In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. politicians immediately passed the now infamous Patriot Act. The law is often invoked by everyone from federal agents to sheriff’s deputies to invade people’s privacy and arrest them on little evidence. Then there was the wiretapping by the NSA.
For awhile it was embraced by the American public. The government was doing what it could to track down terrorists and protect our country, our lives and lifestyle.
Then came the day when some felt it went too far and that we over reacted after the fear from September 11 attacks. The Ben Franklin quote about those trading freedom for security deserve neither was oft-quoted by Libertarians, liberals, bloggers and pundits.
Now we are in the midst of a financial downturn and we face choices not about our personal security but our financial security. What are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of jobs and the economy?
In Alaska there’s a fight for a gold and copper mining project that if finalized would destroy one of the primary routes for Salmon looking to spawn. When the EPA stepped in to stop the project, some Alaskans objected saying the federal government was getting in the way of job growth. Despite the overwhelming evidence of global warming, the public is reluctant to halt industrial and manufacturing developments because it could jeopardize jobs. There are many other examples of economic projects that threaten public safety, the environment and more that people just aren’t willing to stop. We need the jobs, the argument goes.
Those actually trying to find a job have to put up with intense screenings that have grown beyond the pale. Some employers are even asking job candidates to give them passwords to their social media accounts so they can check out his or her online footprint.
People think that capitalism and democracy work hand in hand. They don’t. They have all of these shiny new buildings in China fueled by the onset of a capitalist economy, or some perversion of it. But what is the level of personal freedom for Chinese citizens?
What are we willing to trade for economic security? What freedoms will we put on the block to make sure our 401(k)s and IRAs are funded right. How much of our environment will we destroy before we think we’ve gone too far?
Maybe those who trade their freedoms for dollars deserve neither.