Currently, only short after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the people in power are discussing again, if they should revoke some of the freedom and rights of the people they rule. Why? To reestablish the feeling of security.
There are three aspects in this, that should all believers in a society of free and equal individuals alarm. I explain them below.
- You can not guarantee security, only freedom.
- There is no such thing like absolute security.
- The principle of separation of powers is under attack.
You can not guarantee security, because security is a „negative concept“, means it is defined by the absence of fear of one’s live, property and family. But you can not guarantee this anymore. Since the moment mankind invented distance weapons (like bow and arrow) or later biological weapons etc. you can never be sure that nobody can harm you. What a state can guarantee is prosecution! That no attacker shall get away without punishment. Collecting data of all people, instead of concrete suspicious people, is not a service but an attack on our culture.
Freedom, in the contrary, is an active service of the state. A state can guarantee the he will not act against somebody in a certain case, thus creating a freedom. States can only guarantee things, they do themselves, like not prosecuting a behavior.
There is no such thing like absolute security. There is only a „feeling of security“. Something bad could happen all the time, and everybody you ask will know this. But events, like terrorist attacks, are meant to destroy this feeling of security (this is what terror means!). If we give up freedoms and rights to reestablish the feeling of security, we gain no permanent salvation. The next attack will happen and destroy the feeling again, leaving us without the feeling and the rights.
The principle of separation of powers is under attack. Our rights and freedoms help guarantee separation of powers. There is a constant tension between those who execute powers, and those who control them. Our societies are build in a way to keep this tension alive with independent courts, executive powers that will execute laws also on legislative members, opposition parties that have insight in current legislation threads and a free press that informs the public about whats going one. Finally, and this is something all Germans should remind the world about, those separations and information have the goal to enable the public to stop malicious governments by revolting and resetting the system. But the same systems that are currently discussed to protect the state and the citizens from attackers/terrorists that hide among us, will serve as tools to stop uprisings, if politics are no longer in line with the needs of the people. So every time people vote „yes“ for surveillance, they reduce there chances of stopping out of control institutions. (Some say, the NSA is already exactly this …)