Should a country limit individual rights during a time of war? Essay Sample

The right of an individual should be suspended or restricted in times of war depending upon the need to ensure the survival of the state. In defending this position, this paper will discuss some political theories by John Mill, John Lock and other authors whose contributions may help in proving or disproving the need to suspend individual rights in times of war. Mill formulated his essay on the concept of liberty where power can be exercised by society rightfully above that of an individual within proper limits.

Under the principle of no harm, Mill posits about an individual’s freedom to act as he or she wants where the only limit is the lack of harm over others. Mill’s theory in effect advocates the right of society to interfere in the right of individual, the moment that the individual harms others. Mill’s justification in limiting the right of the individual in times of war is premised on the greater right of society to ensure survival of the state and this will violate the principle of no harm policy or rule.

When the state takes the response actively in promoting the right the state, it can use its legislative power under the Constitution or by statutes to compel its citizens to defend the country when an emergency situation calls for it. By so doing the state is just exercising an inherent right of survival in the face of threat for extinction if the state loses in war. It is said the law of self preservation is the first law. Hence states have their inherent powers which include the powers of taxation, eminent domain and police power.

Mill’s liberty theory extends to defending or upholding the right of the people’s freedom of speech which he explains that an open dialogue between the state and its people necessarily precedes academic and social human progress. He finds productivity if people have freedom to bring out their false opinions. One productive way is the greater likelihood in getting away false paradigms under an environment of free exchange of ideas. Another way is the strength of the force and the rest of the people to allow the latter to have another view and confirmation of their beliefs.

In defending free speech, there is still a possibility of a number of complications. In explaining his point, Mill cites that instances of omission and commission by the citizens which are part of the concept of harm . It appears however that the minor complications will be subordinated with the goal of promoting free speech as a requirement of attaining productivity. Given therefore the defense of free speech, it may be asked: “How would it relate to limiting individual’s right in times of war? ”

In response, freedom of speech is a basic human right that will guard the right of citizens for possible abuse of right of the state to compel military service from its citizens in times of war. The experience in Vietnam War is good example to illustrate the role of media under free speech in protecting the rights of individuals being sent to war. It may be argued that media played a great role in influencing US policy on the Vietnam War which eventually came to a halt because of increasing deaths and loss of resources because of the war.

Mill supports societal objectives over individual objectives. He advocates resorting to war only to protect the rest of the people against instances of oppressive lack of justice but this war should only be made possible if there is a need to assert the triumph of the people’s conception of what is proper and acceptable. This theory might support the justification of the American Civil War when the government wanted to prevent secessionism that would have caused the disunity of the US then. That a country should limit individual rights during times of war is viewed by Mill as part of regeneration.

Thus, his requirement for people to serve their countries in times of war is best supported by his assertion that the duration of war should stay until justice will put an end to the people’s fight for pre-eminence in their own affair. Another relevant theorist is John Locke who formulated his property theory. Using property in a broad sense considers the interest of the human being as well as their aspirations in extensive range. In arguing that the right arising from property should be derived from labor, Lock essentially puts application of labor as basis of ownership of property.

Related with Locke’s view on property his view on human nature, where he assumes that man could be selfish and could improperly accumulate wealth. Although, he sees equality and independence and lack of right for harming the life, liberty and property of another under natural state of things, the accumulation of wealth could become as a result and could produce unequal distribution of wealth . This in turn could produce a problem in society but Locke is silent of how would the government solve it.

What has this attitude of Locke then got to do with restraining the rights of individuals in times of war? Since he was silent on how the government would solve the unequal distribution of wealth as a result of accumulation, it may be inferred that he has an indifferent attitude on whether government should restrain or suspend some rights. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth. For doing this, it could be deduced that going to war is far from his political theory.

The best work of Locke to confirm his indifference to wars is his making tolerance as a focus of his philosophy. His tolerance could therefore mean not taking a position in times of war and may just mean allowing government to decide on the issue of rights of individuals should be restrained. Another theory worth discussing to find its relevance of rights restriction in times of war is that of Rawls. As far as bombing of German and Japanese cities by the Americans in World War II are concerned, Rawls has an attitude of condemnation.

As for his view of an ideal statesman, he looks for someone that will support and promote international harmony, even in case there is pressure to do so in the home front. In case of human rights being possibly violated, he supports the use of military intervention but only after peaceful resolutions failed. Rawls’ attitude to an inevitable war where civilians could be brought to war and which could limit the right of some would seems to take a back burner in the sense he is more of a man that would promote international harmony than one that supports war.

His idea of political leader is one that wants peace even in the presence of pressures that is domestically evident. Rawls therefore takes the position that violation of human rights is enough ground to justify military intervention against the states violating international law of peace. This position to take military action may therefore be taken as his agreement for compulsory military service if only to impose peace.

Although Rawls is silent on how the military will have to build its strength, for which one could read whether Rawls supports recruitment of personnel for personnel at all cost, it could be argued that military service is most of the time being made compulsory in almost all if not all states due to its nature. Making it voluntary would not cause much recruitment as people basically prefer peace. To have a good military build up as a reason for national or international peace must be promoted as a cause to convince many to join and if there is refusal compulsory drafting is the only remaining choice.

Under such circumstance there is an implied support for the cause of the war which will need the restriction or suspension of some rights of the individuals in times of war. In the case of recruitment to military service, the freedom to choose a vacation of individuals is restricted for the cause of domestic or international peace. Nozick has his Entitlement Theory about private property that deals on the issue of the person entitled to something in accordance with class and needs in addition to other factors.

The same theory promotes the use of property by private people under a capitalistic economy where freedom to interact must be encouraged at all cost. This would therefore make almost every transaction to be voluntary and its opposition to taxation of the rich to subsidize the poor for that would not be voluntary as it involves compulsion imposed by the state. The implication of this concept is that government is deprived of the great resources to finance its operation. In maintaining a military which is needed in times of war, there is a need for taxation or enforced contribution to defray the expenses of government.

Viewed in terms of present government structure, the military establishment feeds on taxation and hence without taxation it would be very hard to maintain a military establishment. Because of entitlement’s theory to require voluntaries, it would be absurd to believe the people will volunteer for military service. Promotion of the idea of less government intervention in Nozick’s minimal state also calls for minimal use of government of military service which has the element of compulsory service. In contemplation, this philosophy assumes the peaceful settlement of disputes through voluntary acts of individuals.

As to whether this philosophy views the right of a country to limit individual rights during a time of war, it may be argued that is more of not assuming the possibility of war because of its assumption of human behavior that man will avoid war because it may seem it would be against the interest of the states. It may be concluded that individual rights in times of war should be suspended or restricted when the Constitution allows as the latter is the fundamental law that has its basis in the social contract theory.

Mill’s theory giving preference on societal objectives over individual objectives supports the US Constitution which is made stronger by the need for the defense of freedom of speech since this will provide a check on possible abuses the government in asserting its inherent right of self preservation as limited by the said Constitution. Locke’s political theory which has an attitude of tolerance may not support suspension or restriction of individual rights in times of war but the same theory does not prohibit or go against either; hence, there is no ground why suspension or restriction should not be upheld.

Rawls may not have directly supported suspension or restriction but by endorsement of military intervention to resolved human rights violations, there is an implied support on suspension or restriction of individual right during war. Nozick is less supportive on suspension or restriction of right but his theory which is purely based on voluntary acts appears to lack great support in practice since his less than willing attitude to impose taxation would be a great deprivation of any state and which little would likely adopt his theory.

It may be finally concluded that the state need to preserve itself and in cases of emergency it may have to suspend or restrict the rights of individuals and this position finds great support from political scientists.

Works Cited:

Arneil, B. John Locke and America: The Defence of English Colonialism, Oxford University Press, Great Britain , 1996 Bowers, J. Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion: Constitutional Theory and Public Policy , Praeger/Greenwood, 1997 Locke and Belloc, A Letter Concerning Toleration , Kessinger Publishing, 2004 Nozick.

R. Anarchy, State and Utopia (Paperback), Basic Books, 1974 Political science quarterly, Original from the University of Californiav. 85 (1970) Digitized Nov 9, 2007 Rothbard, M. , The Ethics of Liberty, Contributor Hans-Hermann; Hoppe, 2003 Schaefer, D. Illiberal Justice: John Rawls Vs. the American Political Tradition, University of Missouri Press, 2007 Ten, C. , Mill on Liberty, Clarendon Press Liberty, 1980 Waldron. God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations of John Locke’s Political Thought; Cambridge University Press, 2002