Political and economic freedoms are characteristics of a democratic society that denote its capacity to participate in political processes and take economic actions, respectively. Politics and economics have been inextricably linked throughout history, accounting for the rise of some of the world’s most famous empires. The connection continues in the contemporary world, where they are fundamental to the historical aspects of modern empires. Economic freedom and political freedom are also inherently linked – economic freedom is achieved through political freedom (Fracchiolla, 2018). Furthermore, both political and economic freedom results in economic growth.
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Economic freedom, witnessed in a free market and political freedom, experienced in democracy push one another. Although there are exceptions, often when there is high political freedom in a nation, there is usually high economic freedom and vice versa (Fracchiolla, 2018). Due to political freedom, such governments are less involved in most areas of the market. Still, they ensure the maintenance of the rule of law, safeguard property rights of individuals and businesses, and create a conducive environment in which entrepreneurship thrives.
Economic freedom, evident in a capitalist society, relies on political freedom. Capitalism is an exchange system that relies on economic releases to have ownership of property and to “buy, sell, and invest the property as one wish” (Fracchiolla, 2018). As a consequence, people cannot own property without a guarantee that the property will be safe and will not be confiscated by authorities. Likewise, they will be very reluctant to work hard unless they get to keep most of their produce (Fracchiolla, 2018). In a nutshell, individuals in a society will have minimal incentive to engage in the activities of economic freedom unless their political freedoms are safeguarded.
Due to the relationship between economic and political freedom, there is an indication that governments that care for the welfare of their citizens are more likely to embrace economic freedom. And the more they ensure economic freedom, the more they will experience stable growth in their economies. Embracing economic freedom will initiate a chain reaction, and economic freedom will lead to economic development, and economic development will finally lead to political freedom (Fracchiolla, 2018). However, since political freedom and especially democracy is considered a luxury commodity, it would be more popular among high-income nations than the low-income earners.
Improving economic governance leads to real economic development and, in turn, improves the political landscape of a region. Economic freedom, an individual’s right to use their resources however they want, is instrumental to the prosperity of a nation (Dunkelberg, 2018). Weak economies and little regard for citizens’ welfare are characteristic of political instability. In the Northern Triangle, political instability is mainly attributed to chronic violence, lack of economic opportunities, and corruption from the leadership (Cheatham, 2019). These leaders restrict businesses’ economic freedom, introduce unnecessary taxes and excessive regulations (Dunkelberg, 2018). An end to the leaders’ influence is achievable by providing checks and balances. As such, the concentration of power possessed by these corrupt leaders must be eliminated and distributed.
Economic governance entails processes undertaken in formal and informal institutions of the society. These processes “support economic activity and economic transactions by protecting property rights, enforcing contracts, and taking collective action to provide appropriate physical and organizational infrastructure” (Dixit, 2016). Since these processes can be carried out within both formal and informal institutions, the organization of economic activity can be removed from the control of the political authority. In this context, economic governance consequently eliminates the source of the coercive power of corrupt and dictatorial leaders. As a result, it becomes the watchdog to political power and improves the stability of a region.
The Influence of Free Speech on Environmental Freedom
Human rights and environmental protection are inherently linked such that environmental degradation is a threat to human rights. Also, as humans exercise their rights, they develop better policies for the environment (Jesenko, 2018). Free speech is an example of a human right that ensures individuals express their opinions without censorship or retaliation. Individuals, through free speech, are afforded the right to have an opinion and acquire, obtain, and relay information by any means (Jesenko, 2018). On the other hand, environmental freedoms are rights that protect natural resources – their access and use.
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The United Nations Human Rights Council declares the interdependence between human rights and environmental protection as it reads:
Sustainable development and the protection of the environment contribute to human well-being and to the enjoyment of human rights and that, conversely, the impact of climate change, the unsustainable management and use of natural resources, the unsound management of chemicals and waste, the resulting loss of biodiversity and the decline in services provided by ecosystems can have negative implications for the effective enjoyment of all human rights. (Jesenko, 2018)
Environmental activism denotes groups of people and organizations gathering together to collaborate for the primary purpose of addressing environmental issues. Free speech can thus influence environmental freedom when individuals from scientific, social, political, and conservational domains participate in activism at the appropriate level (Jesenko, 2018). Consequently, each individual should possess all the relevant access to information regarding the environment kept by authorities. Access to this information will create awareness and gather more support for environmental activism. Public authorities should also provide the public with wide access to judicial and administrative proceedings (Jesenko, 2018). This way, the public is aware of any changes that have been made and those that are being made with regards to environmental activities and whether they were involved in the process.
Free speech thus employs a three-pronged approach to protect the environment by ensuring its freedom – Information access, participation by the general public, and access to justice. However, free speech is not limited to only words for “conduct may be sufficiently imbued with elements of communication to be recognized as ‘speech’ and thus protected as the expression of opinions, information, and ideas” (Jesenko, 2018). The conduct can be expressed in the form of art, dressing, and actions that communicate ideas.
Freedom of assembly allows individuals to bring issues to light, demand for change, and a response from the authorities. Lasting environmental change can only be achieved through legal means. It is the duty of public authorities to ensure that the freedom of assembly is safeguarded even when the individuals assembling are protesting against public policies and challenging the authority (Open Government Partnership, 2019). The right to freedom of assembly also allows individuals to choose locations to conduct their protests.
Advocating for environmental policy change is an intimidating and exhausting initiative. For instance, Greta Thunberg was mocked to be having anger issues by former president Donald Trump for fighting for climate change. Other climate change advocates have been labeled terrorists and criminals. Governments and people who do not share the same vision as climate activists will always try to sabotage their efforts. Protesting for environmental policy change can, as a result, be risky as governments often infringe people’s right to freedom of assembly as a means to suppress dissent and silence key voices that criticize some of their policies. Thus, the right to freedom of assembly undoubtedly needs the right to protest peacefully. Still, peaceful protesters are often arrested and subjected to violence and other forms of mistreatment and intimidation.
Governments also misuse the law to criminalize organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies. They sometimes interpret the law and manipulate it to make the arrests of peaceful protesters seem legitimate. Such techniques of manipulation give rise to a culture of self-censorship. Infringement of the right to freedom of assembly consequently affects the society at large. It prohibits an open and diverse conversation and suppresses one of the measures that civil society employs for engaging the authorities. The intimidation techniques extend to social media, where the authorities block the organization of protests on such platforms. Such restrictions from the government are just unacceptable and should not be permitted. They should cease using violence and instead facilitate access to public locations for peaceful protesting. The legal provisions regarding protests in a country must be practical, clear, and reasonable, and limitations should apply only as a last resort. And to peacefully protest to achieve any change in environmental policy, an individual will thus need to be assured that their right to freedom of assembly is guaranteed.
Cheatham, A. (2019). Central America’s turbulent Northern Triangle. Council on Foreign Relations. Web.
Dixit, A. K. (2016). Economic Governance. In M. Vernengo, E. P. Caldentey, & B. J. Rosser Jr (Eds.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Palgrave Macmillan.
Fracchiolla, D. (2018). Free market and democracy. Sociology and Anthropology, 6(2), 259-273. Web.
Jesenko, K. (2018). Freedom of expression in environmental cases before the European Court of Human Rights. ERA Forum, 19(2), 295–305. Web.
Open Government Partnership. (2019). Civic space: Freedom of assembly. Web.