The Security And Freedom Trade-Off

Security and freedom are flip sides of the same coin. To increase the amount of freedom we have, we have to give up some security and vice versa.

This is not always apparent, but it’s always true.

For example, because we fear other people stealing our property, we have locks on our cars and homes. Because of that, we have to carry an extra key, we may have to go to extra expense to make more keys as back-ups, it takes an extra moment to get in and out of the car and the house; sometimes we may accidentally lock ourselves out of our property, etc., etc., etc.

Now, the point isn’t that locks are bad, because they aren’t. They secure our property and, quite frankly, the inconveniences mentioned in the previous paragraph are relatively minor. So what if you have to carry an extra key on your key ring? It only takes a few seconds to open a locked door with a key. Extra keys are very cheap and how often do we lock ourselves out of our homes or cars?

So, although putting locks on our cars and homes may be inconvenient and may curtail our freedom in very minor ways, it’s certainly worth it. If we didn’t have locks on our cars and homes and our property was stolen, we might lose the freedom to go where we please in our cars or use the property that we’ve acquired.

That’s the reason the loss of freedom we experience by having locks on our homes is worth it, because it’s a reasonable measure that prevents other significantly greater losses of freedom.

Now after reading that, you’re probably thinking, “Come on, Hawkins, everyone knows that!”

But, as we’ve learned from watching the actions of many people during the war on terror, many people do not understand this simple lesson or either ignore it because they believe it’s politically expedient to do so.

We have now come to a point in the war on terror where the most reasonable of protective measures, like listening in on the conversations of terrorists calling people in the United States, has become a source of great controversy.

This is despite the fact that the consequences of a terrorist attack, a nuclear bomb going off in New York, a biological weapon being unleashed in Dallas, planes being flown into buildings in Chicago are considerably greater than having your car or home broken into.

To look at these security measures we’re taking, like listening in on terrorist conversations, no fly lists, aggressive interrogation measures, holding terrorists at Gitmo, etc., etc., etc., without seriously considering the aim we’re trying to achieve — stopping terrorist attacks on the United States — is as foolish as trying to decide whether or not to lock your home without considering whether a burglar might break in.

Unfortunately, many of the very reasonable security measures the Bush administration has taken have been attacked as if they were pulled out of void, as if they were needless bits of red tape that could be cut with no consequences whatsoever.

This is a mistake.

Instead, people who attack the Bush administration for securing this country should be explicitly asked again and again whether getting rid of Gitmo, neutering our interrogation measures, stopping warrantless wiretaps of terrorist calls to the US, getting rid of the Patriot Act, etc., etc., is worth significantly increasing the chances of having another 9/11 style attack on the country.

Then, if they answer the affirmative, at least the voters will know where they stand and, as an added benefit, we’ll perhaps be spared their shrill condemnations of President Bush for not protecting us from terrorists after an attack that they helped make possible occurs.

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