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The advanced liberal

John Stuart Mill believed in liberty but he valued it less for its own sake than for its contribution to human advancement. It was "man as a progressive being" that most interested him. If we want to resurrect his liberalism, we may have to revive his draconian idea of progress too

By prospect   December 2007

John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand, by Richard Reeves Atlantic books, £30

The Liberal electoral committee for the parliamentary borough of Westminster took a big risk when it invited John Stuart Mill to be its candidate in the general election of 1865. The 58-year-old philosopher had written respected books on logic, political economy and representative government, and spent 35 years working as a senior public servant at the India office. But he was impatient with all kinds of formal flummery and he had a most unfortunate reputation as the cleverest person in the world. He was also a grief-stricken widower who…

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