The Liberal Premise

Jethro K. Lieberman

in Liberalism Undressed

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199919840
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980376 | DOI:
The Liberal Premise

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This chapter proposes that the commonplace liberal institutions and practices that are the mainstay of western liberal democracies can be best deduced, justified, and explained by John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, and it briefly explores the principle’s contours and limits, most importantly that the harm principle does not seek to maximize or aggregate a particular value or quality. Unlike other leading theories about liberalism, including consent, dialogue, equality, and neutrality, controlling harm as the basis of a liberal order is neither particularly complex nor controversial, though it is not as simple as Mill took it to be. The chapter also considers the nature of the self and the use of reason in developing and assessing a political theory.

Keywords: good; harm principle; liberal institutions; liberal commitments; liberalism; Mill; neutrality; pluralism; reason; self

Chapter.  13599 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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