Relationship between Liberty, Sovereignty (Authority) and Law

Views of Individualists, Anarchists and Syndicalist:

Liberty does not mean the absence of all restraints legitimate or illegitimate. Nor does liberty mean unrestrained freedom to do whatever one likes to do. Liberty means the individual can act as he pleases without being under any type of arbitrary or illegal restraint or control.

Liberty does not mean the complete absence of all laws. Liberty exists only in an ordered state. The state frames law and the sovereign state operate through these laws. There is a close relationship between liberty, sovereignty and law. Though this view seems sound yet a number of political thinkers do not accept this view.

For example, Syndicalists and Anarchists maintain that more powerful the state, more curtailed and confined will the individual liberty be. Hence, they wanted to abolish the state. William Godwin, a well-known anarchist opines: “Law is an institution of the most pernicious type”. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the individualists interpreted liberty in their own way.

They regarded the control of the state as harmful to the individual and, therefore, supported the confinement of the authority of the state. But the individualist doctrine resulted in dangerous consequences in England when this doctrine was implemented. Now it is universally accepted that laws are the protectors of liberty. Liberty ceases to exist in the absence of law.

Law is the Condition of Liberty:

“Where there is no law there is no freedom”, says John Locke. Therefore, the existence of law is essential for the existence of liberty. It is the laws that protect liberty. In the absence of law the individual will have to seek the help of might in ‘order to safeguard his liberty.

And there will be “might is right”. In the absence of laws anarchy will prevail in society and people will degenerate into primitive savages who lived in the state of nature as described by Hobbes.

Professor Willoughby has asserted that “Freedom exists only when there is restraint”. Gettell observes, “Liberty in any real and dependable sense is possible only if sovereignty cists and becomes more perfect as sovereignty is more completely organised”.

Law is the protector of Liberty:

Liberty is protected by law in three ways. First of all law provides congenial atmosphere for the smooth running of civilized life in society. Law punishes the criminals and defends the rights of the individuals. Secondly, laws guarantee the enjoyment of individual rights and duties and protect them. The state punishes the individual who causes harm to others and hinders the path of others. Thirdly, constitution is the custodian of liberty. It is only the constitution that confines the authority of the state and protects the fundamental rights of the people.

Views of Idealists:

Idealists maintain that liberty lies in the obedience to law. Liberty ceases to exist in the absence of laws. For example, Hegel maintains, “State is a march of God upon earth and it is the highest expression and organ of social morality”.

T.H. Green has justly said, “Much modem legislation interferes with the freedom of contract, in order to maintain the conditions without which a free exercise of the human faculties is impossible”. According to idealists obedience to law is obedience to real will.

Does every law protect liberty?

Now the question arises whether every law protects liberty. During the British rule many laws were framed which aimed at crushing the individual liberty of Indians, or example, Rowlett Act, Safety Act, Bengal Regulation of 1818 Vernacular Press Act, 1318, etc., were framed for crushing liberty.

Indians raised a call of protest against these laws and struggled against the implementation of these laws. Gandhiji launched Satyagraha against the Salt Law. Thus, it is quite clear that every law is not the protector of liberty. If the laws are framed for the noble purpose of promoting the common welfare, they protect liberty.

Sometimes even in democratic countries such laws are framed as are deadly against the public opinion and against the spirit of common welfare. The public agitates against these laws and carries out peaceful demonstrations. If the good laws are framed, the public obeys them in full spirit. It is our duty to obey these laws because without obedience to laws, we cannot enjoy our liberty. In dictatorship laws are enforced mercilessly. This imposition of laws on the people makes the public unhappy.

The laws which pay due regard to the spirit of liberty are regarded as good laws. Gettell has, very aptly remarked in this respect, “Sovereignty carried to the extreme becomes tyranny and destroys liberty and liberty carried to extreme becomes anarchy and destroys sovereignty.” Thus, it is quite clear that there is a very close relationship between liberty and equality.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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