Freedom and Security: Not a Zero Sum Game
Matthew Yglesias has an excellent post regarding the “tradeoffs” between liberty and security.
These kind of pragmatic considerations aren’t the last word on torture or civil liberties generally, but they at a minimum ought to be the first word. Before people even contemplate “trading off” liberty for security, someone needs to present convincing evidence that security will actually be enhanced.
The requirement that, say, investigators get warrants isn’t only something that’s supposed to protect people’s privacy. It’s also a response to the basic fact that bureaucracies need rules and guidelines by which they operate. There are limited quantities of time and resources and they need to be focused on something or other. I think it obviously makes sense to mandate that investigators focus their attention on people who they have “probable cause” to suspect of being up to something rather than initiating random dragnets.
Read the whole thing, because this is an excellent little post, and the idea worthy of a book or two. The fact of the matter is that, by and large, when we ignore concerns for human rights and due process, the end result is counterproductive. Torture and inhuman treatment produce false information that leads law enforcement on wild goose chases. Racial profiling breeds resentment and decreases average citizens cooperation with police. Decreased evidentiary thresholds for search warrants lead to raids on innocent people’s homes.
To paraphrase Ayn Rand, moral actions are practical actions. The best way to fight crime and terrorism is to stay rational and keep fighting for the American system by preserving that system. The constraints on government provided by the Constitution are not weaknesses in combatting terrorism–they are strengths. And when we abandon those constraints, we become more vulnerable to terrorism, not less.