Debates on at what point the Government should intrude on a person’s freedom

The news today is all about the Abu Qatada appeal: The home secretary has insisted radical cleric Abu Qatada’s deportation case has “no right” to be referred to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

John Stuart Mill, British philosopher, is famous for his harm principle. Essentially Mill tells us that the only reason why the Government may legitimately interfere with our action is to prevent harm or threat of harm to other people. Mill says that the Government may only intervene then if you are likely to harm or threaten harm to another person. If they dislike what you are doing that isn’t harm. It’s not enough that you are acting in a way that other people don’t like, you have to be acting in a way that does them some sort of harm or other.

For more on this subject, listen to Philosophy Professor Jonathan Wolff discussing 19th century classical liberal thinker John Stuart Mill’s famous ‘harm’ principle in the podcast: Liberty and Offence on OpenLearn

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