This week’s lesson deals with the topic of our liberties and rights within our United States polity and American society and economy. As we pursue our lives, there is a difference between liberties and rights. They are involved in us living according to a Social Contract, by which liberties are converted into rights. Let me explain.
First, if we were to be living in nature, we would live by our human liberties. According to Thomas Jefferson, we are born with certain liberties, such as life, the total freedom to move around, and “the pursuit of happiness” as we might define it individually. Jefferson wrote, to paraphrase, these human liberties God gave him “at the same time I took my first breath.” Basically, in a state of nature, we have the liberty to do whatever we want.
Second, as we move to create a society with others, we live by a set of civil liberties that are defined by people who are part of a particular society. This arrangement is done according to a Social Contract, which is a written or unwritten document that is negotiated among those people. In this process, we now live by our civil liberties, by which we give up certain of our human liberties, but retain certain liberties such as security from outsiders, order in our day-to-day lives, and a guarantee that my property is protected.
Third, when people create a government, to act as the agent of their society, a Social Contract is negotiated between those who are to be governed and those they choose—in whatever way they shall determine— to be their governors. This being done, it is the responsibility of the government representatives, and their designated institutions (police, courts, regulators, etc.), to guarantee us certain civil rights to preserve our civil liberties and remaining human liberties. Thus, always remember, that liberties and rights are not the same, which has very important impact on our lives. For example, a government might take away certain civil liberties by passing civil rights laws, but they can never take away your human liberties as they were originally negotiated in the Constitution (think, capital punishment or freedom of movement).
This all may sound simple and straight-forward enough, but at times it is not. For instance, who is to decide what human or civil liberties should be guaranteed by the laws or regulations meant as civil rights. Obviously, guaranteeing our safety from crime and natural disaster are to be included, but what about access to health care, protection from people with guns, marrying who we wish, or obtaining a formal education? Also, who is to determine what things are to be included as guaranteed civil rights?
So, now that I have described the difference between our liberties and the rights that are given to us by the government established by the Constitution, please respond to the following:
A Social Contract is the institutional foundation by which we move from a state of nature (our human liberties) to creating a society (civil liberties) and to creating a government (granting our civil rights). Now, please respond to the following: What do you believe are three civil liberties that should be considered civil rights as guaranteed by government? Why do you believe these liberties are important enough to be thus guaranteed? Please be specific as you identify and analyze your three civil liberties and provide examples to support your more general observations.
Your response to this initial post should be at least two or three paragraphs in length (at least five sentences per paragraph) and include specific examples to support your opinions. Once you have responded to this post, I will read your response. At that time, I will either provide a follow-up post for your response or direct you to critique another students’ response. Please wait for me to do this before you continue.