Unit 3: Individual Liberty, Public Safety, and Immigration
In this unit, we examine different ethical dilemmas policy makers face in the areas of individual liberties, public safety, and criminal justice. We focus on the rights we find in the U.S. Constitution, such as the protection of speech and political acts under the First Amendment, the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, punishment of felons, and issues involving drugs and illegal immigration.
We examine responses to the questions: How do we balance individual rights with the security needs of the state? Where do the rights of individuals end and the rights of society as a whole begin?
We use the five frameworks we discussed in Unit 2 to examine each of these questions. We explore the frameworks lawmakers, judges, and officials tend to apply to different types of issues and circumstances. Understanding how to approach and resolve these ethical questions in practice is important for students of political science and public policy. It is also essential knowledge for those planning to enter the legal, public service, and lobbying professions.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.
3.1: Individual Liberty
Individual liberty has been prized by the western world for a few centuries. Documents, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the U.S. Constitution, and the behavior of human rights interest groups in the West, have popularized the idea that individual liberty is the cornerstone of society.
3.2: Freedom of Speech and the Press
Many believe that free speech and freedom of the press must accompany individual liberty – to prevent the government from becoming corrupt. When journalists are allowed to publicly police the behavior of government officials it is easier for the people to root out corruption and hold their government accountable. This is why attacks on the press are so disturbing to those who value individual liberty – if the government controls reporting on its own actions, it becomes difficult to know when the government is behaving in the interest of the people.
3.3: Punishment of Criminal Offenders and the Criminal Justice System
Deciding how to run a criminal justice system is one of the most important facets of creating a formal society. For example, this is where a given country, state, or city protects – or fails to protect – individual rights. Policy makers need to balance the various needs of the community, while being sure to minimize the number of people who are wrongly, or too harshly, punished.
3.4: The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment gives Americans the right to own firearms, but the scope of this right has been hotly contested in courts and the public arena for decades. The core dispute is whether the country should lean toward more individual freedom or more public safety.
3.5: Illegal Immigration
The issue of immigration has risen and fallen in popularity in the United States. Lately, politicians have discussed legal immigration and debated whether illegal immigration helps or hurts the economy. Does it benefit or stymie American business, U.S. workers, or lead to increased crime?
Unit 3 Assessment