whose god is THE god. Divide and conquer -- the oldest trick in the book.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    I do see your point although I probably will never concede it. My point is that if all religion were removed from human society, people, having the nature that we have, would find a way to single out those not like ourselves to make war against. Human tribes have always warred with each other because competition is nature's way. All of the world's religions are civilizational memes that are in conflict with one another. The religion substitutes for the tribe and, because it is not based on ethnicity or race, it can become an ever larger "tribe" itself. That is why you find Hindus attacking Christians in India while both are being attacked by Muslims and Muslims attacking Buddhists in SE Asia, among others-competing memes. All religions, as all civilizations, are not equal. As Toynbee points out civilizations can become stagnant and stop developing. I believe his term was "arrested civilizations". That is where Islam finds itself now and that is why it is so dangerous. It feels threatened by the success of its competitors. Christians and Jews are still part of dynamic, developing civilizations and are not as threatened by competitors and are not, therefore, as dangerous. As you say religion is politics at least in part but is also more. It is a civilizations mythos that explains our place in the world. Part of America's mythos is Judeo-Christianity as well as our own founding documents. Our founders were wise not to have state interference in religion (either in establishment or prohibition). That eliminates much of the excuse for conflict. To each his own. As for arrogance and self-righteousness, it is not so much a product of religion as of human nature.
     -- Ken     
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    Thanks, Ken, for your conscientious remarks. I do believe in the fundamental foundations of Christian and other spiritual doctrines -- I am ashamed of how many fellow Americans and world-citizens have chosen to express their so-called faith (which in my book is not faith at all but absolute fear of death, damnation, and you name it.) If we were true believers we would have no fear that God's will indeed is done. Unfortunately there are a good number of folks with fingers on the 'button' that believe that they are chosen 'enough' to decide who should live and who should die -- leaving mostly slaves to their system. Live free or die, I say -- and I do know that that means most likely death in these times. C'est la vie -- better to fight for a world based on Freedom than one based on dependence and subservience to a state -- I'll be in good company. ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    I whole-heartedly agree Archer. It's a pleasure talking with you.
     -- Ken     
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     -- J Carlton, Calgary      
    John Stuart Mill believed in one's minding their own business which i agree with. I myself will never have my own business in perfect shape, so how can i worry about anyone elses?
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
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    If modern man could only grasp the great and glorious feeling freedom on earth was and is, guaranteed that all but the truly afraid would jump to restore this once great republic called America. Mankind's imagination as to what it could be like has been dumbed down so much the connection between generations has been broken and the great wisdom of our forefathers has been lost.
     -- Anon     
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    John stuart Mill was obviously a Libertarian.
     -- jim k, Austin     
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    Thoughts so well put in words! An insight many cannot have.
     -- Elisabeth, Astoria, NY     
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    Religion comments interesting and profound. That aside, it seems that the statement would be a good one to put against all the laws that we now have the obligation to know abide. So many are only actions that someone else may find deplorable but are not in fact harmful to another person. Taxation deprives the individual of pursing their enjoyment of life and liberty or have our possessions taken from us. The difference from the haves and have nots, which will get more divisive, will increase incidence of theft either by someone who has not worked, or/and wants or needs something decides to take something from you as well. And considering public health and communicable diseases we would prefer to live in a community where there are people who know how to live healthy and able to resolve conditions life threatening. If only we were all born equal, and had limited government, and didn't need to live in such close quarters. The quote is outdated and seems to me to be impossible to achieve or live by in this century unless you go off the grid. Have I diverted too much?
     -- Judith, New Mexico     
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     -- Abigail, CM      
    yes ..may tama sya...........
     -- richel     
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    This is the same as Ayn Rand's "Objectivity. "
     -- cal, Lewisville, Texas     
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    Religious dogmas of fear and death subverting the intent of sound doctrines concerning our types of liberty and freedom, Defined according to our Declaration of Independence, Defended by our Constitutional resolve to limit the powers of oversight. Religions as defined are 2 types, Threskeia, and Threskos, the English word religion being used 5 times in a KJB. 5 being the number of death. Threskeia, unreal and deceptive, officious parade of humility in selecting lower beings as intercessors rather than appealing directly to the throne of grace. The contrast is set forth between that which is unreal and deceptive Threskeia religion, and Threskos pure religion which consists in visiting the fatherless and widows in their afflictions and in keeping oneself unspotted from the world. Being careful of the externals of divine service. As with the third shading, Ioudaismos, defining the religious practice rather than the belief. Of which the " welfare state " of Israel thrives upon in conflict with the Ancient Liberty and Freedom commanded and requested by God that they should practice. Being found wanton and derelict, said Liberty and Freedom sent to those " far off " having received the promise by faith. 66% of denominational Christians secs define themselves as socialist by actions. Indoctrinated through practice of mosaic laws of servitude through fear of lose and death. " Come out from among them and be ye separate " saith the Lord. Apostle Paul. 13th apostle wrote 13 letters establishing 13 colonies upon his good news of liberty and freedom from oppression and death. In this life and that also which is to come. 13 the number of rebellion. 3 liberties 13 tenents governing the barrow and lending of money between brethren in a given nation. In doing so the individual sovereign is protected from oppression and slavery through a Threskeia statist theocratic welfare state.
     -- Ronw13, 0regon     
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     -- Dennis Kolb, Warrenton,NC.      
     
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