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Berlin And Pettit: Can Their Accounts Of Liberalism Be Sustained When Considering Anti Terrorism Laws?

2463 words - 10 pages

Laws have the capacity to infringe civil liberties however they also provide a forum for its creation and development. For Berlin, his conception of liberty is based upon the idea of positive and negative freedoms. Liberty according to Berlin is viewed as freedom from interference; therefore laws which respect our freedoms are preferable as they allow for different paths of self-actualization. Pettit however considers liberty in terms of freedom from domination and considers the role laws and democracy can play in assuring individual freedoms. In addition to considering the respective approaches of Berlin and Pettit, their theories will also be considered in relation to terrorism. By considering their respective arguments in the context of terrorism, it becomes important to conceptualize laws not in terms of those which respect or interfere with our freedom, but rather how they are able to balance the competing interests of security and individual freedoms.

Considering an Appropriate Framework

There are a variety of traditions which examine the relationship between the rule of law and freedom, which include Berlin’s positive and negative liberty, Republican Liberalism and concept of freedom as a Triadic relationship . Historically, liberalism has been viewed as an attempt to limit state power to preserve individual freedoms however this remains an oversimplification of liberal thought. Whilst liberal rights can be understood as the freedom to pursue individual interests, they are best considered the product of a strong liberal state and the rule of law. Therefore, when considering laws which respect or interfere with our freedoms, it may be problematic to consider them in terms of simple binaries as different laws affect liberties in different ways. While some writers have questioned the value of liberty in pursuing a meaningful life , this paper views liberal values as key in a functioning democratic society. The importance of liberal values becomes increasingly important with the emergence of transnational terrorism. This is because it introduces new complex questions as to how to balance individual liberties with collective security. Laws which seek to protect individuals from terrorism have different implications upon different individuals . Therefore, an approach needs to be able to balance protecting society from the threat of terrorism whilst ensuring individual rights with laws and the state seeking to address this precarious balance.

Conceptualizing Positive and Negative Liberty

Berlin conceptualizes the distinction between laws that interfere with one’s freedom and laws which respect these freedoms in terms of positive and negative liberty. In a broad sense, his argument rests upon the view that interference is the antonym of liberty. Berlin considers positive liberty simplistically as having the internal resources to act whereas negative liberty is freedom from human interference. Positive and negative liberties...

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