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Liberty for Security

Here is a nice quote.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

– Benjamin Franklin

I thought the quote included the phrase “and will lose both” but apparently this is a misconception.  At any rate, I think the addition is apt.

Now here is another nice quote.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

-4th amendment to the Constitution of the United States

And then there’s this.

So I’m asking you America: what is the point of the Constitution?  I was under the impression that the Constitution was an explicit declaration of “essential rights” which must not be given up for the risk of losing both our liberty and safety.  Who doesn’t get it?  Is it me or is it the government?  Decide.  And if it’s the government, and the confusion is so widespread that this is happening and nobody at any level of government is inclined to stop it, do we have a serious problem on our hands?  Before you decide on that one here are some more facts.

1. Historically speaking, your odds of dying in a terrorist attack are 1 in 9.3 million.  That’s all terrorist attacks, not just planes.

2.  The chance of winning a million dollars in Mega Millions is 1 in 3.9 million.  In Powerball it’s 1 in 5 million.

3.  The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime: 1/6250

3. According to this page, 3,194 Americans have died as a result of terrorist attacks on airplanes and airports, 2992 of them were on Sept. 11.

4.  In the year 2000 (that’s 1 year!) 43,000 Americans died in automobile accidents. 400,000 Americans had their deaths attributed to “poor diet and physical inactivity.”

5. Prescription drugs are 16,400% more likely to kill you than terrorist attack.

Obviously I could go on and on like this.  Here is a hypothetical.

According to a professor named Michael L. Rothschild:

“…let us assume that each week one commercial aircraft were hijacked and crashed. What are the odds that a person who goes on one trip per month would be in that plane? There are currently about 18,000 commercial flights a day, and if that person’s trip has four flights associated with it, the odds against that person’s being on a crashed plane are about 135,000 to 1. If there were only one hijacked plane per month, the odds would be about 540,000 to 1.”

If I came up to you and said “I have a magic pebble which will prevent you from being struck by lightning” (assuming you believed me) what would you give me for it?  $10?  $100?  $1,000?  Would you give up your essential liberties?  How about your children’s?  Being struck by lightning is 1,488 times more likely than dying in a terrorist attack.  Come on people, this is insanity!  Why would we be doing this?

According to Brian Michael Jenkins:


“Psychologists have learned that we rank fatal events by roughly squaring the death toll per event. An automobile accident with one fatality is seen as one fatality. One hundred accidents with one fatality apiece are still seen as 100 deaths. But a single event with ten fatalities has the same psychological impact as 100 individual fatalities, and an event with 100 deaths has the impact of 10,000 deaths. This is why we pay more attention to increasingly rare airline crashes, which usually involve many fatalities, than we do to the much larger national death toll from automobile accidents. The terrorist attack on 9/11, with nearly 3,000 dead, had the psychological impact of millions dying.”


Hmmmmm, this sounds kind of like something Obama said one time.

People out there are still hurting very badly, and they are still scared. And so part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared And the country is scared, and they have good reason to be.

Shouldn’t our wise leader step in now to save us from ourselves when we’re not thinking clearly because of fear?  And what about the courts?  Remember when they discovered a “right to privacy” in the “penumbras and emanations” of the constitution even though it says nothing directly about a general right to privacy?  Well where are they now that the government is doing the exact thing specifically prohibited in the actual language of the document?  Where are you “liberals?”  Where are you ACLU?  Is it OK to take away our liberties as long as we take them from everyone equally?

It’s easy to proclaim “we should do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.”  But we need to actually start considering whether we believe things like this.  And when you’re considering it keep in mind that a terrorist could strike anywhere–on the bus, on the road, in the workplace, your apartment building, etc.  Oh and remember all those things which are way more likely to kill you than terrorism?  What’s stopping the government from taking away your cheeseburger as well?  So if we’re OK with this at the airport where is the line?  Decide America.


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  1. November 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm

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