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Civil liberties vs. state power

Civil liberties exist to protect individuals against the arbitrary use of state power, and authorities in all countries and times have found themselves inconvenienced by civil liberties, one main reason being that they make the task of moni­toring, arresting and prosecuting bad people more difficult. But there is a good reason why civil liberties make the work of the authorities more difficult in these respects: namely, to protect the great majority of people who are not bad. Think of a typical police state – say, former communist East Germany – where there was no regime of civil liberties to stop men in long leather coats knocking on doors at 2 a.m., and the disappearance without trace of the individuals thus woken. The full implications of this example are too obvious to need spelling out. What it shows is that the incon­venience of the authorities equals the freedom of the people, and is a price richly worth paying for all that matters to individual lives and aspirations. [1-2]

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