Freedom, if others are restrained

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Abstract

The article explores criticism of the Government's anti-terrorism legislation first proposed in 2005 that produced much heat but little illumination, partly because the criticism mostly relied on rhetoric rather than reasoned argument. Such criticisms that have focusedon the threat to our civil liberties - though genuinely expressed and understandable - are on the whole unwarranted. Far from undermining civil liberties, the legislation, if designed and implemented the right way, will safeguard civil liberties. The new laws are only just catching up with the ethical stance we should take against the threat of home-grown terrorism. A central argument thatprovides ethical support to the new laws is the social contract argument. First raised by Plato 2500 years ago, it was developed in its modern form by the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes said the legitimacy of the state and its citizens is rationally and ethically mandated by a notional social contract under which individuals agree to constrain their "anything goes"unlimited freedoms for the sake of security, safety, civility and public order which the state guarantees on the basis of mutually acceptable moral principles. However, the state only holds power in trust for the collective good, and its legitimacy isultimately founded on the implied consent of its citizens. Whereas the state has an obligation to protect and preserve the security and safety of its citizens, the citizens have an obligation to abide by the ethical and legal principles upon which the state is founded.When individuals through deeds or words threaten the security of the state and the safety of its citizens the government has a legal and ethical obligation to do whatever is needed to protect its citizens. A government that fails to do so would rightly be deemed negligible andheld culpable for such negligence.
Original languageEnglish
Type565-word newspaper opinion piece, pub 21 Nov2005, and available on an ongoing basis from smh.com.au
PublisherSydney Morning Herald
Place of PublicationSydney, NSW, Australia
Edition21st November, 2005
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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