How can it be ensured that individual rights are protected against government intrusion?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few different ways to protect individual rights against government intrusion.  Let us look at three of them.

First, we can protect individual rights by clearly stating what rights the people have that the government cannot take away.  The US Constitution does this, particularly in the Bill of Rights.  The Constitution proper protects Americans from being held without charge (right to writs of habeas corpus) or from having the government make laws (ex post facto laws) that criminalize actions that they took before the law was passed.  However, it was the Bill of Rights that really laid out rights that the government could not infringe upon.  The Bill of Rights specifically guarantees that the government (it now applies to both national and state governments) cannot take away our freedom of speech or religion.  It says government cannot search our homes or our persons without warrants.  It protects our right to carry firearms.  By specifically making rules that say the government cannot do these things, we protect our individual rights.

But what if the government wants to ignore these rights?  One way to guard against this is to create a system of separation of powers and checks and balances that makes it harder for the government to do things.  If you feel that gun control infringes on your right to bear arms, you should be happy that we have a system of checks and balances where Congress can reject President Obama’s gun control proposals.  If you feel that Donald Trump’s proposals to crack down on Muslims violates freedom of religion, you should take comfort in the idea that the Supreme Court (or Congress) would probably reject such actions.  When we divide up the government’s powers, we make it much harder for the government to act in ways that would take away our rights.

Finally, and most importantly, we must protect our individual rights by caring about them.  In a democratic system, the ultimate guardian of rights is the people.  If we believe that gun rights are important, we need to make our voices heard and elect pro-gun and punish anti-gun leaders.  If we believe in gay rights, we need to vote for leaders who support gay rights and vote against those who try to curtail such rights.  If we, the people, do not care about our rights, the government can take them away.  We can never set up a system that will absolutely prevent the government from intruding on our rights.  We have to remain vigilant and use our power of popular sovereignty to prevent government intrusions.