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Democracy versus liberty

Watch Genevieve talking about the relationship between democracy and liberty.
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Over the last three weeks, you will have heard the words democracy and liberty being used many times in relation to Magna Carta. Yet, what do these words really mean? Do the terms liberty and democracy always sit comfortably beside each other? Or, is it a tension between the two? In order to answer this question, we need to think about what these terms mean to us.
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Democracy is a kind of governance. It’s a way of organising society. Democracy, by its very nature of setting out rules for how society should function, is always going to limit the liberty of the individual to some extent. What about liberty? Well, if we’re talking about liberty as a group of people’s freedom from state oppression, as was the case when we looked at the work of Gandhi, for example, then we can see that the relationship between democracy and liberty is a straightforward one. Yet personal liberty, the right of the individual to be free to do whatever she or he wants, is often likely to be in opposition to democracy.
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How far can the state go in restricting the liberties of its citizens in order to serve the common good? In the next step, you will watch people answering this question and have the chance to share your ideas with other learners in the group.

Watch and listen to Genevieve talking about the relationship between liberty and democracy.

Clearly, some important questions come from the tension between the two.

Think about these two questions and share your responses in the comments below.

  • How far do you think the state should go in restricting the liberties of its citizens in order to serve the common good?

  • Nowadays, we are hearing more and more examples of mob rule on social media. Mob rule is when political situations are controlled by those who are not in any legal position of power. How desirable do you think this is? Can mob rule ever be responsible for positive change, in your opinion?

  • The right to life is often thought of as a fundamental human right. Yet, many people would argue for the restoration of the death penalty. Should some rights be protected even if a majority opposes them?

In the next step you will watch people talking more about questions of liberty and democracy. You’ll have the chance to share your ideas with other learners in the group.

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Magna Carta

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