Saturday, July 2, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Stuart Mill, on the Responsibility of Good Men Who Do Nothing)

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. It depends on the habit of attending to and looking into public transactions, and on the degree of information and solid judgment respecting them that exists in the community, whether the conduct of the nation as a nation, both within itself and towards others, shall be selfish, corrupt, and tyrannical, or rational and enlightened, just and noble.”—English political philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews (Feb. 1, 1867)

More than a century and a half after its original publication, Mill’s On Liberty remains relevant as the best defense of free speech and, indeed, the foundation of modern notions of toleration and liberalism.

His views on what citizenship entails—and the need for information-based judgment on the part of anyone who hopes to have a voice in the governance of a country—in the above quote should be weighed and pondered all the more.

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