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J.S. Mill's conception of economic freedom

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Mill's conception of economic freedom extends his broader view of freedom to economic institutions in ways that have previously been overlooked. In his view, economic freedom involves not merely the absence of burdensome constraints on economic activities, but also the power of individuals to direct the course of their lives with respect to their economic activities and relationships. It encompasses opportunities and resources for individuals, acting independently of others, effectively to pursue their own life plans as well as participation by associated individuals in governing economic enterprises. Accordingly, he is critical of the ‘restraints’ that existing capitalism imposes on the economic freedom of individuals and he favours significant reforms of existing capitalism to achieve greater economic freedom. This understanding of Mill's conception of economic freedom sheds new light on his place in the liberal tradition and on an important point of contact between the liberal and socialist traditions.

Keywords: J.S. Mill.; capitalism; co-operation; democracy; distributive justice; economic freedom; education; individual liberty; political economy; power; property rights; socialism; taxation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105-1899, USA.

Publication date: March 1, 1999


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