The last chapter of On Liberty discusses how the principles of the first four might be put into action, looking at subjects that put the maxims of personal sovereignty and public responsibility in tension. He looks at the regulation of economic activity, whether people should be permitted to run prostitution and gambling businesses, and the government’s power in relation to families. The reader can really see Mill’s utilitarianism at work in his argument that government has the power to require education (though he does not want public education to predominate) and the ability to support children before allowing marriage, and his bewilderment that anyone would object to these assertions. Traditional conceptions of the rights of a family do not mean much to him. He even writes that “in a country either over-peopled or threatened with being so, to produce children, beyond a very small number, with the effect of reducing the reward of labor by their competition, is a serious offence against all who live by the remuneration of their labor.” This fits into the pattern in On Liberty where rights are defended based on the good consequences of protecting them rather than their divine or secular basis.
Mill ends with some observations about why limits on the authority of government are important, even in areas where liberty is not menaced. His argument against increasing the power of government where it is not needed, which ends the essay, is quite good.
This chapter will probably be easier to discuss in the comments if you have read it, so I’ll end my series on this work here.