The Liberty of the Liberty Principle

Res Publica:1-19 (forthcoming)

Robert B. Westmoreland
University of Mississippi
Mill’s Liberty Principle aims to protect ‘social’ freedom, which is traditionally understood as negative freedom. I argue that Mill’s conception of social freedom does not comfortably fit even a moralized conception of negative freedom, and that individuality, an ideal fundamental to On Liberty, is a robustly positive type of freedom. This raises the question of whether protecting social freedom involves an egalitarian, progressive state that ambitiously strives to create the social conditions of individuality. I consider the case for an affirmative answer to that question, then argue that the ideal of individuality itself blocks interventions that some contemporary egalitarian, progressive liberals consider at least consistent with the Liberty Principle. These include autonomy-enhancing paternalism, and outright prohibition of as opposed to time, place, and manner regulation of the expression of some opinions that adversely affect protected minorities. Though not libertarian, the Liberty Principle is not an expression of this type of egalitarian liberalism, as evidenced inter alia by Mill’s emphatic rejection of state control of education, and his categorical case against prohibiting the expression of even the most extreme and insidious opinions.
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-019-09447-y
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