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A photograph of the Statue of Liberty.
Figure 4.1 The Statue of Liberty in New York is a symbol of freedom around the world. (credit: “Statue of Liberty” by William Warby/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world asked and sometimes required people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.1 Some people agreed to comply as a part of their responsibilities to the community, while others protested, arguing that any restrictions wrongfully impinged on their individual freedoms.2

In the United States, individuals actively protest instances of social injustice and feel it is their individual right to express support for or criticize government officials. In Myanmar, a military dictatorship, the government violently shuts down anti-government protests.3 Freedom House, a nonprofit organization that monitors individual freedom and democracy worldwide, found that in 2021, for the 15th straight year, individual liberty and democracy declined worldwide.4


Anti–face Mask Protests Take Place in Several Cities across Europe

During the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrators around the world protested government mask mandates in places like Berlin, Paris, and London.

In each of these instances, individuals and the government assert that they are protecting freedom and acting for the common good. This chapter will examine when the individual is free to act without government interference, when the government can restrain individual expression, and how different political systems react to the exercise of individual freedoms.

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