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Freedom of association

Jun 6, 2013, 10:03 AM

The fundamental importance of allowing people or groups the right to determine their membership choices without intimidation of any sort cannot be over-emphasized, as it is a very essential ingredient for any “genuine democracy”.

In a political context, it is merely the extension of the right to determine with whom to associate based on his/her own volition.

And this should be allowed to flourish in all parts of the world, including our country.

Of late, we have seen people voluntarily deciding with whom to associate by their defection from one political party to the other, which we see as exercising their rights of freedom of association.

This is good for the country’s political climate.

Freedom of association is a term popular in libertarian literature. It is used to describe the concept of absolute freedom to live in a community or be part of an organization whose values or cultures are closely related to one’s preferences; or, on a more basic level, to associate with any individual one chooses.

It is the individual’s right to come together with other individuals and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.

Many good thinkers argue that respect for freedom of association by all public authorities, and the exercising of this freedom by all sections of society are essential both to establish a “genuine democracy” and to ensure that, once achieved, it remains “healthy and flourishing”.

In this regard, they see the formation of political parties as a significant manifestation of freedom of association.

Just as freedom of religion in this country, we would want to see the same with freedom of association.

Freedom of religion brings a measure of peace to this country. We tolerate each other’s religions, so we must tolerate each other’s political inclination too.

Human freedom is God-given and cannot be taken away (the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are “endowed by [our] Creator” and “unalienable.”

This was no invention of 18th-century liberals.

We must prohibit acts that keep others from enjoying their rights. But prohibited acts must not include free association, free assembly and free speech.

That is as self-evident as the fact that we all are created equal, and that we all have certain unalienable rights endowed by our Creator.

“The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities”.

Lord Acton