Apologies to everyone for the two-week delay in my posting. Without adding much of substance to what has already been said, this chapter is devoted to further discussion of the principles previously adumbrated. Since, in addition to this, I found myself mostly agreeing with Mill's positions, there just wasn't much to incite an immediate response. The below, accordingly, is mostly a summary report of some of the main topics covered.
Given Eric's aversion to taxes, I should report that Mill comes down firmly in their favor:
"[E]veryone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit[; namely,] in each person's bearing his share (to be fixed on some equitable principle) of the labours and sacrifices incurred for defending the society or its members from injury and molestation. These conditions society is justified in enforcing at all costs to those who would endeavor to withhold fulfilment" (141).
Again, seems obvious to me, but I'm happy to discuss it further.
Mill also offers a distinction (already invoked on this forum by Kevin) between punishment by law and punishment by opinion. Some acts, Mill admits, are hurtful to others, but not to such an extent as to justify government intervention. Public opinion, in these cases, may be punishment enough. We have to decide in an open discussion what kinds of offense fall into what category by weighing the effect legal regulations would have on the "general welfare."
Mill clarifies that he is a great believer in the virtues of benevolence and in personal intervention on behalf of others. What he opposes is just governmental efforts to coerce such behavior out of its populace. He encourages individuals, in their capacity as private persons, to voice their opinions with an eye to steering others away from foolhardiness. ("It would be well, indeed, if this good office were much more freely rendered than the common notions of politeness at present permit, and if one person could honestly point out to another that he thinks him in fault, without being considered unmannerly or presuming" (144).) The other party remains free, of course, to cheerfully ignore our well-meaning advice and avoid our company.
Consistent with his canny ability to anticipate and address possible objections (150 years in advance of this reading!), Mill acknowledges that "[t]he distinction here pointed out between the part of a person's life which concerns only himself and that which concerns others, many persons will refuse to admit" (146). All of our actions, after all, have potentially public repercussions. What he suggests to meet this challenge is that a case be taken out of the provence of liberty and placed in that or morality or law whenever "there is a definite damage, or a definite risk of damage, either to an individual or to the public" (149). Or, in another formulation, he says, a "distinct and assignable obligation" must be violated to justify anything more than private disapprobation (148). (These are not exactly equivalent unless we define "obligation" in terms of "damages," but I'll put this aside for the present.) Mill offers drunkenness as an example: we cannot punish someone merely for being drunk, but we can certainly punish a police officer for being drunk on duty.
"For the sake of the greater good of human freedom," Mill declares, society must bear the harm an individual does only to herself (149). After all, on Mill's model, society has already provided its populace with an education, and they have on top of this whatever wisdom and experience they've attained throughout their minority. If, after all this, someone still cannot conduct her life successfully, it is hardly the responsibility of the government to step in and fix it for her, an office to which it is not competent in any case.
As always, I look forward to everyone's response --