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Civil Liberties in a Pandemic

Despite differences across countries, most people are willing to give up some civil liberties in cases where doing so seems necessary to overcome a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. But while such pragmatism should be welcomed, it also points to the need for stronger safeguards against democratic erosion.

CAMBRIDGE – The implicit social contract underpinning democratic governments everywhere aims to ensure both the well-being of citizens and respect for their civil liberties, which include freedom of expression, assembly, and worship, as well as procedural fairness. These liberties are so fundamental to the functioning of modern democracies that political philosophers sometimes consider them to be β€œsacred values” that should not be subjected to comparisons or trade-offs.