John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, political economist and civil servant. He was also an influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy. He has been called the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century. Mill's conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control.

Mill was a strong believer in freedom, especially of speech and of thought. He defended freedom on two grounds. First, he argued, society’s utility would be maximized if each person was free to make his or her own choices. Second, Mill believed that freedom was required for each person’s development as a whole person. In his famous essay On Liberty, Mill enunciated the principle that “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.” He wrote that we should be ‘without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong.’

Mill demonstrated an early insight into the value of the natural world – in particular in Book IV, chapter VI of Principles of Political Economy: Of the Stationary State in which Mill recognized wealth beyond the material, and argued that the logical conclusion of unlimited growth was destruction of the environment and a reduced quality of life. He concluded that a stationary state could be preferable to never-ending economic growth, declaring: ‘I cannot, therefore, regard the stationary state of capital and wealth with the unaffected aversion so generally manifested towards it by political economists of the old school. If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a better or a happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compel them to it.’

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