There are many schools of thought concerning the issue of liberty and privacy and the extent to which a government may intervene in the lives of citizens. The most important school of thought in the debate on privacy of the citizen is the Libertarianism school. The Libertarianism school asserts that privacy and liberty ought to be of paramount importance and the state should be subordinate to this principle. Opponents of this philosophy on the other hand assert that in some instances the government needs to intervene in matters of national importance or for the sake of individual and common good. In the recent past, the government has been engaged in many interventions which have in some instances been criticized as infringing on the liberty and privacy that is a right of the American people under the constitution.
These different views therefore bring up the contentious issue on how much interference would be deemed excessive and a violation of privacy. There is also the issue of the definition of public interest and public good. The definition of public interest is problematic since there is varied opinion on what constitutes public interest. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack on the US the government passed several legislation aimed at reducing the risk of terror attacks in future. Some of this legislation such as the Patriot Act and increasing interference in privacy in public spaces in the guise of keeping out terrorism are deemed by some to be a violation of privacy and liberty. Some measures undertaken at transport terminals such as full body scans are deemed by some to be an invasion of privacy. Opponents argue that since a full body scan is considered an invasion of privacy in medical terms, the same should also apply in terms of security scans.
An issue that is also controversial in this regard is the undertaking of certain actions in order to foster equality among all members of the society. A good example is the act by the state to offer welfare programs to the needy members of the American community. Social programs are riddle with fraud with able working people claiming benefits thereby straining the programs. In order to reduce this kind of fraud, the government has introduced measures which look into the family activities and backgrounds of the applicants. These measures are deemed by some to bge a violation of privacy since the government requires applicants to offer information such as bank balances which is deemed private. The government has in its defense said that such information was necessary in order to prevent economic dishonesty perpetuated by fraudsters.
Such issues bring to the fore the tension that exists between equality and public interest that the government intends to promote and the right of liberty and privacy granted by the constitution. A number of Americans believe that the measures undertaken by the government are a violation of their privacy and liberty. Measures such as compulsory vaccination of Americans for Yellow Fever are seen as an infringement of personal liberty. Some aspects that the government deems to be of public good require the implementation of some policies which go contrary tom the privacy of its citizens. The question of liberty is also one of the controversial issues since some of the measures that are undertaken by the government are in the name of promotion of liberty. The increased surveillance brought about by the provisions of the Patriot Act is a good example of this tension. The government insists that in order to protect the civil liberties of peace loving Americans, citizens must be ready to give up some of their liberties. An alternative view is that security and liberty are not necessarily mutually exclusive and as such measures which result into less liberty and privacy of citizens ought to be condemned.
The issue of liberty and privacy is certain to continue eliciting controversy since it is unlikely that the schools of though will ever come to an agreement. However, this need not be the case since both sides of the divide have valid points of argument. The opponents are right in stating that issues of security and security do not need to be mutually exclusive. It is also important to acknowledge that liberty and privacy of every individual is guaranteed ion the constitution. The government however has its strong points in that some measures undertaken are only undertaken in fulfillment of its duty of promotion of the welfare of its citizens. The two sides could reach a compromise and reduce tension through an inclusive approach that takes into account the importance of respect for each others’ perspective. This would foster an environment in which there is implementation of policies in mutual cooperation.
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