The Harm of Irresponsibility

In today’s society it seems as if what is ethical is up for debate. The line between right or wrong in some’s eyes is becoming thinner and thinner.  However, looking through the eyes and ideology of John Stuart Mill , the line is drawn pretty clear in which there is no gray area. In Chapter 4 of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”, Mill introduces ‘The Harm Principle’ in which an individual may act as they please, as long as it doesn’t harm others. Mill goes on to talk about certain acts such as self-
regarding and other regarding. Mill believes other-regarding acts that are bad are punishable while self-regarding bad

John Stuart Mill - Photo taken from

John Stuart Mill – Photo taken from

acts are disapproval legitimate. Mill also believe that although one may acts as they please, they must take care of their distinct and assignments to others. Failure to do so will result in punishment.

Earlier this year in March, a woman from the state of Arizona, Shanesha Taylor was arrested for leaving her two children in a hot car she went for a job interview. It was reported that Taylor left her children in the car for over an hour. She was later charged with felony abuse and would potentially face imprisonment. After her arrest, Taylor’s teary-eyed mugshot went viral, sparking huge conversation on her case as well as supporters from all over the country. Many petitioned for all charges to be dropped and an estimate of $114,000 has been raised on the single mother’s behalf. Homeless and living off of welfare, Taylor was in search for a better life for both her children and herself. Although she left her children unattended in a hot car, many people believe that Taylor’s acts should not be punished, because it seemed her overall goal was not to harm her children but rather care for them.

Mugshot of Shanesha Taylor. Photo taken from

Mugshot of Shanesha Taylor. Photo taken from

The courts listened to the supporter of Taylor and gave her what some would call a “a once in a lifetime chance”. Prosecutors told Taylor that she could avoid jail time if she put $40,000 of the donations into a trust fund for her two children. However, Taylor failed to put the money into a trust fund by the deadline issued by the judge. It was reported that Taylor spent $4,000 a month on non-essential items and even gave money to the father of her children in order for him to create his own rap album. After hearing of this supporters were very angry and upset with Taylor’s choices. Because of the failure to meet the trust fund deadline, Taylor is due back in court in December 2014.

This case is a perfect example of Mill’s theory. Although at first it seemed as if Taylor was the victim. She came across as a women who just wanted to provide for her children, or in Mill’s beliefs, take care of her distinct duties as a mother. People believed that if only Taylor’s had the proper resources, she could fulfill her duties. However, the tables were turned when Taylor failed to support her children. This foolish decision of hers makes me question whether her overall intentions was to take care of her responsibilities as a mother in the first place. This case also shows that Mill’s theory is still very much relevant today in which failure to do distinct and assignable duties to other merits punishment.

One thought on “The Harm of Irresponsibility

  1. Although this woman’s actions are a great example of the different principles of Mill’s ideology, I think we must also look at the influence of society at large. The struggle between the individual and government is one we have discussed in depth in Political Science lecture. I think that this woman’s case reveals individual wrongs but it also reveals government flaws and inequities. This woman’s children may have never been put into this situation if childcare was more accessible. We should also look into why single women with children are the most likely to be receiving government aid. This empowerment and increased self-sufficiency amongst individuals, especially those most vulnerable like women and children, must, ironically, be supported by the government.


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