Progress Without Individuality?

I always worry when, instead of laying down general rules of the road or specifying one key thing, a government program or law spells out in detail what people must do. In On Liberty,Chapter III: “Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being,” paragraph 17, John Stuart Mill explains why you should worry along with me: 

We have discarded the fixed costumes of our forefathers; every one must still dress like other people, but the fashion may change once or twice a year. We thus take care that when there is change it shall be for change’s sake, and not from any idea of beauty or convenience; for the same idea of beauty or convenience would not strike all the world at the same moment, and be simultaneously thrown aside by all at another moment. But we are progressive as well as changeable: we continually make new inventions in mechanical things, and keep them until they are again superseded by better; we are eager for improvement in politics, in education, even in morals, though in this last our idea of improvement chiefly consists in persuading or forcing other people to be as good as ourselves. It is not progress that we object to; on the contrary, we flatter ourselves that we are the most progressive people who ever lived. It is individuality that we war against: we should think we had done wonders if we had made ourselves all alike; forgetting that the unlikeness of one person to another is generally the first thing which draws the attention of either to the imperfection of his own type, and the superiority of another, or the possibility, by combining the advantages of both, of producing something better than either.

Here is the message I take away:

It is not enough to be for improvement.

Let us also be for the freedom

that allows the experiments

that make it possible for us to improve!