Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Security v. freedom

This month's poll (Aug 11 to Sept 11) asks whether you, if given a choice, would choose either security or freedom. In political quizzes, security and freedom are often metered as polar opposites: 'security' to the extreme is an authoritarian police state, the greatest 'freedom' is a sort of libertarian anarchy with neoliberal economic policies.

In other words, people choosing to die for freedom are choosing freedom over security. People willing to give up basic democratic rights for a dose of safety — real or imagined — are the kind of drones who are fine under a dictatorship (until they realize how bad it is — if they do — and the rest flows from there), or at least fine with the principles of one.

The people are sure to demand security. But it's the government's duty to insure freedom and not to entertain the more irrational wishes of the public and exploit their irrationalities for own power or wealth. Time and time again the general population chooses security over freedom, often after being coned by governing leaders; time and time again they regret that choice. Freedom's benefits are reaped over time, whereas security's effects are seen instantly: 'no new attacks' or 'attack stopped, but threat still there'; people are scared away from their own freedom.

Coincidentally, since the poll will end on the sixth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks upon the United States, the limiting of freedom for the sake of security — and vice versa — will be something to think about all the more. The freedoms of people are often limited during wartime; following 9/11 the Bush administration, and other governments around the world, worked to curb certain liberties in the name of security. The abuse of power under the deceiving namesake of 'security' is yet another thing to think about: we've seen it under a rainbow of despots, from the Emperors of Ancient Rome to McCarthy in Cold War-era America.

Does one need security to allow freedom to flourish? Or is true security granted only when freedom exists? Can the two coexist — even in theory?

Also coming up in a little less than a month is the one year birthday of In Perspective.

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