Understanding Us/Uk Government and Politics: A Comparative Guide

By Duncan Watts | Go to book overview

3
Protecting liberties, advancing
rights

Liberties and rights are of especial concern in liberal democracies, which claim
to provide a broad range of them. The word liberalism is associated with the
primacy of the individual. Historically, liberal thinkers have been committed to
personal freedom, believing that men and women flourish and progress when
they are able to express their creative personalities without undue restrictions. In
democracies, governments are empowered by the people. They are given office
on trust, and their power should not be abused. There are occasions when there
is a need to deploy the powers of the police or security services, and to impose
other limitations on freedom. But those restrictions must be capable of justifi-
cation on grounds of the common good. The more the citizens know of the
reasoning behind them, the better. They can then assess whether essential values
have been preserved
.

For many years the rights which were emphasised tended not to require the
government to act (freedom of expression, for example), whereas in recent years
more importance has been attached to the passage into law of entitlements which
do need positive governmental intervention. In Britain and America, anti-discrim-
inatory legislation has been enacted to allow for the protection of minorities and
other disadvantaged groups
.

In this chapter, we examine the protection of liberties in both countries, in
particular the right of freedom of expression. We move on to compare the
positive benefits which have been conferred upon various groups in society
.


POINTS TO CONSIDER
Distinguish between civil liberties and civil rights.
How well are the liberties of the citizen protected in Britain?
To what extent is the Human Rights Act an adequate alternative to an entrenched Bill of Rights?
Does Britain need a home-grown Bill of Rights?
Do civil liberties need to be entrenched?
How much tolerance should be extended to extreme minority groups whose opinions are generally out of step with contemporary thinking?

-46-

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Understanding Us/Uk Government and Politics: A Comparative Guide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • The Politics Association viii
  • Political Leaders of the Post-1945 Era ix
  • 1: The Context of Political Life in Britain and the United States 1
  • 2: Constitutions 26
  • 3: Protecting Liberties, Advancing Rights 46
  • 4: Executives 66
  • 5: Legislatures 106
  • 6: Judiciaries 139
  • 7: Governance Beyond the Centre 155
  • 8: Political Parties 178
  • 9: Pressure Groups 219
  • 10: The Mass Media 243
  • 11: Voting and Elections 269
  • 12: Democracy in Theory and Practice 305
  • Index 329
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