Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Liberty, Security & All That

Being the kind of Labour supporter who occasionally suggests that maybe the database state is not all that bad and CCTV can actually be quite a helpful thing, I'm often on the recieving end comments from people who think they are being incredibly original and insightful when they throw this quote in my face:
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security. - Benjamin Franklin

Now, I'm not going to start having a go at Ben Franklin because there is the really large "essential liberty" caveat as well the good chance that it was intended as rhetoric rather than logical argument. I'd also prefer to dipense with arguments over whether he said "security" or "safety". What I would like to do though is put forward an argument in favour of security.

At the moment I'm reading my way through Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson's long forgotten Age of Insecurity. The central theme of the book is that for the last 20 years (30 years now since the book was written in 1998) we have been living in an age of insecurity, where many of the guarantees of future security have been undermined in the name of financial freedom.

Security, as well as being used to talk about protection from terrorism, foreign invaders and such can also be deemed to be about financial security, knowing you'll always have a roof over your head, that your children have a secure future and that you'll be cared for in old age. Without such security, I would suggest that without this kind of security, the guarantees of freedom so loved by liberals are worthless. We may have our choices, but what are they really worth if we have to limit them simply to maintain our security?

Consider the fact that for most of us spend around 40% of out waking hours at or travelling to work, we do this in order to provide for life's essentials. Taking up a huge chunk of "life's essentials" is the roof over our heads, this is one cost that unlike many of the taxes we pay, it is compulsory. To put it another way, we are forced to devote a signifigant portion of our lives satisfying those who are able to exploit the right of private property.

This, I think is a far greater limit to our freedoms than many of the supposed freedoms that the current Labour government has taken away. There are people who are giving up their lives just to make ends meet and I happen to think that the many things the Labour government has done to help these people is what real freedom is all about.


Paul said...


Excellent post. You say in a couple of hundred words what takes me 4,000

Andreas Paterson said...

Thanks for the compliment Paul, although I have to say that I do thoroughly enjoy your incredibly long posts.