A Major Fallacy in Liberty Advocates’ Argument

It is not Give & Take: It is Take-Take & Give-Give

freedomsI cringe every time I read or hear this self-defeating fallacy repeatedly used in almost all arguments and advocacies intended to counter our government’s assault on our liberties. I know those who use this fallacy, whether a lone-wolf noble politician, enlightened commentators, or civil liberties experts and representatives, all mean well and have the best intentions with what they put forth in defense of our liberties. Nonetheless they are doing a great harm by unintentionally promoting a myth, an illusion, and a major fallacy.

Allow me list a few old and recent examples:

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” – Benjamin Franklin

PBS Headline- America at a Crossroads: ‘Security Versus Liberty: the Other War’

If we allow the interests of national security to take away our freedoms, we surrender what it is to be an American.” – ACLU

Title: “Ten Years of Trading Liberty for Security” – Anthony Gregory, Independent

Title: “Guantanamo Bay Detainees: National Security or Civil Liberties” – Pamela M von Ness, FAS.Org

Just read the civil liberties related headlines daily and you will compile a very long list of similar titles and arguments. Most, if not all, fortify the false notion of ‘security vs. liberties,’ ‘the compromise between safety and rights,’ ‘sacrificing Constitutional rights to fight terrorism,’ … Granted, some, actually only a few, bother to include the notion of ‘perceived security;’ only in passing, a long way into the body text. For most Americans, busy with life, hassled with chores, too distracted by entertainment news, the part that quickly and easily sticks is the notion of making a choice between security and idealistic liberties.  And for many the answer comes down without any hesitation- it becomes a choice between life and death. And hey, when you face a life and death situation you ain’t gonna bother with some idealistic liberties concerns. Right?

Civil liberties experts and spokespersons, intentionally or unintentionally, help frame the majority’s simple response when it comes to the state of our liberties in a national security state. And as we know, when asked, most Americans go for life- for so-called security. Just take a look at complied surveys for the last decade and you’ll see where the majority stands on this very wrongly framed question.

With the intended and unintended help of our media, civil liberties advocates and experts, liberties have been diminished to a choice, a luxury, and an ideal. We The People, the large majority, are under the false impression of being in a ‘give and take’ situation where liberties are given in return for security, when in reality their position is of ‘give and give.’

Our national security state on the other hand is in the clear position of ‘take and take.’ Think about it, if no grand-scale terrorism incident occurs, they will continue to take by showing their ‘taking’ as the reason for this safety from terrorism. On the other hand, If there is a large terrorism incident, the government will continue to take, and take even more, citing terrorism as justification for more liberty-butchering actions. They will take, continue to take, and most likely take more.

Meanwhile, without a single scientific or rational parallel established between police state practices and increased security, our experts and media continue to propagate this fallacy of linking security and liberty-butchering practices.


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  1. Bill Bergman says:

    Great stuff. Framing matters. When ‘security’ is defined as ‘security for our liberties,’ the supposed tradeoff goes away.

  2. I am following this one closely, especially after Wikileaks posted a list of datamining companies. Fortunately IRBsearch was not on the list, although they advertise themselves as datamining for law enforcement. The reason I mention IRBsearch is that I have recently done a consulting job for Ed Eckland, the CEO, and I am trying to understand why someone of his background would choose this profession. It is ironic that his mother is a Hungarian ballerina and watched her boyfriend, at the time, being shot with others that were rounded up. Ed seems to understand the nature of fascism, so it remains a mystery at this time why he would choose to become wealthy by datamining.

  3. In our present times the soundbite rules. That is is why these quotes are the only way to get the short attention span populace to ponder the situation. Ron Paul describes it best by stating “we don’t have to give up our security by giving up our liberty” For example a trained dog at the airport check in could replace all the security theater we now are subjected to. I ask Sibel how would she frame the argument in a short quote, because that is what it takes,(most people only read the headline not the body of the story)

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