The state’s false dichotomy, liberty versus security
by Becky Akers
As führer at the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson frequently demands “a balance between the basic, physical security of the American people and the liberties and freedoms we cherish as Americans.”
He’s not alone. “[T]op Republican senator … Chuck Grassley” supposedly wants to curtail some of the NSA’s espionage against us — though he’s “concern[ed] … about just finding the balance between national security and privacy.”
Even internationally, that “balance” is a concern. When her cooperation with America’s surveillance of her countrymen embroiled Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, in scandal, she “noted … that it was necessary to strike a balance between liberty and security…”
The alleged tension between a nation’s security and our freedom, privacy, rights, etc. is a meme of the endless war on the Const — sorry — terror. To hear our rulers tell it, we can revel in safety or liberty but not both. It’s a choice; someone must decide whether we’ll be safe or free — and naturally, that someone won’t be us. Each time politicians and bureaucrats bloviate about “balance,” they imply that they will decree how much liberty we’ll sacrifice for national security.
Meanwhile, the political class not only defines the term differently than we do, it exploits our misunderstanding. We hear “national security” and visualize armies crossing our borders, sacking our homes and slaughtering us in the streets. (Hmmm. And that differs exactly how from American cops’ mayhem?) Most citizens applaud fighting such a threat.
But politicians and bureaucrats equate “national security” with molding the world to advance themselves and their cronies. Whatever further enriches America’s rulers, whatever increases their power and wealth, they deem “national security.” Witness the National Security Agency’s co-opting the German government to spy for commercial advantage. Industrial espionage against Airbus may enable American corporations to out-compete it but does nothing to repel invaders.
Even if “national security” always meant physically protecting the ol’ Homeland, we should understand that the “security versus liberty” dichotomy is false, as are most emanations from America’s Leviathan. Yes, Ben Franklin pithily dismissed this particular lie 260 years ago (“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”). But it goes further than that.
We can and must retain both liberty and privacy if we expect to live securely. In other words, if we are to have one of the trio, we must have all three, simultaneously. Far from invalidating each another, as politicians and bureaucrats aver, liberty, privacy and security are not only complementary but interdependent. No people has ever basked in safety without liberty and privacy; we are most secure when we exercise the greatest political liberty and when government knows the least about us. The state cannot and will not protect us. It has no safety for sale, no protection we can buy in exchange for our freedom — however much it insists otherwise.
And insist it does, via a scam as old as the state itself. Government creates the perils from which it promises to protect us, then tries (but usually fails) to rescue us.
Consider threats from beyond our borders, whether from freelance terrorists or those in public office. If we listen to the sociopaths in Washington, external enemies attack us because they “hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
“Really?” the over-regulated, legally-forced-to-embrace-sodomy-even-though-he’s-a-Christian, can’t-joke-in-airports, may-be-arrested-one-day-if-he-doesn’t-vote, can’t-assemble-in-his-own-home-without-permission, better-be-politically-correct taxpayer might ask. “We have freedoms left to hate? Who knew?”
Any terrorist who despises us for our few anemic liberties would be as silly as the Department of Homeland Security that supposedly thwarts him. And common sense disproves the “hate-us-for-our-freedom” thesis anyway. Patriots in other countries react precisely as we would should their armies invade us. Imagine our fury if Iraq sent troops here to “monitor” our elections because its parliament favored a Democratic administration as friendlier to Iraqi “interests” than a Republican one.
American interference overseas provokes (justifiable) revenge. The Feds themselves admit, “According to the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, a strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.” Substantiation abounds in the “many examples of terrorist attacks on the United States in retaliation for U.S. intervention overseas. The numerous incidents cataloged suggest that the United States could reduce the chances of such devastating — and potentially catastrophic — terrorist attacks by adopting a policy of military restraint overseas.”
The very criminals inciting wars then claim to defend us while stealing trillions from us in taxes! Wouldn’t it make more sense to eliminate the middleman here? No American government means no American skullduggery abroad, no angry “terrorists” who’ve suffered when U.S. troops bombed their homes plotting vengeance on us, no military-industrial complex robbing us.
But what about internal crime and violence? Once again, we find the politicians and bureaucrats who promise us protection manufacturing much of the threat.
We won’t even mention the obvious instances of the FBI’s ginning up fake “terrorists.” Instead, let’s explore the murkier methods by which politicians unleash villainy on us.
One popular strategy is to criminalize just about everything. The guy who possesses, sells or buys weed — or cocaine, or methamphetamine, or heroin — doesn’t inherently threaten you or me. Neither does the prostitute or pornographer, reprehensible as their pursuits may be. So long as they willingly sell to equally willing buyers, they commit no crime despite their sin.
But once government prohibits these vices, driving them underground, it immediately introduces the dangers of a black market. And it counts these non-criminals in its statistics on “crime,” contributing to the perception of constant peril and our “need” of politicians to combat it.
Many experts believe that poverty and unemployment breed crime. If so, the state is once again the source of the scourge from which it pretends to rescue us. Through licensing, minimum-wage laws and economic regulation, politicians and bureaucrats destroy jobs — not to mention hope, lives and prosperity.
Again, we ask which is more sensible: abolishing the state or seeking its protection from the evils it spawns.