Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freedom and Security

In my last post, I put up a quote by Benjamin Franklin. Actually, it was a slightly paraphrased quote of his. Franklin's original quote goes 'They who give up essential liberty to obtain temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.' Although the quote I gave before adds to this concept, I don't think it detracts from the original meaning. And indeed, this idea is also central to the American debate.
Safety, or security, is the natural desire of all people. Indeed, every living thing has a desire for safety so that it can feed and reproduce in peace. I even said on many occasions that providing for a safe society is the primary function of government. So then, if safety is necessary for a free society, why would it seem that one would give up any freedom to increase security?
This question becomes very important, especially in times of war. Actions taken by the Bush Administration after the attacks of 9/11, while hardly measuring high against actions taken by previous presidents, pushed this question to the fore front of the American debate. The NSA's wiretapping program, when brought to light, made many people question if an essential liberty, of privacy, had been sacrificed for greater security. But why did it not occur to people to question other essential liberties that have been sacrificed in the name of security?
I'm not going to go into a discussion of the NSA wiretapping program. I'm doing this for two reasons. First, the long-range impact of the program is still being seen and it's best to consider these things after the fact. Second, while I disagree with the action itself, I fully understand the reasons why it was done, and accept them as valid.
No, instead I'm going to discuss other things where essential liberties have been taken from the American public in the name of greater security. Lets take the essential liberty of freedom of movement. While our government currently makes no pretext to try and prevent you from living or working where you choose, it does attempt to limit your freedom of movement. Consider what our government calls your 'driving privileges'. What should be a basic right so that you may practice your freedom of movement, to do your business when, where, and how you choose, has already been co-opted by our government and instead they've managed to convince all of us that this right is instead a privilege simply because our constitution, written long before the invention of the automobile, doesn't recognize it as it does other rights, such as speech.
First, it becomes a privilege. Then arbitrary requirements are set forth so as to control it. This isn't an argument against licensing per se, but rather the requirements of insurance and registration of vehicles. The only valid argument for registration of vehicles is to provide for proof of ownership, and this can be done easily through the dealer. There's no need for government involvement. This is also not to say that government cannot provide for general traffic-control laws, but rather that slavish enforcement and their use for fund raising constitutes an abuse of power.
And I'll be doing a whole post about the abuses that constitute the War on Drugs. For now, take some time to consider how or government is taking more and more liberty with our freedoms. And all in the name of our security. Come to your own conclusions, then remember those conclusions when you here someone talking about doing something for our 'security'.

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