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There are two kinds of freedom, freedom to do something and freedom from something. We have both kinds of laws - those that restrict our ability to do something and those that protect us from government or others.
The first type is a limit on our behavior. If I want to take drugs the state says it is illegal. If I am arrested, they have to read me my rights.
The purpose of government is to safeguard rights. Law is the expression of that safeguard. One has innumerable rights; the expression of those rights is freedom. Government may restrict freedom, but it cannot restrict rights.
In exercising freedom, one may do whatever one wishes, as long as those actions do not interfere with the rights of another. So you may have the freedom to say anything you wish, but if it's slander, you have treaded upon another's right to their good reputation, and law recognizes the transgression, and you suffer the consequences of your actions.
Law provides the stability for society to function, balancing the expression of freedoms with the safeguarding of rights.
The previous post did a stellar job in discussing which laws in society restrict our freedoms. Another example of such laws might be in the right to freedom of speech. For instance, in public settings such as airports, pure individual expression is limited for the interests of the greater good. One cannot act or speak in an unfettered manner without arousing some level of concern from authorities. Extending off of this, the notion of searching through bags and taking off shoes are but two of many examples where individuals are willing to sacrifice their own sense of personal rights to gain more in terms of overall rights for the larger group. In these settings, individuals have to sacrifice some of their personal liberties in order to gain a greater sense of collective freedom for all.
In the United States, the Patriot Act, which was passed after 9/11 in an effort to "protect" Americans, had some fine print that was overlooked. One example of this is that heretofore the FBI could not access anyone's computer files, etc. without justificable cause; now, however, it is only necessary to suspect someone of illegal activities for the FBI to tap into a computer. Public libraries, which fought against the relative section of the Patriot Act as an invasion of the First Amendment, may have their computer files checked at any time, as well. In fact, there are presently security cameras in the computer areas that videotape everthing as well as recording any conversations. Another abuse of freedom is the Patriot Act rests in its ability to indefinitely detain immigrants. Also, a result of this act, restrictions in air travel have limited some freedoms of people; for example, having to be searched and being prohibited in carrying water, more than 1.5 ounces in containers, etc.
Gun control laws differ from state to state. There was an attempt in Washington,D.C., to outlaw the ownership of a gun, but the Sumpreme Court overruled this because of the SecondAmendment.Still, in some states there is arestriction ofpeople's freedom to carry a gun in their car even if they have a permit to do so from another state. Other states have laws against talking on a cell phone while driving. The forced wearing of seat belts is also a restriction on people's act of choice. And, the new Hate Crime law can become an abuse of one's freedom of speech if interpreted subjectively. There is, indeed, fear among many that certain groups will manipulate this law to their advantage. Even the law against driving under the influence has abused some people's freedoms as some people are certainly inebriated after only one drink while others have a greater tolerance of alcohol. In addition, while hunting laws are needed many times, the argument can be made that they restrict people's freedoms.
Right to Carry Firearms laws increase a person's freedom, enabling a person the opportunity to protect himself/herself if life is threatened. Likewise, in some states, there is a law that protects people whose home is broken into. They cannot be convicted of murder if an unknown thief has crossed the threshold and invaded their home.
Laws such as those that make it a crime to murder someone are certainly ones that protect people's freedoms. To assist in the protection of personal freedome, the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU]works hard to protect people's freedom of speech, choice, etc.
This is much more complicated issue that can be dealt with in a short post. So, I will try to paint a broad picture of some of the complications.
The law states that we have freedom of speech, but this does not mean that we can say anything we want. For example, it would be illegal to cast racial slurs and threaten someone. So, do we really have freedom of speech? Moreover, if someone did have the full rights to say whatever he or she wanted, even if it was deeply offensive, then would that person not diminish the freedom of the person who is offended?
One of the points that I am trying to make is that there can be a difference between the "spirit of the law" and "the letter of the law." What this difference is is hard to say, but it is something worth thinking about.
Laws both restrict our freedoms and improve them in many ways.
Some examples of laws that restrict our freedom (I don't know if all of these will be the same as Canadian laws...)
- We do not have the freedom to use illegal drugs such as marijuana
- We do not have the freedom to drive without wearing a seat belt
- We do not have the freedom to drive over the speed limit
Some ways that laws improve our freedoms:
- The law protects our right to speak whatever ideas we want, and it must protect us from people who want to hurt us for speaking our minds
- The law protects us from having to worry (usually) about having our possessions stolen from us.
So overall, what the laws do is they take away some minor rights (drug use, driving without a seat belt) but they protect our major rights (life, liberty, property).
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