How Far Should We Curb The Freedom Of Individuals?

There are many facets of freedom, and in my essay, I will discuss many of these such as freedom of speech, freedom of beliefs and freedom of actions. When it comes to rights and freedoms there is a paradox because without responsibilities we have no rights and without restrictions we have no freedom. But what exactly is freedom? The dictionary defines freedom as; '1. personal liberty, as from slavery, serfdom etc. 2. liberation, as from confinement or bondage, 3. the quality or state of being free, esp. to enjoy political and civil liberties, 4. exemption or immunity: freedom from taxation, 5.

the right or privilege of unrestricted use or access: the freedom of a city, 6. autonomy, self-government, or independence, 7. the power or liberty to order ones own actions, 8. Philosophy, the quality esp. of the will or the individual of being unrestrained, 9, ease or frankness of manner: she talked with complete freedom, 10. excessive familiarity of manner, 11. ease and grace, as of movement. I will begin with the individual right to freedom of speech. We all take for granted that we have freedom of speech, but some places such as Communist China have heavy limits on the freedom the individual has to express their opinion.

For example, in 1991, in Tiananme Square, many Chinese students objected to this heavily censored regime and there was uproar that led to the death of many students, one even being ran over by a tank. All that for freedom of speech. In Britain, we have freedom of speech to an extent, in fact compared to China, we have huge freedom, it is a liberty we take for granted. But should we have that much freedom of speech? Here is an example; there is a political party that has headquarters near you.

The leaders of this party believe that all people whose lineage goes back to other countries should be returned to that country and only white Christians should remain living in Britain. Members of this party pass out leaflets to students from the local secondary school on their way home. Should these individuals freedom of speech be maintained? The answer is that we can't stop people expressing their opinion. If their freedom is maintained and they continue to spread their racist propaganda, then the leaflets could persuade the children who read them to be violent towards other races.

(Scenario came from AS Guru website). If the freedom of speech is taken from these individuals then how do we ensure our own freedom of speech will be maintained? What if someone disagrees with us? The reality is that we do have freedom of speech and we can't be stopped expressing our opinions, but in some circumstances, the freedom should be curbed to ensure people aren't offended or hurt by another person. Another individual freedom we take for granted in Britain is freedom to choose what religion we are part of or to what extent we take our beliefs.

For example, Hindus have no choice about their religion because they are born into Hinduism. But most people living in Britain can decide whether they want to be Christian, Jewish, Buddhist etc. But should we be allowed to do that? Many people join cults in this country and other 'free' states such as America and as a result can be convinced to commit suicide in extreme cases. For example, there have been many mass suicides as a result of cult leaders instructing their vulnerable followers to do so. An example of this sort of incident is the megalomaniac Reverend Jim Jones case.

In November 1978 he ordered the 911 members of his cult to drink cyanide poison after brainwashing them. In cases such as this, should the right of the individual be maintained to allow them to join a cult, or should we intervene and stop them joining in the first place? We can argue that in this kind of case the freedom of the individual should be curbed for their own safety, but in reality if we heavily curbed the freedom for one thing, maybe it would have to be curbed for other individuals for different rights they hold.

I believe that everybody has the right to freedom of conscience; freedom of religion and spiritual practice, and to exercise them both publicly and privately because everyone is different and the extent and exact details of their beliefs as a result will be different. I do think though that when it becomes as obsessive as cults that perhaps somebody should intervene, if only for the individuals' safety. When we think of our freedom to act however we feel, we think we have full freedom to conduct ourselves however we please.

This is not the case though. We do not have the freedom to murder, rape or beat other people whenever we please. If we commit an offence such as this then we are charged and in some cases, imprisoned. Should offenders have their personal freedom removed as a punishment? My personal opinion is that if somebody has committed an offence severe enough to be placed in prison, then yes, their physical freedom should be taken from them. A personal liberty such as being able to walk down the street being removed, to me, is a good enough punishment.

However, sometimes, people have their freedom removed against their will. For example, they are taken hostage. Their liberty is forcefully taken away and so their freedom is curbed. This links to terrorists, because it is usually terrorists who take hostages. What gives terrorists the right to remove a person's freedom? What gives a terrorist the right to fly a plane into a building full of people, knowing they are going to cause mass devastation such as in the recent attack on the USA? Shouldn't their freedom have been curbed to prevent such a huge loss of life such as in that attack?

But there is only an extent as to how much we can curb their freedom to express their opinion. The fact that they chose to express their feelings in such a violent and extravagant manner suggests that individual freedom should be curbed to avoid anything such as horrific happening again, but most people, no matter how they felt, wouldn't show their opinion like that. Perhaps people should feel that they don't have the individual freedom to commit such a terrible act and then nothing like such as the American attacks.

On the subject of freedom of actions, we don't have the freedom to decide whether or not we pay taxes. For example, where would we finance all of the public services that taxes pay for if they didn't exist or if individuals decided not to pay them? Taxes are spent on the National Health Service, the Police Force, Fire Service and Roadwork for example. If people didn't pay these taxes then we would have to pay for hospital treatment and to see a doctor etc like in Europe. Street lighting would not be funded and we'd walk down dark streets and roads would be full of potholes and have other problems.

Peoples' freedom of choice therefore is curbed, and I think rightly so because otherwise the services we take for granted would simply not exist. So after looking at the arguments for and against the curbing of individual freedom, I personally believe that it should be curbed in a lot of ways for both the good of the individual and the others around them. Yes, we should be able to freely express our opinion, but in a civilised manner, and we should be free to conduct ourselves in our own ways as long as those methods we use don't hurt other people.