Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Navarra
Alzina, José-Pablo. ""Una lectura reflexiva sobre la educación y el estado en John Stuart Mill"". Persona y Derecho, 7 (1980) : 47-157.
John Stuart Mill was a great advocate of individual sovereignty and wished it to
have the most complete and free development possible. Nontheless, his philosophy
carries sorne elements which deny individuality because it denies man's moral freedom,
the capacity of human reason to attain truth, and, decisively, because it provides the
basis for the construction of conventional truth which is provisionally definitive and
which does not encounter any strength other than a tyrannical imposition upon the
individual. These elements serve to fundament the dangers of the tyranny of opinion
and of democracy to which Mill was so sensitive. Fortunately, in agreement with common
sense and practice, and with certain other elements of his philosophy, Mill
elaborated sorne notions concerning education and the State that enabled him to safeguard
individuality and to reap better fruits, Variety and Originality, which are indispensable
for personal and social development, and apt yardsticks for measuring the
degree of sovereignty achieved.
Education is gained, above a11, by making things personally and by avoiding that
they be done for us by others. This in consequence brings forth the fact that in
order to learn to help others and to be interested in the Common Good, political
participation is absolutely necessaty. To this we add that according to the well-known
principIes of Laissez-faire, the first political principIe consists of letting citizens do as
they please. However, Mill -no doubt conscious of the fact that this formal liberty
must be real in order for man to be truly sovereign- establishes the obligation of the
State in helping citizens all that it can, although no more than necessary, so that they
become able to achieve their ends personally. If this aid happens to be insufficient,
then social and personal reasons may impel the State to supplement personal activities.
This, however, must be done in such a way that this supplementaty action soon becomes
unnecessaty. Free initiative, furthermore, is naturally called upon to perform
tasks which are of social interest, and the State must stimulate the formation of
associations and of participation so that these tasks be performed by individuals.
This brings forth, in an efficacious manner, the principIe of Subsidiarity which naturally
implies social responsability in any private initiative. Mill's axiom, «The greatest
dissemination of power compatible with efficiency» irresistibly evokes the known
slogan of Natural Law, «Freedom possible, controlnecessary».
This principIe is applied in an almost perfect manner to the rights of the State
with regard to education, and given that this is the main recourse in order to safeguard
individuality and that the State is a means -and oo1y a mean5- at the service of the
individual, the topic of the rights of the State concerning the educational activity seems
to be the common ground to which Mill's firmest convictions and dearest thoughts