Distinguishing Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Categories: Civil RightsLiberty

Many people use civil liberties and civil rights interchangeably, but often do not know the difference. There are several reasons as to why this is, mostly because they both have to do with equality. Although both ideas are similar, they are not the same subject matter. Civil liberties are the freedoms that you find in important documents like the Bill of Rights, these liberties are defined as “individual rights that are protected from infringement by the government” (Khatri 2016). What this means is the citizens of the United States have certain liberties that cannot be taken away by the government.

Civil liberties are important to the American people for countless reasons such as the right to believe in what they want to and being able to talk about it freely. The most common civil liberties that are talked about most often are the ones found in the Bill of Rights such as freedom of speech, freedom to protest, freedom to religion and many more.

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Freedom of speech, also known as the first amendment, is the most common civil liberty. Although it has its limits and one may suffer consequences if they say the wrong thing, it is significant so people can voice their opinion to others and be heard by like-minded individuals. This civil liberty is seen everywhere, public debates and speeches are great illustrations of freedom of speech. Although freedom of speech can have its costs, such as arguments that end up not going as expected, overall it is seen as a positive for many citizens across America.

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The other term, civil rights, are found in amendments and laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Civil rights can be defined as “the right of every person to equal protection under the law and equal access to society’s opportunities and public facilities” (Khatri 2016). The most important takeaway from the definition before is equality. In the Declaration, the phrase “all men are created equal” was meant to bring equality to everybody, but it did not necessarily work out that way (Khatri 2016). For years, groups of all kinds have fought for their equality and some still are. The greatest fight for equality was the Civil War which later brought the 13th amendment into the Constitution and the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1870 into play (Khatri 2016). The more recent civil rights issues that have been prevalent in modern society are gay rights and sexual harassment in the workplace (Khatri 2016).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the more important civil rights acts because it set many guidelines for the future. This act made it illegal to discriminate against several different factors when it came to “hiring, pay, working conditions, promotion, discipline, and discharge” (Khatri 2016). The factors that the workplace was unable to discriminate against were “color, religion, sex, and national origin” (Khatri 2016). This was monumental for various reasons, but the largest issue it was intended to end was the segregation of the races. This ended the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation. The Jim Crow laws were something called de jure discrimination, a type of discrimination that is legalized (Khatri, 2016). Kids of different colors could go to school with one another, there were no more white and black fountains or restaurants, and employers hired more diversely. An employer was no longer legally able to judge potential employees on the way they looked or where they were from, they were to hire based on the potential employee’s skill set.

Both civil rights and civil liberties are found in the Constitution. As mentioned earlier, civil liberties can be found in the first ten amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, and in the following amendments, civil rights can be found, such as the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. The largest difference between civil liberties and civil rights is the fact that while civil liberties are given to everyone, civil rights are not. Many groups, such as the lgbt+ community, are still allowed to be legally denied because of their sexual orientation by services as simple as bakeries. The more research put into looking into each topic the easier it is the tell the difference.

Civil liberties and civil rights are protected by certain types of authority. Constitutional authorities are formed by the constitution and support the government so that it functions correctly. Constitutional authorities include people like the president and the members of Congress. Statutory authorities are created by laws and are therefore non-constitutional. These authorities are issued through Congress to enforce the law. An example of statutory authority is the Social Security Act (Khatri 2016), because it was issued through Congressed and signed into law by the president.

Parts of government or political actors (individuals, neighborhoods, interest groups etc.) may be more interested in ensuring civil rights versus civil liberties and vice versa, these parts of government include Congress and the Supreme Court. Government groups such as Congress tend to be more invested in passing necessary legislation for civil rights while the Supreme Court tends to focus on interpreting the constitution and applying civil liberties case by case. While both civil liberties and civil rights are vital to the people of America, they are very different from one another, one protects you from the government and the other solves prevalent issues to society.

The Federal Reserve Bank “regulates the economy through the manipulation of the supply of money and credit” (Khatri 2016). What this means is that the government can control how much money is in circulation and it can also control the spending habits of Americans by making it easier or harder to borrow money. The Federal Reserve Bank can do this by increasing or decreasing interest rates. Without the Federal Reserve Bank, smaller banks would likely be less careful in the money that they loan out and it would be more likely for there to be extreme recessions like the Great Depression.

Monetary policy is “governed by the Federal Reserve” (Khatri 2016). This policy monitors “base rate and discount rate, reserve requirement, open market operations, and federal funds rate” (Khatri 2016). Discount rates are the rates given to the smaller bank by the Federal Reserve so that the smaller banks are more careful about the number of loans that they take out (Khatri 2016). Monetary policy also regulates reserve requirement which is the amount of money that a bank is required to have in its possession. It is possible to increase the number of reserves has on hand by selling assets such as cars, houses, and property. Open market operations work by “buying back or selling government securities such as government back mortgages” (Khatri 2016). This puts money back into the economy by buying and selling bonds. Finally, the federal funds rate controls the interest rate from bank to bank and makes it easier or harder for people to borrow money. If we did not have a monetary policy then all the banks and its people would go into debt, lose their money, and possibly start a recession.

Along with the Federal Reserve Bank comes not only monetary policy, but fiscal policy as well. (Khatri 2016). Examples of fiscal policies include tax cuts and raises to increase the money of the government or decrease it. Fiscal policy deals with taxing and discretionary and nondiscretionary spending (Khatri 2016). Without fiscal policy, the government wouldn’t have any money and the economy would crash.

Discretionary spending is government spending that is not mandatorily in the federal budget. An example of discretionary spending is how much money the government gives to welfare. Without discretionary spending, the government wouldn’t be able to take care of emergencies such as the opioid epidemic and natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.

Nondiscretionary spending is mandatory spending of the government. If a man retires and asks for his social security benefits, the government must give it to him. This is an example of statutory authority because the Social Security Act was passed through Congress and signed into law. Without nondiscretionary spending, our government would cease to function.

Many factors impact fiscal policy, such as the executive branch and Congress. The executive impacts fiscal policy by helping to decide the federal budget and how the government spends its money. After the budget is created, the executive can sign it into law, or the president can veto the budget if the executive and Congress do not agree.

Congress impacts fiscal policy a great deal as well by working with the executive to create the federal budget. Once Congress passes the final budget it will be up to the president to decide whether it becomes law or not. If Congress and the executive do not agree there will be no federal budget. If there is no federal budget, the government goes into shutdown until Congress and the executive can agree. National parks will close, and non-essential government employees stop going to work because they’re not getting paid. Earlier this year, there was a government shutdown. Many jobs were not paying their employees and while the employees will eventually be paid for their time if their only source of income was depleted, it became very stressful for the employees causing some to leave their jobs.

The federal budget process, as stated earlier, affects the Federal Reserve Bank by implementing policies that decrease or increase the nation’s budget. The legislative and executive branch both contribute to the nation’s budget by deciding how the money is spent, whether they agree (usually they do) determines what money goes where. Independent agencies, the US Coast Guard for example (discretionary spending), propose budgets for all the money they are going to need for the following year. They do this by taking into account how much money they spent in the past year and considering factors that may be new. Congress decides whether the Coast Guard will get the budget that they want.

Social policy can be defined as “regular assistance from the government or a private agency because of need” (Bianco and Canon, pg. 559, 2017). In further depth, social policy is the government paying for certain necessities of life such as food stamps and health care (Bianco and Canon, pg. 560, 2017). Social policy changes over time due to the fact that people’s ideology is constantly evolving (Khatri 2016). That is because no matter how many policies are implemented, there will always be another issue to solve.

There are two types of social policy, one being contributory and the other being noncontributory. The main difference between the two ideas is that in the contributory social policy you are required to pay a set amount of money in order to receive benefits and everyone can partake in each program (Bianco and Canon, pg. 560, 2017). Examples of contributory social policy are programs related to retirement. Many people invest a portion of their earnings just to get them back when they retire. This is especially good because it means that you won’t have to work for the rest of your life in order to support yourself. An example of this policy at the federal level is the Social Security Act. Noncontributory social policy is not available for everybody, but people qualified to participate are not expected to pay for the benefits. Typically, you see noncontributory social policies such as food stamps within families that can barely support themselves. Food stamps is a program that assists in providing food to families that are in need so that those families can eat.

Social policy is created through several mandatory stages, this is called the policy-making process (Khatri 2016). Each stage is important to the policy-making process because it affects the outcome of the finished policy. These stages include “agenda setting, policy formulation, policy adoption, policy implementation, and policy evaluation” (Khatri 2016). Agenda-setting, the first stage to creating a policy, is the process of acknowledging certain problems that catch society’s attention. An example of agenda setting a social policy is when Kim Ogg, a District Attorney for Harris County, acknowledged that it is unnecessary to arrest people, who are first-time offenders, carrying less than four ounces of marijuana. This would be the agenda setting stage for social policy because it is a well-known issue that too many people are thrown into jail over carrying small amounts of marijuana and then getting incredibly long sentences. Acknowledging society’s problems and agenda setting for social policies is important so that problems that occur in everyday situations are subdued or disposed of. The next step, policy formulation, is creating a plan to solve the problems that are acknowledged in agenda setting. Continuing Kim Ogg’s example, she suggested and formed a plan that said first-time offenders with possession of marijuana are let go free of charge and the illegal substance is to be disposed of. Recognizing a problem that occurs so often is one thing but being able to create a safe and efficient plan to solve that problem is just as important.

Although policy formulation does not completely eradicate the issue, it is better than identifying the problem and doing nothing about it. The third step is policy adoption, this is the process of adopting a policy at a governmental level (Khatri 2016). At this stage, the government which ranges from city to federal level approves the social policy after it has been finalized. If the government chooses to adopt a social policy, it must appeal to the voters and the part of government that is adopting it. If neither are pleased, the plan can either be eliminated or it can be adjusted by compromise. In this example adopting Kim Ogg’s marijuana social policy is appealing to Harris County because of the unnecessary overflow and cost of prisoners. The fourth out of the five stages is policy implementation (Khatri 2016). It is exactly how it sounds, after adopting a policy the next step it to act on it. Now that Ogg’s social policy is in place, police do not arrest first-time offenders with under four ounces of marijuana. After all is said and done, the social policy must be evaluated. The evaluation will tell the people how successful or unsuccessful the social policy was and if it solved the issue it was meant to solve (Khatri 2016). Ogg’s policy implementation is relatively new, so more research is necessary in order to analyze the effect it had on society.

If another social issue like this were to be taken to the federal level, the government would follow the same five stages, as can be evidenced in the Social Security Act. Interest groups play a part in the implementation of social policies by sparking awareness of societal problems, and once awareness is spread and agenda setting is done, Congress will start policy formulation. The bureaucracies will raise the taxes to collect the money in order to implement social policies if they deem it necessary. Congress formed and implemented a plan to take money throughout each person’s working career so that they are able to support themselves when they retire. The president plays a role in this by endorsing the creation of the policy and eventually implementing it into law or by vetoing it. The Social Security Act was able to be implemented because the interest groups sparked awareness and the bureaucracies raised nondiscretionary taxes, also known as taxes that rest in the federal reserve. Then after the money was raised, the bureaucracy distributed the funds when people came of age to retire.

Foreign policy’s name is an exact representation of what it is, it deals with polices that have to do with foreign entities. “’Foreign policy’ refers to government actions involving countries, corporations, groups, and individuals that lie outside America’s borders” (Bianco and Canon, pg. 600, 2017). A well-known foreign policy is the United States’ intervention in the Vietnam war (Bianco and Canon, pg. 605, 2017). When a civil war erupted in Vietnam and the North fought the South, the United States decided to intervene and fight for the South. After the United States withdrew all of the American soldiers, South Vietnam quickly collapsed and fell to the North. Some have questioned the necessity of this foreign policy because it cost a lot of American lives, not a lot of people even knew where Vietnam was, and it increased the distrust of the government. Most people who believed that our interaction with the war was a negative thing tended to be realists because it didn’t better the United States. Being a realist means that you usually want what’s economically and militarily best for your country, while letting other countries handle their own issues (Bianco and Canon, pg. 600, 2017). A foreign policy that exemplifies realism was the idea to not interfere with World War II, until Japan attacked us. This is realism because we did not see how it was economically or militarily beneficial to the country. Although this policy did a lot of damage to many American people, good things came out of it. An example of this foreign policy being a positive thing is the fact that this paper was written, because without the Vietnam War my grandparents would have never met. At the time when the war was happening, institutionalists thought that our interference with the war an asset to South Vietnam because we were stopping the spread of communism and the Soviet Union from world dominance (Khatri 2017/Bianco and Canon, pg. 605-606, 2017). Institutionalists “focus on economics and social issues” (Khatri 2016). This means that institutionalists believe that it is our duty to help other countries who are not as advanced as us (Khatri 2016). Institutionalists now would probably agree that our attempt to help South Vietnam was unsuccessful. The overall decision to implement this foreign policy exemplifies the school of thought known as constitutionalism.

Just like any other policy, the idea for the United States to intervene in the Vietnam War was created through the policy-making process. The president, Congress, and the federal courts all felt it was important to protect the South Vietnamese, and this started the policy-making process by agenda setting. Normally, interest groups start the policy-making process, but as stated earlier, most people had no idea where Vietnam was. It is not that Americans were inconsiderate about the civil war going on in Vietnam, it is just because they had no idea it was occurring at all. When the federal government made its citizens aware of this issue, idealists were quick to come to the conclusion that we needed to intervene. Since the government had good selling points to the Americans, they supported the formation of this foreign policy. Since both the federal government and its citizens approved of the adoption of this foreign policy, it was implemented, and thousands of soldiers headed to Vietnam. Analyzing the aftermath of the Vietnam war and its affects on American citizens, this foreign policy can be viewed as negative or positive depending on who you are.

As Commander in Chief, the president was clearly and extremely important to the playout of this foreign policy. The president’s decision was the reason that the United States sent troops to Vietnam in order to help the South. He was also the one to propose this foreign policy to Congress, who allowed him to do whatever felt like was best for the nation. The president’s ability to make these kinds of calls makes him by far the most influential entity when it comes to foreign policy.

While the president is the most influential government entity, the federal courts and Congress play major roles in foreign policy as well. Without Congress’ allowance of the president to do whatever he deemed necessary with military in Vietnam, it is possible that the Vietnam War could have been avoided altogether. Congress had the right to deny the president’s proposal, which could have been an example of a check on the executive branch, but Congress decided to give its power to send troops without declaring war to the president. If it were the other way around, the president could have denied Congress’ proposal and checked the legislative branch, but that did not happen. Eventually, the Supreme Court refused to rule on the involvement of America in the Vietnam War, which can make them arguably seem the least important in this foreign policy example because no matter what the court decided the war was over with. While the Supreme Court had the power to check Congress and the executive by saying that America’s intervention with Vietnam was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court did not.

The United States used several methods to implement this foreign policy: foreign aid, and alliances (Bianco and Canon, pg. 623-625, 2017). The government used military force to implement this foreign policy by sending troops to South Vietnam, it used foreign aid by sending money and services to South Vietnam and by providing “basic assistance to satisfy fundamental human needs”, and last but not least: the United States used alliances by having a military alliance with South Vietnam (Bianco and Canon, pg. 623-625, 2017). Although each method is similar to one another, they differ in depth. Just because the United States had an alliance with South Vietnam does not necessarily mean they would have had to send troops, just like foreign aid does not necessarily mean that we would have had to send money to South Vietnam- the circumstances convinced Americans that they should.

Updated: Feb 24, 2024
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Distinguishing Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. (2024, Feb 24). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/distinguishing-civil-liberties-and-civil-rights-essay

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