One of the most important questions facing civilization -- not only in light of the savagery of London's riots, but in all of history -- is how civilization defines barbarism.
The need for such a definition is not restricted to the cause of conservatism. Its absence was particularly glaring in John Stuart Mill's philosophical treatise, On Liberty, which made a very strong case for the radical permission of individuality. In said work, Mill declared that a diverse population ensured not only public access to a wide range of philosophies, but also a window into the functionality of personal lifestyles. From this panoramic moral viewpoint, free peoples were supposed to judge for themselves the merits of behavioral patterns, recognizing quickly and hopefully abandoning those which stood in strongest opposition to wisdom. Most boundaries of individuality, in this case, would be clearly marked by the natural mechanics of the universe, with personal pain and failure indicating transgression instead of the state.
But even this permission of individuality had legal limits. As stated in the first chapter of On Liberty, Mill recognized that barbaric peoples were to be placed under great restriction, as to entrust such with liberty could only prove disastrous. Indeed, if such peoples would not subject themselves to civility, they should be subjected to it instead. Again, though, such a statement requires one to have a solid idea of what barbarism actually is.
The barbarian, of course, cannot be defined without first defining the identity of the civilized who oppose him; to do otherwise would be like defining darkness without first understanding the concept of light. But if a social identity predicates any formation of law, and a particular behavioral standard is subsequently preferred, such a pursuit of nationhood cannot respect individuality to the degree Mill required (at least, not for his form of liberalism to be of any difference). Rather, if civilization is to confront the barbarian, even supposing that the civilization is in theory a liberal democratic republic, certain aspects of individuality must be disapproved of according to that nation's identity, with the majority acting for the whole. Whether these aspects are challenged by the state or by social means is entirely dependent upon the circumstances, but reason and order demand that they cannot simply go unchallenged.
People with no reason to band together will not band together long, and if they do, that unity will come expensively for one or perhaps all of them.
It is this point of identity at which liberal secularists find themselves in the most amount of trouble. For if a nation could simply choose any identity, along with its personal preferences and prohibitions, and define barbarism according to it and have that decision be morally acceptable, the concept of civilization would be without meaning. But if society allows itself to discriminate according to an openly admitted and particular objective standard, both by the persecution of barbaric society and the refusal to admit incompatible immigrants (as is the right of every people), it is no longer a truly liberal society.
On Liberty (1859) is a philosophical work by British philosopher John Stuart Mill. It was a radical work to the Victorian readers of the time because it supported individuals' moral and economic freedom from the state.
Perhaps the most memorable point made by Mill in this work, and his basis for liberty, is that "over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign". Mill is compelled to make this assertion in opposition to what he calls the "tyranny of the majority", wherein through control of etiquette and morality, society is an unelected power that can do horrific things. Mill's work could be considered a reaction to this social control by the majority and his advocacy of individual decision-making over the self. The famous Harm Principle, or the principle of liberty, is also articulated in this work: the state or any other social body has no right to coerce or restrict the individual unless the individual causes harm to others, crucially, the individual's own physical or moral harm is not justification for constriction of their liberty. All branches of liberalism—as well as other political ideologies—consider this to be one of their core principles. However, they often disagree on what exactly constitutes harm.
On Liberty was an enormously influential work; the ideas presented in the book have remained the basis of much liberal political thought ever since. Aside from the popularity of the ideas themselves, the book is quite short and its themes are easily accessible to a non-expert........ It has remained in print continuously since its initial publication. .....To this day, a copy of On Liberty has been passed to the president of the British Liberals, and then Liberal Democrats, as a symbol of office and succession from the party that Mill helped found.