At the heart of almost every American political debate since the Revolution lies a fundamental question between two diametrically opposed things that people want, freedom and safety. The problem is that the two are inversely correlated. In order to have more of one, you must give up some of the other. Neither complete freedom nor complete safety is attainable. Think of safety and freedom as poles on a spectrum. We live somewhere in-between, where some blend of freedom and safety is required to survive. Although this is truly the core debate we face politically, neither major party talks about it unless they feel they can attain a tactical advantage using the words freedom or safety.
For example, on gun control Democrats want to keep us safe from ourselves by restricting gun ownership and Republicans want to keep us free to bear arms. However, on inner city violence it is the exact opposite. Republicans will keep us safe by implementing policies like stop and frisk and Democrats want to keep us free by making sure that those who would be stopped and frisked are not denied their civil liberties…interesting. So which party is more on the freedom side of the spectrum and which on the safety side? If you can’t tell that’s because the answer is neither. This is one reason why people are so tired of both parties. The politicians just look at poll data to try and say what specific blocks of voters want to hear on specific issues at specific times, but in so doing they lose any core principles to guide their decision-making. They become talking heads, programmed to try and win elections instead of leaders thinking critically to solve the toughest problems facing our republic. They lose the people like you and me who are stuck in the middle trying to figure out where we belong. Sure you can have the freedom to smoke marijuana say the Democrats, but the Republicans answer that it erodes the moral fabric of society and makes us less safe on the roads. You can have the safety that social security and a vast social welfare system provides, but doesn’t that make us less free to spend our money, taken in the form of higher taxes however we want? You can have the safety that everyone has health insurance, but at the expense of the freedom to decide whether you actually need to pay for health insurance in the first place. This goes on and on. I am not suggesting that the major political parties must pick either safety or freedom and be strictly bound by it. However, it is very disingenuous when they brand themselves as the party of either safety or freedom when it is politically convenient, but take many actions and positions to the contrary as shown above. So how should we resolve this hard case of freedom verse safety when it is natural for humans to want both?
I think we must err on the side of freedom. After all, who knows what is best for you more than you do? The individual should be empowered to the max extent to ensure they can do what is best for them and their family. We are all dying eventually, regardless of how safe we are. So why not live free! Benjamin Franklin said it well, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The caveat here relates to my previous post. Responsibility is inherent to freedom. The framers of our Constitution were very keyed in on this ideological dichotomy. They knew that a nation born in freedom would face issues of needed increased safety. That is why they adopted the Bill of Rights. Those were what they deemed the most essential freedoms that the government should not impede but also the very ones most likely for a government to try and impede. Today we have issues with the government over stepping our freedoms on the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments on a routine and increasingly invasive basis. Enough is enough.
In this year’s Presidential campaign there was a week where the news was talking about a comment that had been made about Mr. Trump. The comment was that he had never read the Constitution. Maybe he has and maybe he hasn’t and maybe Secretary Clinton has or maybe she hasn’t but I do know for sure whether they have or have not read the Constitution, I don’t think either of them understands and admires it the same way we do. That’s the difference; people like Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton use the Constitution when it is convenient in order to increase their power and they find ways to subvert it when it does not. The people of the New Third Way use our power, regardless of how meager, to defend and bolster the Constitution. Sometimes we do so with our words or actions and sometimes when necessary with our lives. That’s why we must band together, because together we have far more power to stand up for the Constitution- to stand up for freedom! Thanks for reading.
3 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Freedom vs. Safety”
Very insightful, I think that everyone at all levels of schooling should be taught and have as required reading, the constitution. It is important, first to actually know what your foundational freedoms are, and second what the actual responsibility of the government as to your safety is. I agree with you that we should limit the amount of influence the government has in our lives, however, it is important to also realize that with that freedom the government shouldn’t be expected to pick up the pieces as a result of bad choices. Your writing provokes good thought and is well done. You are a true American Patriot.
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Very thoughtful. Thanks for posting this.