Posted in Essay, General Interest, John Anstie

John Stuart Mill – On the freedom of the individual

We are facing more threats to human freedoms than most of us can imagine, in an age of social mobility and easy worldwide communication. These threats come from, on the one hand, extremism, in all its forms, which is mostly visible because of a wide news coverage. On the other hand, a more subtle threat has, for a few decades now, been passing underneath our radar, because it is, more worryingly still, not being given any time by the main stream media – a fact, which I find utterly demoralising and disturbing, when we consider the implications and potential impact of these multinational corporation driven ‘free trade’ agreements, which represent nothing if not a new era of tyranny – corporate tyranny – which, if signed by the European Union, is likely to enable the enhancement of already excessive corporate power, which will not only degrade our hard won democracy, but will also enable large corporations to sue national governments if they pass legislation that adversely affects their commercial interests, at the expence of the taxpayer! (see the 38 Degrees missive and this revealing video).

I would like to take a breather from all of this to give this another perspective and offer you a voice from history, that is John Stuart Mill’s view on the liberty and freedom of the individual.

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right…The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Whilst his nineteenth century language is a little convoluted and archaic, the message is clear enough and sums up the crucial need for our individual freedoms. As ever was the case at any time in history, it is still true today that there are some very clever and powerful people in this world, who are hell bent on control of the most crucial resources on Mother Earth and therefore on a great majority of the world’s population. That we should respond with all the force of the massive voice and resources we currently have at our finger tips in the internet and the world wide web, is without question; that we appear not to be doing so at the moment, is not without question. In fact, it is this apparent lack of awareness, this lack of response from around the world that is the most worrying of all!

Please tell me I’m wrong about this.



JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).



51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.



“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”

6 thoughts on “John Stuart Mill – On the freedom of the individual

  1. Bravo, John! An opinion that needs to be voiced and an implicit challenge. I think one complication is that “harm” will be defined differently by different people and peoples. A rich and thought-provoking post. Thank you!


  2. Defining edges of “harm”, “self”, “others”, “body” and “mind” is not as easy as it might seem. The koan of “do no harm” is a valuable place for learning and dialogue, however. Definitely worth addressing!!


    1. Sovereignty of our own minds is, for me, absolute, Priscilla. There are no two ways about this, I’m afraid, whichever philosophical twist is put on it. But, then, the will of the corporate monsters is not concerned with philosophical niceties, so much as psychological manipulation.


  3. I wish I could tell you that you’re wrong. I wish that I could tell you that apathy was not the norm and that more people actually cared a great deal about the undermining and systematic destruction of individual freedoms. I wish I could tell you these things. Unfortunately, I think the only recourse available to those of us paying attention is to do our damnedest to make as many people aware as we can,


Kindly phrased comments welcome here.

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