Essay on Liberty
- Essay on the Definition of Liberty
- Essay on the Various Kinds of Liberty
- Essay on the Relation between Liberty and Authority
- Essay on the Safeguards of Liberty in a Modern State
Essay # 1. Definition of Liberty:
Definition of liberty and two aspects of liberty – The term liberty is a derivation from the Latin word “liber”, which means freedom. Negatively speaking, liberty means absence of all restraints, while positively speaking, it means freedom to do whatever one wants. Thus in the second sense liberty is of the nature of licence, pure and simple. This type of liberty is not possible in a modern state, where everyone has to adjust himself to the fair play of freedom of all.
It is in this context that Herbert Spencer wrote:
“Every man is free to do that which he wills provided he does not infringe the equal freedom of any other man.” Thus liberty has two sides. In the first place, an individual in order to express his personality in thought, word and action wants freedom, i.e., absence of restraint on his freedom in thought, word and action. In the second place liberty carries, with itself a kind of restraint on his own freedom for the sake of adjustment of similar freedom of others in the state. Thus there are provisions for punishment in the criminal code for those who exceed the limits put on their freedom.
Essay # 2. Various Kinds of Liberty:
Liberty can be divided into five kinds – natural liberty, civil liberty, political liberty, economic liberty and national liberty.
1. Natural Liberty:
In modern states there cannot be any natural liberty. This type of liberty might have existed in the pre-state stage of human civilisation.
According to Jean Jacques Rousseau, the people enjoyed natural liberty in the state of nature and men lost such liberty with the creation of the state.
Natural liberty is an unlimited and unrestricted freedom. This concept of liberty is imaginary and cannot exist in a civilised society. This type of liberty is actually license. Only the strong can enjoy the right in a jungle life. The weak will be exploited. Might can be right in a jungle, not in a civil community. So we reject the natural liberty as a bogus one.
2. Civil Liberty:
Civil liberty implies freedom enjoyed by the people in a civil society. This type of liberty emanates from the civil rights which include right to life, liberty and property. These are the basic civil amenities, without which a man, whether he is a citizen or an alien, cannot lead a civil life.
It is also the bounden duty of the state to provide these opportunities to the individuals in the state. About civil liberty, R. G. Gettell rightly said- “Civil liberty consists of the rights and privileges which the state creates and protects for its subjects.”
3. Political Liberty:
Political liberty stands for the political rights to have a share in the government. Such political liberty is possible only in a democracy. The democratic functions of the state will be impossible if the state does not provide its citizens with political liberty.
Stephen Butler Leacock defined political liberty as “the right of the people to choose their government which should be responsible to the general body of the people.” According to Harold J. Laski- “Political liberty is the power to be active in affairs of the state. Political liberty is identical with the constitutional liberty which means democratic rule.”
In order to make political liberty real, the citizens will have four political rights, which are discussed below:
(i) Right to vote:
The citizens will have the right to vote on attaining majority to elect the legislature. In India the voting age is from 18 years. Almost all the democratic countries have granted this right to the citizens, since it is the most basic element in a democracy.
(ii) Right to be elected:
Not only the right to vote but also the right to stand as a candidate is another important political right in a democracy.
(iii) Right to periodical election:
The legislatures and all representative bodies must not be permanent. These institutions should be elected after some fixed time. In India the Lok Sabha which is the lower house of the parliament is elected after every five years.
(iv) Right to criticise the government:
The citizens are to be given the right to elect a strong opposition to criticise the party in power. The other method of criticism is freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom to assemble peacefully for demonstration against the government.
4. Economic Liberty:
Civil and political liberty will be meaningless without economic liberty. The state should see that there is no imbalance in the economic life of the people because of concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.
It does not mean attainment of economic equality but removal of side economic disparity. It implies the right to work and right to a decent living. It also includes other benefits like sickness insurance, old age pension, unemployment insurance, etc.
5. National Liberty:
It is linked with the theory of one nationality, one state. It implies that every nation must have a right of self-determination. It may mean freedom from the foreign rule or creation of a full-fledged sovereign state by each nation.
By exercising this liberty India became independent from the control of the British imperial power. By dint of similar right Bangladesh became an independent sovereign country by severing herself from Pakistan.
Essay # 3. Relation between Liberty and Authority:
Liberty is the spontaneous expression of man’s free choice to live the life in accordance with one’s own will. Law apparently puts some restraints on man’s individuality and fulfillment. Behind the law there is the sovereign authority of state. If law is violated, the violator is punished. There are two opposite views on the relation between liberty and law.
Theory of the Individualists:
According to the individualists, law or authority is detrimental to the individual personality of man. John Stuart Mill and William Godwin are the chief exponents of the individualist theory. Mill had no hesitation that laws of the state are clear infringement of the liberty of the individuals. So Mill was opposed to all powers of the authority except those necessary for the free exercise of other individual’s liberty. So long as the liberty of an individual does not hamper the liberty of other individuals there should be no authority to curtail the liberty of the former.
William Godwin went a step further and maintained that “law is an institution of most pernicious tendency” and that every law is a “direct encroachment on individual liberty”. The extreme view is held by the anarchists who suggested that the state with all its legal system must be abolished.
Theory of the Idealists:
A contrary view is held by the idealists who want that the state should be all-powerful and the individuals must seek salvation through the state. The individuals should be concerned with their duties to the state and must surrender all their liberties. It is the concern of the state to see to the well-being of the individuals.
The state being an embodiment of morality stands on a higher footing than the individuals. The individuals will get the due benefits within the state, not outside it. All individuals must subordinate themselves to the ethical and social consciousness of the state.
The two views mentioned above are exaggeration of facts. Individual liberty cannot be a wild buffalo. The state is not to rope the freedom of individuals either. We must seek a via media. Both liberty and law must coexist. Law does not infringe the individual liberty. The idealist view that liberty lies in obedience to law is also not correct.
The state exists for the all-round development of the society. If law is abolished there will be anarchy. In anarchy the liberty of the individual will not thrive. Law endures a social order and creates conditions for liberty. Liberty is the end of law. If law fails to protect individual liberty that law or authority is not good.
Essay # 4. Safeguards of Liberty in a Modern State:
Liberty is the finest fruit of human civilisation. So it is to be preserved. There are various instruments by which the individual liberty can be safeguarded.
These are discussed below:
Democracy as a form of government is most conducive to the growth of liberty. This is considered the best form of government, because its main concern is to upkeep the freedom of the people. Without the opportunity of freedom there cannot be any liberty. It is, therefore, seen that the liberty of an individual is best safeguarded in a democratic country like England and the USA.
2. Guarantee of Fundamental Rights in the Constitution:
Without rights there cannot be liberty. Some of the rights are considered basic and called the fundamental rights. In constitutions of some democratic countries these fundamental rights are incorporated and guaranteed. It means that no authority can take away these rights.
Thus the constitutions of the USA, France and India have enumerated these rights and guaranteed their protection. If these rights are inroaded by any authority, the individual can approach the courts of law. These fundamental rights are, therefore, some protective umbrellas over the individual liberty.
3. Separation of Power:
If the legislative, executive and judicial powers are combined in one person or one organisation there is scope for poaching on the individual liberty. So Charles-Louis Montesquieu and Sir William Blackstone pleaded for separation of powers, i.e., three kinds of power should be vested to three separate bodies. While there should be as much separation of power as possible it is not always practicable to have rigid separation of powers.
4. Independence of the Judiciary:
Judiciary is one of the three organs of the government. We have already noticed the good of separation of three organs of government. But the utmost importance is attached to the independence of the judiciary; it means that the executive or the legislature must not control or curb the power of the judges. If the judges are independent, much of the abuses of the individual liberty may be avoided. The independent as against committed judges help the protection of individual liberty.
5. Elaborate System of Local Self-Government:
It is common knowledge that concentration of power in one hand or in one administration may infringe the individual liberty. If the power is split up from the top to the bottom it will create an healthy climate for individual liberty. So there should be a central government, a provincial government and a village or town administration.
This type of division of administrative power will not encourage the pyramid of powers in one place.
According to Harold J. Laski:
“The more widespread distribution of power in the state, the more decentralized its character, the more likely men are to be zealous for freedom. Maximum satisfaction is at least partly a function of maximum consultation.”
6. Absence of Privilege:
Liberty flourishes best under an atmosphere of socio-economic parity. No class should be exempt from paying taxes and there should be no privilege like the privy purse which the princes of the native states of India were entitled to enjoy. If there is privilege of any form in the society, liberty will be at stake.
7. Eternal Vigilance:
Liberty will be on low key if the people sleep over their rights and are not conscious of these rights. So, Lord James Bryce rightly said- “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Only an enlightened and conscious people can zealously guard their rights. They should raise the protest at the slightest encroachment on their liberty. According to Harold J. Laski- “Liberty is never real unless the government is called to account when it invades the rights of the people.”
8. Rule of Law:
The concept of rule of law emanates from the British administrative law. It means that in the eye of law all persons are equal, whether rich or poor, high or low. According to Albert Venn Dicey- “No person is above law, and every person, whatever his rank or position, is subject to the ordinary, law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of ordinary tribunals.” So every official from the Prime Minister to the Police Constable are subject to the same set of law including punishment.
The second aspect of die rule of law is that no person can be arrested or detained without a law for such arrest or detention. Against all kinds of arbitrary arrests, the civil remedy is the writ of habeas corpus which ensures that if a person is detained without sufficient ground he should be set free by the civil court.