Americans have a delicate balance between individual freedom and the authority that governs them (Larabee, 1962). Personal freedom is valued above all else. Under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Freedom of expression is considered a human right, and therefore it is constitutionally protected (Stephenson, 2018). Everyone has the right to freely express themselves without government interference and receive and share information through any media.
The Relationship between Individuals and Their Governments
The absence of a government or failure in its operations would damage its relationship with individuals. An ideal government is responsible for providing social services, order and security to individuals while also guaranteeing the rule of law, justice, and equal treatment. The fulfillment of these roles would enable the government to avoid interference with individual autonomy or freedom because the government should grant everyone a chance to achieve self-realization with minimal challenges. The government’s sole purpose in interfering with individual freedom is to prevent harm to others. Therefore, the relationship between individuals and their government becomes reciprocal. Citizens take advantage of the freedoms and rights guaranteed to them while also accepting their share of responsibilities to the government.
Freedom of Speech and the Social Contract Theory
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau considered the relationship between people and their governments and social institutions in terms of social contract theory (Crawford, 2020). Thomas Hobbes’s social contract theory suggests that whenever a person does what is expected, they are safe, since they are not violating the social contract. On the other hand, John Locke’s theory suggests that people have the right to life and property protection. Therefore, violation of the social contract would contribute to a state war with fellow countrymen. Lastly, Jean-Jacques Rousseau described toe features of society which include; political authority not being based on force and that man lacks innate sociability, meaning the society is not a natural occurrence.
The advantage of the social contract theories is that they call for a harmonious community where an individual treads carefully on the rights of others. The social contract theories relate to the freedom of speech because it allows an individual the right to broadcast his opinions without racially insulting his counterpart. An individual can sue if his neighbor is slandering him without evidence (Crawford, 2020). The authority will have protected the liberty of life while restricting the freedom of free speech. The government is careful to create boundaries and promote fairness and equality under the freedom of speech.
The disadvantage of the social contract theories is the government has too much power control. The social contract theories relate to freedom of speech because free speech standards change as society changes. U.S law recognizes the restrictions to freedom of expression, including obscene language, fraud, harassment, hate speech, threats, copyright laws, and child pornography. The social contract binds the physical freedom, but citizens gain civil privilege. However, the phrase freedom of speech has been distorted, misused, and used to defend against hateful comments and improper labeling.
The U.S constitution as a contemporary issue is an example of the application of social contract theories. It underlines what the government should or should not do. Unites States of America residents agree that the moral and political obligations present in the Constitution’s social construct should govern them.
The continuing tension between individual rights and the authority that governs them is still high. Speech is not free from government regulation. Freedom without authority is not tolerable in the demand of social order, for it teaches self-control that promotes a person’s relationship with his neighbor (Stephenson, 2018). Civil freedom comes with social contracts and civil society. Society agrees to live by a set of rules and look out for one another for the common good of all.
Larabee, L. W. (1962). The papers of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Stephenson, R. (2018). Restoring Accountability in Freedom of Expression Theory: Public Libel Law and Radical Whig Ideology. Osgoode Hall LJ, 56, 17.
Crawford, C. (2020). Access to Justice for Collective and Diffuse Rights: Theoretical Challenges and Opportunities for Social Contract Theory. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 27(1), 59-86.