Saturday, July 20, 2013

Liberty and Security: The False Dilemma

Minarchism, not anarchism, is the way to liberty!

Liberty is one of the foundational beliefs in American political philosophy. It represents freedom in our choices. A libertarian is someone who thinks liberty is the highest political virtue.

Lately it seems we have forgotten that the USA's main political end is liberty. But some see the idea as more of a danger then a necessity. Hoping to prevent another terrorist attack, many are willing to give up their liberties in return for physical safety. What they fail to understand is that protecting liberty ensures the greatest security. Many have the wrong idea of safety, relating it to only their physical security, rather then their potential to express freedom of choice- expressing their liberty to act. In accordance with this idea of safety, the federal government should decrease drastically in size becoming a minarchistic state also known as a night watchman state- with a few additions pertaining to social services for the under privileged. Gaining liberty does not mean giving up security.

Many think- as shown by the loss of our privacy and civil liberties- that the relationship between liberty and safety is an asymmetrical one. That is, more of one causes less of the other. If liberty represents our freedom of choice and from oppression, then security should not interfere with it. Security means to be free from harm or threat to our potential, not just our physical bodies.

At this point, it may seem reasonable to assume that a restriction on liberty ensures some safety by reducing the potential of an attack. This view of safety is skewed. If safety means a restriction on personal potential or liberty, then by that logic, we should all be in prisons, because its only then that the individual is virtually free from harm; yet, there seems to be something wrong with living in a prison, even though its safe: our lack of free choice. True security is the protection from harm to the potential of the individual. This means a person is most secure when they are able to exercise their liberty or potential to the fullest. A security of this kind would focus on threats to the liberty of the person, rather then the blatant physical safety which leads to oppression via a police state. The negative about protecting physical safety over liberty is that it leads to oppression, and people are not able to thrive. If a society is not able to thrive with their liberty, then no matter how free from physical harm they may be, the society is still worse off then if the physical safety of the people was compromised but liberty was fully protected. This is because that society would have a tyranny that is much worse then a vague possible threat. The security state will unavoidably overstep its bounds. As long as people are able to thrive, there should be not much reason for people to hurt each other. Most crime is done because the criminal lacks something which is made up with the crime.

One concern is that some people think a society which upholds libertarianism would leave people without social assistance. This concern ignores the two fundamental kinds of liberty: positive and negative. The one most are familiar with is negative liberty. This is the liberty or freedom from outside forces and oppression, as long as the person does not violate other peoples liberty. The lesser known kind, positive liberty, means the liberty to have the resources and potential available to fulfill one's choices. Therefore, people who are in poverty, or have a lack of education, or are sick, do not have positive liberty. In order to have positive liberties, these kinds of social ills must be dealt with so as to allow people to thrive with their freedom. Therefore, with these kinds of liberty in practice, the concern of people who are underprivileged can have a chance to better there situation and thrive with their freedom.

A misconception is that libertarian and anarchist are synonyms. This is not true; in order to secure these liberties, there must be some form of collective authority- validated by voluntary convention- to protect these liberties. Because of this, a limited form of government is needed. So in contrast to an anarchist a minarchist is one who believe government should be restricted to protecting people from aggression, theft, breach of contract, fraud. The only government organizations would be police and fire departments, courts, legislative and executive branches. I would add- because of positive liberty- the services of healthcare, and education, because if a person is sick or undereducated, they are able to exercise their liberty to the fullest. These social services need not come from tax money, but can come about though voluntary measures like tax credits or encouraged incentives. Hence, a libertarian society does not have to resort to anarchism, or ignore the needs of underprivileged people.


Familiarizing oneself with both kinds of liberty, one can see how the common misconception that liberty means giving up security or social assistance is a facile one. It ignores how broad liberty and its philosophy really are. This is because people see safety as only physical safety. Once the true definition of safety is learned- that it pertains to the potential to exercise liberty and not only physical safety- one is ready and able to understand how upholding and protecting liberty should be restored to the forefront political concern in the united states; a minarchist form of federal government would best uphold and protect the liberty of the people.