209 CONCLUSION: WHY DISSENT?
Writing in the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill in On Liberty urged that the "tyranny of the majority" can be found not only in law but also in social pressures: "Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflective persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant-society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it-its means of tyrannising are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates ... Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tendency of society to impose, by means other than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them."
In Mill's view, society can execute "its own mandates" without the slightest help from public authorities. Does Mill speak to us today? His comments are sometimes thought to be an outgrowth of his distinctive time and circumstances-of the intensely conformist pressures imposed in nineteenth-century England, when certain religious orthodoxies exerted a stifling pressure. But the problem of conformist pressure is far more general. In fact, it is rooted in enduring