What is meant by the statement "civil liberties should never be curtailed in democratic countries like the U.S. and Canada"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Civil liberties are certain rights that we have that are protected from infringement by the government. In the United States, many of these rights can be found within the Bill of Rights, such as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, and so on. Some people think that governments should have a great deal of leeway in infringing the civil liberties of some people at some times. For example, during wartime, the government often claims the right to restrict free speech as a matter of national security. The statement discussed in the question is essentially arguing the opposite of this. It is saying that governments should not restrict civil liberties in countries like the U.S. and Canada, which are democracies. It does not say why, but one reason people argue this is that democracies are intended to allow the freest possible exchange of ideas. If civil liberties are restricted, this is not taking place. Another reason we might oppose unreasonable limits on these rights would be that protecting civil liberties is crucial to protecting the rights of the minority, which is as essential to democracy as majority rule. Some civil liberties, like due process protections, are important limits on the power of the state relative to the individual. In short, it could be argued that civil liberties are the lifeblood of democracy, though many European democracies in particular allow for restrictions on many kinds of speech.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Civil liberties are our rights to things like free speech and freedom from having the police intrude on our homes and persons without good reason.  You are being asked to discuss whether there should ever be limits on these freedoms.

What you will need to do is to think about why these freedoms are important and what kinds of reasons there might be for infringing on them.  For example, would it be right to take away free speech from people who use it to promote hatred against some race or religious group?  Would it be right to allow the police to infringe on the privacy of people who might be terrorists?  You are being asked to think about issues like that and to decide whether the value of having civil liberties is more important than the problems that come when we protect those liberties.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial