The right to individual freedom is a cornerstone of democracy. It is enshrined in the laws of most nations and forms the basis for much of our personal beliefs about what is fair and just.
However, this right is not absolute. There are times when the need for public order will override the Individual’s rights. This can be seen in things like curfews, liquor laws and traffic regulations.
There is a delicate balance that must be struck between the two competing interests. Too much regulation and people will feel oppressed, too little and anarchy could ensue. Finding the happy medium is one of the great challenges facing any society.
Individual-rights defenders work to protect personal freedoms while criminal justice is being administered. Their duty is to fight for the legislation as it’s written. A public-order advocate believes that societal needs should take precedence over personal freedoms in situations involving a possible security threat.
Individual rights advocates would like to see less government intrusion and more focus on human autonomy and dignity, while public-order advocates believe that the criminal justice system needs to take a more active role in protecting society from harm.
There are pros and cons to both arguments. Individual rights advocates argue that public order can be used as a tool of oppression, and point to examples such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Public-order advocates counter that individual rights can also be used as a tool for criminals to exploit, and point to cases where people have been harmed because law enforcement was not able to act quickly enough. Ultimately, the decision of which philosophy to follow is a personal one, and there is no right or wrong answer.
The Patriot Act restricts due process for foreign visitors more than anybody else, as it denies them the right to a trial. This is illegal because the American government is meant to give everyone due process. In order to conduct surveillance, law enforcement agencies must still get a warrant, however probable cause is now less stringent than previously.
The FISA court also now has the ability to grant broad surveillance warrants. Individual rights have been eroded in favor of public order since 9/11. The USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001 and signed into law by President George W. Bush. The act increased the powers of law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance and search homes and businesses without a warrant if they suspected terrorist activity.
The act also allowed for the detention of immigrants suspected of terrorist activity. Individual rights have been further eroded by the NSA’s mass surveillance program, which was exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013. The program collects data on all Americans, regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Individual rights should not be sacrificed for public safety, according to many individuals. However, because government is compelled by the constitution to adhere to policies and procedures established by it, governments might become corrupt. Individual liberty will take precedence over public safety, but you can still have a quiet society without depriving people of their constitutional rights.
Individual rights are more important than public safety for the following reasons:
1) Individual rights protect us from government tyranny.
The Constitution was written to protect the people from an overreaching government. The Bill of Rights enumerates specific rights that the government cannot infringe upon, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. These rights are not absolute – there are exceptions, like when speech incites violence – but they provide a check on government power. If the government is allowed to sacrifice individual rights in the name of public safety, then it would have free reign to do whatever it wants, without any accountability.
2) Public safety is not an absolute concept.
What one person considers to be public safety may be different from what another person considers to be public safety. For example, someone may think that banning guns will make society safer, while someone else may think that arming citizens will make society safer. There is no definitive answer as to what public safety measures are effective and which ones are not. This means that the government should err on the side of caution and respect individual rights, rather than sacrifice them in the name of an ill-defined concept.
3) Individual rights are a cornerstone of democracy.
Democracy relies on the principle of majority rule, but it also protects minority rights. Individual rights help to ensure that everyone has a say in how they are governed, regardless of whether they agree with the majority or not. If the government is allowed to sacrifice individual rights in the name of public safety, then it would be able to silence dissent and clamp down on dissenters, without any accountability.
In “The End of America,” Naomi Wolf lists the ten phases that authoritarians (or aspiring authoritarians) go through in order to undermine a free society. She cautions, “If we want an open society, we must pay attention and fight to protect democracy. The framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights did not write them for all this bluster. They wrote them in terror.”
Individual rights are a cornerstone of any open society, but they are not guaranteed. In fact, the fight to protect individual rights is an ongoing battle.
One are where the battle between individual rights and public order plays out is in the law. Individual rights are often balanced against the need for public order. For example, the right to free speech is balanced against the need to maintain public order. This balancing act is not always easy, and it often leads to heated debates.
“You will not be allowed to have a voice while living under this system,” one of the men confirmed. “This came from places where they were executed for speaking out for their rights. I observed that tyrants learn from one another and come up with a blueprint for shutting down free society. After that, I saw that the blueprint was simple. It has ten steps…. Each of those ten stages is now being carried out in the United States today.”
The ten steps are 1. Invoke an internal and external threat 2. Establish secret prisons 3. Work closely with th media 4. Develop a paramilitary force 5. Suspend the rule of law 6. Declare emergency 7. Invoke presidential decrees 8. Restrict the press 9. Target key individuals 10. Control the internet
So, how can we prevent America from becoming a dictatorship? By being aware of these ten steps and taking action to prevent them from happening. We must also exercise our individual rights and stand up for what we believe in. Individual rights are important, but so is public order. We need to find a balance between the two in order to maintain a free and open society.