• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

When is government interference with an individual's freedom justified?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Freedom Power and Democracy Assessed Essay When is government interference with an individual's freedom justified? In order to establish when it is justifiable for a government to interfere with an individual's freedom it is necessary to establish first what that 'freedom' is. Although 'freedom' is a popular political slogan, its definition has always been a source of confusion and conflict for political theorists. A reasonable starting-point, however, is that suggested by Barry i.e. that "in ordinary speech we understand liberty or freedom to mean the absence of constraints or obstacles" i.e. that 'freedom' is the state of not being subject to constraints or obstacles. In reality, of course, no individual has or expects to have absolute 'freedom' in the sense of being subject to absolutely no constraints or obstacles. Instead citizens expect to enjoy specific freedoms to do or be something - and even then they expect there to be at least some limitations on those specific freedoms. In a modern society few would argue against the proposition that that there have to be at least some restrictions on individual freedom(s) imposed by the government to protect the interests and freedom(s) of the rest of society. "Since any society will have a whole range of perfectly justifiable restrictions on liberty, there can only be particular arguments about specific liberties." N. Barry 2000 p188. In the field of political 'freedom(s)', of course, relevant constraints or obstacles will be constraints or obstacles which are imposed by government or, possibly, which government could remove. ...read more.

Middle

This equation serves to illustrate the disagreement about freedom. It is the difference in opinion as to what constitutes Y (i.e. the obstacle to freedom) that separates those who support 'positive' or 'negative' liberty. Supporters of negative liberty believe that the only restrictions on freedom are legal or physical obstacles and therefore desire minimal government interference. From this perspective they reject the idea of a large welfare state funded by taxation as it means that individuals are not free to spend their money as they desire. Supporters of positive liberty, however, see a lack of material resources and social deprivation obstacles to freedom. They see a need for a welfare state to redistribute the resources in a community otherwise deprived individuals without the necessary means cannot accomplish what they desire. Supporters of negative freedom also reject the idea of individuals being prohibited by law from causing themselves harm. For example: the introduction of a law making the wearing of seatbelts compulsory was seen by many of those who support negative liberty as an unjustified interference by the state since individuals should be free to decide for themselves as rational beings whether or not they wish to protect themselves and the state has no right to make that decision for them. The only even vaguely acceptable argument for making seatbelts compulsory was, in their view, that by doing so the government was protecting the interests of other members of society who would, through taxation, have to pay the cost of providing medical care for those who chose not to wear seatbelts. ...read more.

Conclusion

In those circumstances the 'greater good' (i.e. the protection of the lives and/or health of other members of society) is clear and indisputable. In other cases, however, the position will be much less clear and the answer which one gives to the question will depend upon one's personal views and priorities. The reality is, of course, that almost any step taken by government can be said to constitute an interference with the freedom of at least some individuals and that, particularly if one accepts the concept of 'positive freedom', almost any such interference can be argued to be necessary in order to grant true freedom to those same individuals or to others. Those who object to a ban on fox-hunting, for example, argue that such a ban would constitute an unjustifiable infringement of their freedoms (and even march under the banner 'Liberty') whereas their opponents contend that a ban will not only free foxes from the threat of slaughter but will liberate fox-hunters from their irrational compulsion to kill animals for fun. Equally, those members of the world community who wish to invade Iraq talk of 'liberating' the Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam's regime whereas Saddam's supporters would no doubt argue that in resisting such an invasion they would be fighting for 'freedom'. In practical terms, then, there is little if any difference between the question: "When is government interference with an individual's freedom justified?" and the question: "What actions is it right for a government to take?" ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. Politics A: Analysing Theories of the State and Individual - Evaluation of Pluralism.

    But there was a fear in a pluralistic democracy of the tyranny of the majority a fear of how popular pressure may threaten individual freedom. The aim of pluralism is to set limits on the power of the rulers over the community.

  2. Citizenship - participating in society

    the PowerPoint a couple of times and this showed how much they enjoyed it. I chose to talk about smoking in our project as lots of young children start smoking at an early age as they think that they are cool.

  1. Persuasive Assignment - Fox Hunting: Would a ban work?

    Within hunting itself there are several main areas of employment: those directly employed by the hunts themselves, direct imployment by those who follow the hunt, those employed in work related to supporting the hunt, and those whose employment is in part dependent on the expenditure of those involved in hunting.

  2. Are government justified in controlling the flow of information to their citizens?

    Now the country is out of $100 million because the government didn't feel obligated to inform their citizens about their expenditures. This is the perfect example of why the government should inform the public of their actions. However there are some situations where the government should withhold information for the benefit of the country.

  1. What it Means to be Free.

    Have you ever stopped to think about how many laws have been written specifically to insure our safety?

  2. Make a case for less state interference in our lives?

    For example: Due to them seeing criminal activity or unsuitable behaviour for them on TV then they would not know what is fit for them to see and follow this footage as an example.

  1. Analysing Concepts of State and the Individual Pluralism.

    Alexis De Toqcueville (1805-1859) was a French political writer and he thought that the tyranny of the majority could be avoided by a system of strong local government or decentralisation, although he also felt that the public opinion tended towards tyranny.

  2. Asian Values in Singaporean Perspective.

    have pointed out that other Confucian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea have been successful in adopting liberal democratic practices. It needs to be pointed out that when one speaks of "Asian values" it more or less refers to traditional values, and in the Chinese context they are based

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work