Mill of Rights: Government Interference

Political economist John Stuart Mill explains two unique, yet similar types of government interference on the economy and society, and describes some justifications of government interference in his influential work, Principles ofPoIiricaI Economy.

A backer of utilitarianism, Mill concludes his Principles piece with a paired depiction of government interferences on the economy. First, be critically describes “the authoritative interference of government” as actions that enforce and regulate society, of which “may extend to controlling the free agency of individuals” (Medema & Samuels 370).

in contrast to this, Mill discusses the other type of government interference, one portrayed as milder and more amicable than authoritative interference. Mill describes this type as one that leaves “individuals free to use their own means of pursuing any object of general interest, the government, not meddling with them, but not trusting the object solely to their care, establishes, side by side with their arrangements, an agency of its own for a like purpose” (Medema & Samuels 371) Mill explains that every individual is circled by personal matters, thoughts, private opinions, and the like that are not to be encroached by any big, nor small government.

He explains that this softer type of government interference is meant to parallel with the private sector on providing advice, services, and provisions to the public. This serves to assist society by providing additional and perhaps better options at their liberty, yet does not interfere with private sector activity, nor an individual’s personal boundaries. He elaborates his ttnfavorable stance on authoritative interference, explaining that it is hazardous, and should only be accepted in extreme moderation.

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However, the non-authoritative interference is not a pure resolution: Mill cautions that both types of interference can employ power-seeking individuals to invade personal liberties. Even the non—authoritative interferences can seek greater influence on society than appropriate, thus slipping into the sin of authoritative influence.

Though Mill favors laissez—faire practices that allow individuals decide what is best for them alone, he does justify some specific government interferences. Among other examples, Mill describes that if a parent has access to education and fails to provide it for their child, it is a violation warranting the government to enforce parents to provide this access.

Mill justifies this authoritative interference because he believes the government should provide non-monopolized education to society, and children cannot access this supplemental provision if it is denied by their parents Additionally, Mill permits government interference for cases of “lunatic” or “idiot” parents making judgments for children who cannot yet make those judgments for themselves (Medema & Samuels 377). Mill justifies the government interfering to provide for the best interest of children, because “parental power is as susceptible of abuse as any other power” (Medema & Samuels 377).

“If laws do not succeed in preventing parents from brutally ill- trearing, and even from murdering their children” Mill explains, “far less ought it to be presumed that the interests of children will never be sacrificed” (Medema & Samuels 377). Mill’s guidelines for an appropriate governmental role in society contributed to the long- lasting impact Principles ofPolitical Economy has had on economic thought

Works Cited

  1. Ekelund, Robert B., and Robert F. Hébert. A History ofEconomic Theory & Methodi Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, 2014 Print.
  2. Medema, Steven G., and Warren J. Samuels‘ The History ofEconomic Thought: A Reader, London New York: Routledge, 2013. Prim.

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Mill of Rights: Government Interference. (2022, Jun 19). Retrieved from

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