You’ve heard it said in defense of extreme libertarian intransigence: “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither.” I’m certain this attempt to quote Ben Franklin was made hundreds of times to discredit the FBI’s attempt to hack into the Islamic terrorist’s Apple phone.
Here is what Franklin REALLY said:
While the context of Franklin’s quote was more about taxes for defense of western lands then either liberty or security – as explained HERE - it is not a stretch to interpret the quote in the context of “liberty versus safety.”
There are several other things wrong with this misrepresentation of Franklin’s quote besides misrepresenting it.
First, giving up one or the other is NOT an “all or nothing” event. There are a thousand shades of both liberty and safety. Hacking Apple’s phone to achieve an additional increment of “safety” will not obliterate “liberty.” “Liberty is not destroyed by the NSA doing bulk scans of phone conversations.
I am more prone to reverse the misquote of Franklin’s saying to this:
“Those who refuse to give up a little liberty to achieve safety may end up with neither.”
How can I suggest such a politically incorrect, dangerous and immoral thing?
Here’s how. Given the state of the world, given the intent and mission of the world’s supremacists via Islamic jihad and the greed and avarice of human nature generally, safety is essential. Safety by its very nature entails giving up a piece of liberty. Giving up a piece of liberty for safety assures our liberty.
Those who favor the 2nd amendment and own a handgun to help assure their safety gave up something to purchase and learn how to effectively use their handgun. They gave up a piece of their liberty to purchase something else with the $500 spent on the handgun. They gave up a piece of their liberty to spend their time on something else instead of their handgun training.
Some families choose to install a home burglar alarm system. The same trade offs apply to this purchase. A little liberty for a little more safety.
If we had neither guns for defense, alarms for intruders, fences for trespassers, walls for privacy, nor armies for defense, we would have no safety. Having security insures our liberty.
Government programs that monitor and track those intent on destroying or subverting our nation insures our liberty. Having NO government program to address those intent on destroying or subverting our nation will insure that our liberties are eliminated.
Be careful when you hear neatly misquoted sayings from famous people of the past. They are often not only applied to current conditions outside of their original context, but end up making little sense if the implications of that distorted advice is actually applied to current conditions.
If we fail to give up a little liberty to achieve safety, we will, in fact, eventually end up with neither. I always thought there was something a little “one off” with that misquoted expression used against enhancing our national security. Now that I have thought it through, I am certain.
Here are my preferred expressions:
“We need only enough safety to protect our essential liberties. Excess safety erodes our essential liberties.”
“Our ‘essential liberties’ are those liberties that remain after we devote some on the safety necessary to assure the preservation of those liberties.”