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“No Conflict Between Liberty and Security”

“No Conflict Between Liberty and Security”  by Alex Epstein,  Aug. 5, 2002.  Subtitle: “What we should be choosing between is not liberty and security, since the second is only a means to the first—but between appeasement and security.”

Mr. Epstein pretends to speak out against the police state (italics his):

“A government that arbitrarily uses its police powers is destroying the very value it is supposed to be securing – as every police state in history has shown.”
So if a government is not “arbitrary” in using its police powers, the use can be all right.  Mr. Epstein explains:
“Before using its police powers – e.g., to question suspects, to place them under surveillance, to arrest them, to try them, or to attack enemy nations – the government must have objective evidence of the use, or threat, of force. This principle applies even during wartime – though the standards of evidence or procedures of prosecution may legitimately change.”
And Mr. Epstein goes on to give a few examples, some of which by themselves we have no quarrel with, during a war or not. But note that offhand qualification: During “wartime ... the standards of evidence or procedures ... may legitimately change.”  Change to ... what?  Mr. Epstein offers no principles, and some of his examples are chilling:
“ ... in wartime, we are justified in summarily imprisoning or executing known [known to whom?] enemy operatives on our soil without public trial. ... protecting liberty does not consist ... in giving Osama bin Laden a trial on Court TV.”
According to the “Patriot Act” all it takes to make you an enemy operative is for certain government officials to declare that you are, and keep in mind that the Act does not restrict “enemy operatives” to foreigners or Third World immigrants.

Mr. Epstein’s crack about Osama falls flat. Osama’s appearance on Court TV would show all the world that he had been a CIA trained (via Pakistan) “asset” who had gone astray. As the Pogo comic strip character once said: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Mr. Epstein wrote the above essay when the Bush administration had trashed more of our already substantially trashed freedoms from government controls and intrusions – “our” as in we who were born and raised here. He gives not one example of the current violations of the Bill of Rights that illustrate what he means by arbitrary or not arbitrary. He advocates freedom in vague generalities, while ignoring actual violations right now. And he makes vague generalities that justify those violations. We will see how far the Ayn Rand Institute goes with this when we get to their position on torture – see  Torture  on this website.

As priests once did for kings, ARI furnished an intellectual gloss for the worst of the Bush administration.