The Importance of Individual Rights in Society
Rights are fundamental rules for all modern and also non-modern communities. Individual rights are those ethical principles that differentiate humans from other species in the universe. This essay will analyze arguments of Iraqi Constitutions, US bill of Rights, Ayn Rand’s Man’s Rights to understand the importance of individual rights and in which cases does society needs come before their individuals. By the end of this essay, it will be possible to have a better understanding regarding individual rights and society needs.
In the beginning, we have to understand the concept of right in order to have an insight about this subject that we are going to argue in this essay. Rights are fundamental rules in all countries around the globe. Almost all the countries have human rights in their constitutions, but they have different ways of validify these rules and work on human rights basis. In fact, individuals without their rights might not be considered as free individuals since they do not express their rights freely. Human rights allow individuals to live in justice, freedom, peace. Human rights should apply to all individuals without any restriction on base of gender, religion, tradition, race. Also, improvising these rights will result in a society with equality, freedom, and its people will conduct their rights everywhere. If we read the US Bill of Rights, we can see that individual rights as well as society needs are mentioned and explained widely throughout the amendments. These rights “guaranteed the civil rights and liberties to the individuals-like freedom of speech, press, and religion”. The amendments illustrated several rights protection. In the first amendment, it is stated that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. This clarifies the point that the most important rights in USA are rights of freedom of speech, religion, education, health. Some individual rights are considered to be the most important and most prominent rights for instance, freedom of speech, freedom of economy, freedom of religion. In US bill of rights, some of these rights are not considered properly, and it gives the state to somehow put up rules which might prohibit their individuals to express their rights, and in some rare cases it will result in human rights violations. Government might be able to control its citizens in these cases, and that will lead to violating individual rights. Furthermore on this case, Rand states that “according to such doctrines as the “economic bill of rights,” an individual has no right to dispose of his own material means by the guidance of his own convictions — and must hand over his money indiscriminately to any speakers or propagandists, who have a “right” to his property” which means that individuals are somehow insecure when it comes to their economic status, and there might be times when they have literally no access over their economy which is a contradiction of the amendments since it was clearly stated that individuals have freedom of property. However, in some cases there are exceptions and some restrictions for individual rights. For instance, if an individual wants to destroy a forest and cut down its trees, the government will not allow it since it will affect environment even if that individual owns the place, and has rights to do whatever he/she wants in his land. The government will not allow it since it affects its national security. In some countries, the governments violate individual’s rights based on a claim that these rights will put their national security in jeopardy and have negative effects on the citizens as general. For example, In North Korea, the government does not allow the individuals to have any communications with the outside world I: e using social medias nor have freedom of speech, religion. They are even prohibited to have their own choice hair cut! These countries claim that different believes and ideas will put their country in danger, and following this believe, they make their individuals follow every strict rule that they made without giving any chances of different ideas and beliefs. On the other hand, there are some occasions when society comes before individuals. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost most of the infected countries had quarantine and restrictions of movements. The government did not allow anyone to come out of their homes, and if people attempted to get out to the public areas, the governments would force them to go home. Because of that many parades and parties were cancelled and people did not have the opportunity to move freely. Such cases do not violate rights of individuals, in fact, they are written in most of the countries’ constitutions that during unnormal times the society comes before the individuals.
On another view, we will analyze Iraq’s New Constitution which was written and declared in 2005. We can see that the constitution with 144 articles illustrates all subject regarding the principles of human rights and ways of governing as well as other parts of governing and co-living in Iraq. Most of the individual rights are resembled in articles 10-17. In these articles, most of human and individual rights are validated. This constitution stated rights such as right to life general equality, right to privacy judicial independence, right to fair trial, right to work, right to own property, freedom of movement right to healthcare. Individuals’ right takes a great portion of Iraqi constitution. Article 14 is about equality and states that “Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic or social status.”. Based on Iraqi Constitution Article 15 it is stated that “Every individual has the right to enjoy life, security and liberty. Deprivation or restriction of these rights is prohibited except in accordance with the law and based on a decision issued by a competent judicial authority”. These rights are the most necessary and important rights in any societies since it proves the fact that individuals are the base of the society, and they can express their rights the way they want without violating other individuals’ rights. However, there are some cases in Iraq too where individuals are silenced because they ‘claim’ that individuals violated rights. During these past few years, several journalists, activists were killed with justification of “disturbing peace”. When ISIS invaded most of the central part of Iraq, the government forces could not defeat ISIS alone, and because of that several militias were created and geared up to fight against ISIS. During this time, the Iraqi government deducted %25 of its employees’ salaries. This step from the government was later justified that it was for the “good of all” since at the time of war the security of the people was more important than their salaries. Also, in times of COVID-19, the government blocked moving between provinces in order to stop spreading the pandemic. This decision influenced many individuals as they had to stop working and lose money, but it was not more important that people’s lives. However, Iraq as an Islamic country does not allow actions violate its religion principles, and it is clearly stated in the constitution, so if individuals try to violate this law while they emphasize their rights, the government will restrict them. The example is the same for every country who set their constitutions based on holly books and majorities’ religion.
Likewise, Ayn Rand claims that individual rights are far more important than what society requires. According to Ann Rand “the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. “Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law”. Individual rights can be seen and deal with as ethics. This author believes that society does not exist, and what exist is the individuals, and she explains that “there is no such entity as “society,” since society is only a number of individual men, this meant, in practice, that the rulers of society were exempt from moral law; subject only to traditional rituals, they held total power and exacted blind obedience”. These believes are valid since societies are made of individuals, for individuals. However, individual rights should not exceed the traditional, religious limits of the society since it will contradict with other people’s beliefs’ and also violates other people’s rights. Individuals are the aspect of s strong society and therefore a strong government, and the governments should always favor its individuals over the whole or itself. According to Ayn Rand “all laws must be based on individual rights and aimed at their protection” meaning that laws must serve individuals’ rights and purposes. States should not proclaim the rights of their individuals justifying that they are just following the law. Rand explains that by saying “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
To sum up, individual rights inside a society are far important than the society needs since it is the individuals who create a society, and their right should come before anything else in the society whether it is their system, their religion, their tradition. Also, an individual should not violate others rights while expressing his/her rights. When it comes to national security, the society and the nation’s need will be more important since the society is created by individuals, and harming the society means individuals who created that society.
- Bill of Rights. (2020, February 25). Retrieved November 28, 2020, from https://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/
- Rand, Ayn. Individual Rights. ari.aynrand.org/issues/government-and-business/individual-rights/.
- Seale, — Natalie. Ayn Rand Quotes: Keep Inspiring Me. 25 Aug. 2020, www.keepinspiring.me/ayn-rand-quotes/.
- Strasnick, Steven (1982) 'Individual Rights and the Social Good: A Choice-Theoretic Analysis,' Hofstra Law Review: Vol. 10 : Iss. 2 , Article 5.
- Queiroz, Regina. Individual Liberty and the Importance of the Concept of the People. 14 Aug. 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0151-3.