A Little Unbalanced

In the wake of the recent NSA revelations, there’s increased talk about the need to “balance” freedom against security. I even see people recycling Larry Niven’s law that freedom + security = a constant.

Nonsense. What we want is not to be attacked or coercively interfered with – by anyone, be they our own government, other nations’ governments, or private actors. Would you call that freedom? or would you call it security?

You can’t trade off freedom against security because they’re exactly the same thing.

, ,

14 Responses to A Little Unbalanced

  1. Sheldon Richman June 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Chrome 27.0.1453.110 Windows 7

    Hear, hear!

  2. Brandon June 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Chromium 27.0.1453.110 Linux

    Obviously you’re with the terrorists.

  3. Julia June 11, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Firefox 21.0 MacIntosh

    Could you elaborate on how freedom and security are the same thing?

    • Roderick June 11, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Firefox 21.0 Windows

      Security = not being attacked or coercively interfered with.

      Freedom = not being attacked or coercively interfered with.

      • Julia June 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

        Firefox 21.0 MacIntosh

        That sounds incredibly vague. Plus, I find that you’re only talking about “freedom” in the negative sense – freedom from.

        • Roderick June 11, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

          Firefox 21.0 Windows

          Well, sure, I’m a libertarian. But the people who talk about balancing liberty off security mean negative liberty too.

        • JOR June 12, 2013 at 2:59 am #

          Firefox 21.0 Windows 7

          If the government can storm your home in the middle of the night and drag you off to prison or worse for any reason or no reason at all (i.e. what statists mean when they talk about ‘security’), or do any number of other harmful things to you, you are to that extent unsafe.

          It doesn’t really matter if you define liberty in a negative or positive sense. To the extent that the government or some other group inhibits your freedom (however defined) it is by threatening to harm you if you don’t do what it wants.

        • Irfan Khawaja June 13, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

          Chrome 27.0.1453.110 Windows 7

          Isn’t another way of putting the point that we’re free from coercive interference and secure against them? They’re really two ways of saying the same thing, as the US Constitution seems to recognize.

          From the Preamble:

          We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

          The phrase “secure the blessings of liberty” presupposes that we’re fully free when liberty has fully been secured. There’s no such thing as an “insecure possession of liberty.”

          Here’s the Fourth Amendment:

          The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,

          Same idea. The right of the people to be secure refers to the people under conditions of freedom (or liberty: I don’t think they were making a distinction).

          One more example–Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 1:

          On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.

          Not a very anarchist-friendly thought, but ignore that (if you’re an anarchist). Hamilton is assuming that liberty only genuinely exists when it’s secure. Take the security out of liberty (by degrees) and liberty disappears by degrees.

  4. Irfan Khawaja June 13, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Chrome 27.0.1453.110 Windows 7

    Sorry, I meant free from coercive interference and secure against it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thoughts on Snowden and the NSA « The Institute for Objectivist Studies - June 14, 2013

    Unknown XML-RPC

    […] The 2007 essay was a critical review of Richard Posner‘s Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution and National Emergency. Posner’s argument relies heavily on the supposed distinction between liberty and security (or liberty, security, and privacy) that has become a fixed part of our discourse. I hated his book, and took issue with his reliance on that distinction (or those distinctions). Ironically, however, the one thing in the book that I ended up agreeing with was his defense of electronic surveillance and of the secrecy of official government secrets. (I was reminded of the liberty/security dichotomy by a post I read the other day at Roderick Long’s website.) […]

  2. The Phony Trade-Off Between Privacy and Security » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names - August 16, 2013

    WordPress 3.5.1 XML-RPC

    […] Of course, our rulers can’t really set things to the security side of the spectrum because the game is rigged. When we give up privacy — or, rather, when our rulers take it — we don’t get security in return; we get a more intrusive state, which means we get more insecurity. Roderick Long made a similar point on his blog, The Austro-Athenian Empire: […]

  3. THE PHONY TRADE-OFF BETWEEN PRIVACY AND SECURITY | Wichita Observer - August 25, 2013

    WordPress 3.5.1 XML-RPC

    […] Of course, our rulers can’t really set things to the security side of the spectrum because the game is rigged. When we give up privacy — or, rather, when our rulers take it — we don’t get security in return; we get a more intrusive state, which means we get more insecurity. Roderick Long made a similar point on his blog, The Austro-Athenian Empire: […]

  4. The Phony Trade-Off Between Privacy and Security - Investing Video & Audio Jay Taylor Media - August 27, 2013

    WordPress 3.5.2 XML-RPC

    […] Of course, our rulers can’t really set things to the security side of the spectrum because the game is rigged. When we give up privacy — or, rather, when our rulers take it — we don’t get security in return; we get a more intrusive state, which means we get more insecurity. Roderick Long made a similar point on his blog, The Austro-Athenian Empire: […]

  5. The Phony Trade-Off Between Privacy and Security | Laissez-Faire Bookstore - August 29, 2013

    WordPress 3.6 XML-RPC

    […] Of course, our rulers can’t really set things to the security side of the spectrum because the game is rigged. When we give up privacy — or, rather, when our rulers take it — we don’t get security in return; we get a more intrusive state, which means we get more insecurity. Roderick Long made a similar point on his blog, The Austro-Athenian Empire: […]

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes