Defining Civil Liberties

What also worried this writer were comments made by Carlile, the implications of which are truly frightening. "[There is] a civil liberty to have the right to national security", he said.

I\’m sure that those people out there far wiser than I (and there\’s a lot of you, of course) will be able to nail exactly what is wrong with this contention. For me it is deeply creepy: I\’ve always defined civil liberties (as opposed to natural rights) as being what they may not do to us, whatever their justifications.

But there\’s almost nothing that cannot be done to us in the name of national security.

9 comments on “Defining Civil Liberties

  1. “[There is] a civil liberty to have the right to national security”

    This makes sense if the state is involved in terrorism. Given that the state is constantly trying to induce a state of terror, this is true.

    Tony Blair used to say the same thing, and we all know what a grasp he had of technical terms.

  2. The confusion is between civitas and politas – the citizen and the state. Liberties include freedom from state oppression (civil liberties) and general liberties (right to life, etc). It is oxymoronic to have a ‘civil liberty’ dependent on state action rather than inaction.

  3. His (Carlile’s) use of the language is most peculiar, as if he’s unaware of what exactly the words he’s using mean. Not possible in someone in the legal profession, I suppose, but still…

  4. “Not possible in someone in the legal profession, I suppose, but still…”

    Huh? Tony Blair had the weakest grasp on legal fundamentals (summary justice of frog marching to cash points, etc.). He thought Parliament’s Bills were to “send a message” where words meant what he meant them to mean, rather than be upheld in courts. And yet he was a barrister.

    From what I can see, anyone who was a lawyer and is now a politician should be kept as far away from the law-making and law-enforcement process as possible.

  5. @Kay Tie

    Yes, of course, hadn’t thought of Himself.

    Perhaps people who use language to obfuscate long enough (politicians, lawyers, advertising people…) forget what the words really mean, hence all the fuzzy thinking, policies, and legislation that inevitably follow – that’s if you believe language influences thinking as much as vice versa.

  6. “[There is] a civil liberty to have the right to bigger sausages” – why not? Once you confuse categories, there is no limit.

  7. dearieme:

    It was Bismark who remarked that men had a right to bigger sausages and more laws but not to know what went into either.

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