Freedom versus security

As most political scientists, or anyone with common sense for that matter, knows, freedom and security are opposing forces. The freer a nation, the less secure; the more secure, the less free. Finding the balance is not always easy.

A balance is important, but when that balance starts to tip the scales against what freedom is all about, I get more than a little concerned. Thus, the recent stories about the NSA’s program to create a giant database of call patterns by using data supplied by phone companies has me thinking about freedom and security. According to the reports that I have followed, the NSA has used the data that it collected to analyze phone call patterns to try and detect terrorist threats. The claim is that they were not actually monitoring any phone calls. Futhermore, the government, and in particular, the Bush administration claims that nothing illegal was done, and no one’s rights were violated.

All of this may very well be true, but it does get me thinking, and it forces me to ask: at what cost the price of freedom? The slippery slope upon which this issue is perched can lead to far greater threats against our freedom than the heuristical analysis of phone calls. And yet, it seems to be a paradox. They claim is that if we don’t protect our freedom with increased security we’ll lose it. On the other hand, in order to protect our freedom from increased threats against us, we lose some of that very freedom anyway.

There is no easy way out of this paradox, none, at least, that I can see. But the more we hear about the NSA and other agencies monitoring our behaviors, the less I like what I hear. There comes a point where you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? I suppose it depends on what you value more. Each person needs to make a choice, and that choice is often reflected in our elections. My own choice is freedom. If I have to sacrifice security in order to protect the freedoms I enjoy, then so be it. I realize that no everyone feels this way, but I believe, as Patrick Henry did, that:

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!