Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rights vs. Liberties (Civil)

Many a heated conversation has occurred talking about civil rights in the USA. But are we talking about rights or freedoms/liberties? What is the difference? Why do people think they have a right to any one thing? Do rights change? Inalienable rights? Is our perception of reality so bad that we have to change it as time goes on? Are we really seeing something new - something that no society has ever seen before, dealt with before?

How does liberty - in the form of liberties - fit into or with the rights that we have? What are the similarities that cause us to hear one over the other so often? What are the differences; why are they being overshadowed?

Civil rights

plural noun (often initial capital letters)
  1. rights to personal liberty established by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S.Constitution and certain Congressional acts, especially as applied to an individual or a minority group.
  2. the rights to full legal, social, and economic equality extended to blacks.

Civil liberty

noun Usually civil liberties.
  1. the freedom of a citizen to exercise customary rights, as of speech or assembly, without unwarranted or arbitrary interference by the government.
  2. such a right as guaranteed by the laws of a country, as in the U.S. by the Bill of Rights.

These definitions are limited, as one might expect.  For more legal definitions/information, I also referenced for their explanation of rights and liberties.

As a result, a short answer for the differences between rights and liberties may be thought of:

Rights ensure our liberties.

If nothing else, it makes for a nice catchphrase, no?
Beyond a catchphrase, how do we implement these concepts in our daily lives? How do we "prove" ourselves under these areas, and how do they "prove" that what we do day to day is right and true?

Rights are more concrete in nature, both in their implementation and their number.  There are, always have been, and always will be civil rights that are not arguable. We are "guaranteed" to be treated and respected as individuals, regardless of our differences from one another. Homosexuals cannot be denied this treatment simply because they are gay. Blacks cannot be barred from an activity simply because they have a different skin color. We are given the privacy to do what we feel is best for ourselves and our own lives. Aborting an embryo cannot be removed from an individual. Medical care cannot be denied because someone else thinks the care is unnecessary.  Nor can care be forced upon an individual that he or she doesn't feel is necessary.

Liberties infer something different. While the US Constitution's Bill of Rights do in fact outline the freedoms of the citizenry, it doesn't mean that rights and liberties are the same thing.

The US Constitution was written with a different intent than had ever been done before in the history of the planet. It restricts government power. It gives citizens - individuals - the freedom to do certain things, to not be subject to governmental power. The Bill of Rights enumerates those things that cannot be taken from us, for they are beyond the power of men to give or take.  And those liberties - freedoms - are what "make" us all equal.  We all have the same freedom: to speak as each of us sees fit, to bear arms as each of us want, to practice a different religion, to be judged by our peers and not anyone appointed by others.

This is where equality gets muddled, but I think I see another article coming on for that, don't you?

So does liberty change? Can liberty be curbed? Inhibited? For certain, barriers or limits can be placed. I've alluded to that elsewhere. What about civil liberties?  To be certain, the liberty of one person cannot preclude the liberty of another, nor can one liberty (Constitutionally) overpower another liberty. 

My religion and its practice cannot stop you from voicing your opinion about religion.
My right to speak about the dangers of guns in the hands of certain people does keep you from owning a gun.
My 2nd Amendment right cannot stop you from exercising your 1st Amendment right.
Your rights based on your skin color or other differentiating characteristic cannot inhibit my rights simply because I have different characteristics.

So no one person, nor the any government in the United States, can say that their right to something as a (civil) protected class can preclude someone else's right as outlined in the Constitution. Even if we change how the rights or liberties are enacted - the easiest example being who is included in the phrase "all men are created equal" - it does not give anyone cause or endorsement to trample on anyone else.  It may not seem "fair" to not get something you think you have a right to have, but you are not guaranteed everything, only guaranteed that you can claim your right somewhere. 

We all have freedom.  Those freedoms are protected in the United States through Rights that cannot be inhibited by our government or each other.  With that freedom comes the responsibility and wisdom to know where our rights stop and the rights of others begin.  Someone outside of our self doesn't define what we do, or what we get; we have the responsibility to do and get what we need and/or want without infringing anyone else's freedom to do the same.

With liberty comes responsibility and accountability
No one can take that from you
No one can do it for you.

(note: definitions on S&S are from

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