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Essay: Trade Freedon for Security?

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posted on Mar, 25 2006 @ 12:34 PM
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I wrote this essay for a contest that was held by a local chapter of the ACLU and I thought it would be a good idea to share it with everyone. So here you go. I hope you all enjoy it.

History is riddled with the result of what happens when a populous gives away its begotten freedoms to its government for the purpose of greater security. From well known civilizations like Rome and Ancient Greece to lesser known cases like the Native American Tribes and the Free Icelandic Commonwealth, the same result is shown over the course of history. A quick analytical investigation shows the fallacy of this very thought; one can not sacrifice what it is they are trying to protect and hope to get it back.

There are various civilizations that have attempted to achieve the ideal of freedom for its people, and they all show the same results due to the same ultimate cause. Rome and Greece both sacrificed their freedoms in the process of attempting to quell civil wars raging within their borders and leaders such as Julius Caesar and his adopted son Octavian took advantage to gain permanent seats of power. Native civilizations in the Americas were relatively free but gave up those freedoms in ultimately vain attempts to appease the hostile Europeans colonizing the continent. The Icelandic Free Commonwealth is regarded by many libertarian historians as the most free, open, and unobtrusive government in world history. Like the nations of the Americas however, the Commonwealth succumbed to pressures and threats of destruction from Norway and eventually became coerced into a union under the Norwegian Crown. Other examples can be cited going even farther back in history. Many tribes in Africa underwent the same fate as tribes in the Americas. While these civilizations fell under different times and circumstances, an underlying theme is clear. Under trying times these nations sacrificed freedoms in order to stem the turbulence over-running their land and corrupt holders of power and took advantage of these people’s situation.

Also when one considers the true implications of the idea in question it is easy to see the fallacy of it. In almost every situation governments who fight from a position of the victim do so in the name of freedom. What true justification can one present to show that giving up one’s freedom is essential in order to preserve it? The very idea of giving up something to keep it is a paradox. The obvious and often true implication of the idea is that in the end one often becomes what they were fighting against; one becomes their own enemy. This is shown in true life and in cinema. A recent popular example of the phenomenon is the Star Wars saga which tells of a Republic which, at the business end of a vast Sith conspiracy, slowly but voluntarily erodes its freedoms until it transforms itself into an authoritarian Empire. A quote from this movie rings true with historical and current events; “So this is how liberty dies… to thunderous applause”. It personifies the fact that in almost all of these cases, for whatever reason, the people believed that what they were doing was for the best and only a temporary action.

This quote from Benjamin Franklin, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security”, epitomizes this essay. It came from a time when the struggle for freedom was fresh and its rewards more greatly appreciated. As a colonial subject to the British Crown, Franklin had first hand knowledge of life without the freedoms of the Constitution knew most fervently of their importance. This sentiment is often echoed by those who come to the United States from more oppressive nations. Domestically derivatives of this quote are often used by groups such as the ACLU and Libertarian Party to advance their agendas and grow their influence. In more recent years it is often a sentiment echoed in protests of recent government actions, like the one at the latest State of the Union address. These people see the U.S. following a path similar to that of past republics and democracies and cite examples of U.S. use of torture, illegal civilian espionage, and legislation like the now infamous USA PATRIOT Act as reason to believe in their position.

There are many different paths that this question leads me on and they all lead to the peak of the same mountain. Whether one examines the question from a perspective of history both ancient and modern, or from a philosophical and analytical point of view, the conclusion is the same. If a nation’s people forfeit their freedoms in the fight to preserve them, in the end they will lose the fight to themselves and become what they were fighting against, and it can be seen throughout human history that this result is consistent. There is no time when sacrificing one’s freedom is acceptable because history shows that time gives no exception to the inevitable result of doing so; one becomes the very enemy they were protecting their freedoms from.




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