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Moral Justification of the State Interference With the Rights and Liberties of the Citizens

Moral Justification of the State Interference With the Rights and Liberties of the Citizens

Moral Justification of the State Interference With the Rights and Liberties of the Citizens

Chapter One


In the history of political philosophy there have been different views as to what relationship should exist between the citizens and the state in terms of state’s powers, authority compared to individual rights and liberties. An exponent of totalitarianism for example would want to argue that states authority and powers superceded the liberties and right of the citizens. The totalitarianism would justify a state’s interference on rights and liberties because they usually see the state as a higher organism then the individuals, accordingly to them, if these small organism (individuals) are to actuate their potentials, the state a higher organism of which they are a part, should first actualize it’s potentials before a favourable atmosphere can be created for individuals to achieve theirs.



The definition and origins of rights and liberties in this chapter, it will be important to know the meaning of right, liberties and its origin to enable us make a critical justification of status interference.

Rights: Rights the first place is generally defined as powers of free action. Since the 17th century problems connected with rights have steadily engaged the attention of political philosophers, they were concerned with the duties a man owned to his lord, his king and the state. Rights may be strictly called a claim, which a person has as legitimacy to as is provided for by an authority.

Different philosophers have proffered different definitions of rights laski says:

We should not mean by right, the great of some historic condion possessed in the childhood of the race but lost in the process of time, but rather claims recognized by the state which by force and will of the state, and upon the order of the courts and agents can be substantiate1!

H.L.A hart has according argued that it is a mistake to ask for a definition of rights because legal wards can only be illustrated by considering the conditions of social life.

According to him, “Right generally means” the minimal sense, those conditions of social life without which no man can seek in general to be himself of his best”2.

Benthan ad Austin defined right in terms of duties “Every right says, Austin… Rest on a relative duty…..lying on a party or parties other than the party or parties in whom the rights rest. For Austin and Benthan a duty exists only where the law imposes and enforces a sanction for a branch of it on which sanction were attached.

It should be noted that there were different types of rights ranging from natural, moral, legal and political to economic and social. Moreover, the concept of rights has different connotation depending on the sense of use such as privileges or freedom, power or authority and immunity. In this essay we are concerned with rights the strict sense which, for one to meaningful claim, must have a correlative duty on the part of other people to perform towards the sustenance of the rights, such as is provided by the state. Natural rights are not rights in the strict sense. Rights, are conceives as “Having a moral justification for limiting the freedom of another persons and for determining how we should act”.3






Having known the functions the state owes the individual and the meaning of rights and liberties, it becomes necessary at this juncture to proceed further in this chapter by siting cases where the states’ actions has been regarded as encroachment or interference. The actions of the state like the taxation, law making, arrest and detention and other powers of the state were due in large part to the desire of the members of the society to see to their basic demands.

In every modern state, the state alone has the function of safeguarding the rights and liberties of the function of the individual citizens, as a matter of principle and fact that state cannot but interference with some point in time if the overall system of rights and liberties of citizens are to be safeguarded. From the close nature of the society, a situation may arise where one’s claim to right of (A) to achieve a living may be actualized by his selling and advertising by using powerfully built loud speakers and other sound appliances, which may infringe on the right of others. By constituting a nuisance in making noise with the sound systems, the state could stop the person (A) because the interests of many others are being trampled upon.



In this chapter, it will be necessary to argue in defense of state interference, because if the state must exercise its duties of perform its functions it cannot necessary interfere with the rights and liberties.

There are obvious reasons to justify this state’s interference such justification springs from moral justification, argument from the contract theory and finally the argument from the point of the utilitarian.

The first justification is based on the premise of the moral goodness of a state, following the functions the state has to perform for the citizens. That is, functions which are morally good and geared towards moral ends, in the  process if the state is to actualize this good of moral goodness, it must have to interfere with the rights and liberties of some particular individuals in the society, in as much as much interference is not intended or calculated with ill-feelings or ill – motivation. This is reminiscent of what Rawls confers in his “First priority rule”.1 of his principle of justices.


        From the foregoing, it is worthy of not that this essay has clearly examined the natured of state by it’s definition and also that of rights and liberties of the citizens. No this analysis the state would be justified to encroach with rights and liberties in some cases. The justification of state encroachment has moreover resolves the Rousseau Paradox; “Men are born free and everywhere they are in chains”. If it is a fact that he wants to realize his innate ambitions and potentials and for the fact that he wants peace and harmonious living, he was to surrender his rights to an artificial organism called the states. This state is to curtail and regulate the activities of the citizens. These regulation is what Rousseau called “Chains of the state.7 the chains restricts and direct the activities of the citizens in the state.

Though, this justification has been proved morally and otherwise, the truth of it is that the study of the essay still tends to present the state with absolute powers despite the fact that the state’s justification is logically tied to the aims and aspirations of the individuals, in that, they need a good environment for self development fulfillment and realization for which are the provide, the state as a paternal cannot be bequeath chaos to it’s people or like the society in disarray.

On the other hand, the liberation who tends to arrogate much powers to the citizens would not support state’s interference because they believe that the freedom of the citizens be limitedly unrestricted, they do not see any need for the state to act as an obstacles by regulating the activities of the citizens. Following the view of the liberation, it is clear that such absolute freedom to the citizens does not promote peaceful co– existence in the society.




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  • Ben, S.I and Peters, R.S Social Principle and Democratic State London: Hampshire pub. 1984.
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  • Jones, W.T.          Master of Political Thought. London: George G. Harrop And Co. Ltd, 1979.
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  • Laski,A.J.            A Grammar of Politics, London : George Allen and Urwin Ltd, 1967.



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