Liberty is the freedom of restraint of the body and mind. The Declaration of Independence states that each man has the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Different types of liberties and ways they are applied to society exist, and there is a vast difference between civil and natural liberties. In fact, to attain certain civil liberties, an individual must give up some natural liberties.
Natural liberty involves the freedom to do whatever you like. This is the ultimate type of liberty with only the laws of nature as the restraints to freedom. Individuals with natural liberty are concerned only with themselves and the things they possess. Civil liberty is concerned with the community and the individual within it.
Problem with Natural Liberty
The issue with natural liberty is that the individual is focused solely on himself. A man with natural liberty can do as he wishes whether those actions are good or evil. If one man were to do evil, there is no legal recourse other than revenge. According to John Winthrop, the deputy-governor of Massachusetts in 1645, "The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil and in time to be worse than brute beasts."
Civil liberty allows men to be free of restraint insomuch as they do not interfere with the liberties of others. Civil liberty protects one individual from another. This type of liberty stems from the government establishing and enforcing laws that infringe on natural liberties. For civil liberty to work, the community must give up natural liberties and work as a society. A government that enacts laws that reduce natural liberties that are not concerned with society are oppressive to the people.
Issues with Civil Liberties
The people agree to give up natural rights in favor of having laws and protection by the government. Governments can take advantage of civil liberties of the people. These infringements may include taking away property the government has no right to take or applying laws unequally. Laws may be created that go against the general will of the people. These corrupted governments become tyrannical in rule and break the social contract with the people it is supposed to protect and serve. By giving up some rights, the people may end up giving up all their rights and liberties.
- statue of liberty image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com