Mill, John Stuart 1806–1873

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John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was the son of James Mill (1773–1836), an English liberal economist much influenced, as was his son, by the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832). As an employee of the East India Company for 38 years (1823–1858) John Stuart Mill had first-hand experience with foreign trade, and he wrote extensively on economics. His Principles of Political Economy (1848) was a leading textbook for nearly a half-century. His work strengthened the concepts of economies of scale and comparative advantage in trade. Although Mill advocated free trade and trade expansion in the classical liberal tradition of Adam Smith (1723–1790) and David Ricardo (1772–1823), his concept of free trade was more restrictive, perhaps reflecting his practical experience, and he argued that protective tariffs and trade regulation were sometimes necessary. Mill's writings supported and encouraged British commercial imperialism in the nineteenth century, yet Mill rejected claims of those who argued that British citizens in foreign places could be governed by British rather than native laws. In his more humanistic approach to economics, he helped to lay groundwork for socialist theory as he joined with Auguste Comte (1798–1857) as a founder of positivism. Mill served in the British Parliament from 1865 to 1868. He lived his later years near Avignon, France.

SEE ALSO Economics, Neoclassical; Keynes, John Maynard;Theories of International Trade.


Anschutz, Richard Paul. The Philosophy of J. S. Mill. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1953.

Hamburger, Joseph. John Stuart Mill on Liberty and Control. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Hollander, Samuel. The Economics of John Stuart Mill, 2 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.