We often hear people saying that we cannot have both freedom and security. But I question this claim.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, after listening again to some of MLK’s speeches, I am struck by how often he talked about freedom. And I cannot help but notice the contradiction of how the U.S. keeps going to war to “protect and defend our freedom,” and yet simultaneously curtails those freedoms in the name of security. The latter is “justified” by claiming that we cannot have both freedom and security.
It seems to me that we can have both freedom and security, but we need something else as well for both of these to be possible at the same time: we need true justice.
In a truly just world, people have the freedoms they need to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. And a truly just world also ensures the most effective security: the security that comes by virtue of everyone having the freedoms they need to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. If you think about what threatens security, it is unhappy, struggling, desperate people. In a truly just world, there are effective ways that unhappy people can get the help they need, and so desperation does not rise to the level that threatens security. This is why freedom and security are both not only possible in truly just world, but are necessary consequences of justice. We see that the shared root that brings them together is the very concept of justice itself.
Of course, working for true justice is hard, and may require those who are privileged to have to give up some of their privilege (which they tend to not want to do: see my previous post). It is much easier for those in power to use that power to claim that we cannot have both freedom and security. Those in power can play on people’s fears, and use that fear then as an excuse to curtail the people’s freedom. Conveniently enough, this strategy also has the side-effect of weakening the people, and strengthening the power of those in power.
Therefore, both by questioning the motives of those who make that claim, and by critically reflecting on the deeper meanings of the concepts of freedom, security, and justice, we find that the claim that we cannot have both freedom and security is very likely not true at all. We can have both freedom and security if we create a truly just society.