Explain the balance between police power and individual rights.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The balance between police powers and individual rights is one that must be struck by any democratic society.  This is true because police powers and individual rights tend to work in opposition to one another.

In every society, the government needs to have what are called police powers.  What this means is that the governments need to have the right to uphold the laws.  Governments need to have this ability so that they can protect their citizens from others who would seek to prey on them.  Without police powers, for example, there is no one to protect us from being murdered or robbed, or otherwise harmed.

The problem is that the government can take away our rights in the process of trying to protect us.  For example, let us imagine that the government is worried about drug use.  It therefore declares that it has the right to test any person for drug use at any time.  It also declares that it has the right to search anyone’s house at any time for evidence of drug manufacture, sale, or use.  This would be great for law and order because it would make it much harder to get away with drug crimes, but it would be terrible for our rights.

Thus, what the government must do is strike a balance.  It must keep enough police powers to keep us reasonably safe without taking so many police powers that it infringes too heavily on our rights.