Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
There has been quite the fuss lately between those who believe their liberties are being infringed upon, and those who are convinced you should be willing to give up your freedom for the sake of safety.
In fact, the Leftists have begun saying out loud what we’ve known they believed all along.
On August 10, in an interview with MSNBC regarding vaccine mandates, Dr. Anthony Fauci said “I’m sorry, I know people must like to have their individual freedom… but I think that we’re in such a serious situation now, that under certain circumstances, mandates should be done.”
Just two days later, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a discussion with CNN's Bianna Golodryga, shared his opinion about Americans who are concerned about incremental losses of freedom due to COVID.
Schwarzenegger said, “… screw your freedom,” and went on to compare wearing a mask and taking vaccines to the same responsibilities one exercises while obeying traffic rules while driving, and said, “with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities.”
Is freedom that insignificant? Is it of such little consequence that we should just give it up because a famous person or some bureaucrat suggests it’s in our best interest?
A delicate balance?
People often attempt to explain the relationship between freedom and safety by describing it as a balance – a give and take, if you will. Give a little freedom, gain a little safety.
In our current situation, we hear the sentiment expressed in statements like, “I know you have the freedom to not mask your face, but you should give up that freedom for the safety of others.” Or, “I know you have the freedom to not take an experimental injection, but you should give up that freedom for the safety of others.”
Others will explain how we reap the benefits of national security and safety because of our military and point out how a bit of freedom is the trade-off – in the form of volunteer soldiers, taxes, and such.
I understand the concept, but I am not so sure I fully agree with the idea of balancing freedom and safety. Freedom comes at great cost, to be sure. But to imply that freedom must be sacrificed for the sake of safety seems a bit incredulous to me.
Words and meanings matter. Often lost in a discussion like this is what the terms being tossed around really mean. So let’s start there.
What is liberty? Currently, before the radical Left redefines it like they do so many other terms, liberty is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality or state of being free.”
What is safety? Again, from Merriam-Webster, safety is “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss.”
In that sense then, are liberty and safety mutually exclusive? In other words, does one come at the expense of the other; must they be “balanced” as many suggest?
As I stated a moment ago, I don’t think that’s the case.
Take the idea of a robust and powerful military mentioned earlier that provides for our “safety.” Do we really cede “liberty” by building a strong fighting force?
No! Liberty and safety are not in competition; they reinforce each other. When one wins, they both win. The safer we are, the freer we are.
A false equivalence
Another important factor to consider is the difference between rights and privileges.
Schwarzenegger pointed out that “with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities.” That is true, but the Terminator made a logical fallacy by equating rights with privileges.
Driving is not a right. It’s a privilege. One is not guaranteed to get a driver’s license just because they are born. Many requirements must be met and rules must be followed or else that privilege can be taken away. Healthcare, social programs, and employment are other examples of privileges.
How then does one determine what is a right, and what is a privilege?
Privileges are granted by others, namely, governments, while rights come from God.
There are certain rights we all have in common, simply by being human – call them intrinsic, or unalienable.
That’s why our Founding Fathers declared their independence from the British Crown. They felt their basic human rights were being violated. Thus, they wrote,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Thank God that those of us blessed to live in America belong to a country that recognizes those rights.
We have a Constitution (you know, that pesky document that gets in the way of the radical Leftists’ plans so often). In that founding document, our basic rights are enumerated in the Bill of Rights, put in place to ensure a tyrannical government could not infringe on them.
Don’t give up liberty
The reality of our situation is, it’s not really about masks or vaccines. It’s about power.
Consider the “essential liberty” so easily given up over the last 18 months for the sake of perceived “safety.”
Businesses were shuttered, churches were closed, family gatherings forbidden, alternative views on the pandemic stifled, and shelter in place restrictions were ordered. Each of those violated basic rights, yet early on, the vast majority handed them over and never even questioned it.
Consider the expansion of government powers post 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an entirely new governmental agency, was formed. The Patriot Act was passed. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created.
All these were put in place to keep us “safe” from terrorism, but now 20 years later a compelling case could be made that these very agencies are being weaponized against our own people. (Go check out DHS’s August 13 “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” to see for yourself. They want to warn us of the “current heightened threat environment” ahead of the “20th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.” While they mention Al-Qaida only once in the entire bulletin, they continually point out that the real domestic threats are those who have “grievances over public health safety measures and perceived government restrictions,” those who are concerned about “election fraud,” “the origins of COVID-19” as well as the “effectiveness of vaccines.”)
These are all classic cases of the government expanding during a time of crisis, but not retracting when the crisis goes away. (By the way, this has happened during nearly every crisis our nation has faced). It seems to be those “…instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power…” that James Madison spoke of.
I guess Thomas Jefferson knew what he was talking about when he said, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
Freedom is not always safe
Jefferson wrote, “Timid men...prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.”
Freedom comes with its own inherent risks.
You have the freedom to say what you want. But all men know that saying the wrong thing to your wife has consequences. Saying the wrong thing to your boss can get you fired. Saying the wrong things to your children can negatively affect their future.
You have the freedom to worship as you see fit. You are free to be a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Satanist, or nothing at all. I don’t recommend that, as the eternal consequences are dire, but it’s certainly your freedom to do so.
You have the freedom to invest your resources in various interests in hopes of a return, but of course, there’s the risk of losing, rather than gaining.
The point is, life, in general, is not without risks, and neither is freedom. I suppose if one wanted to mitigate the vast majority of risks in life they could self-isolate, or become a hermit or a monk. But then is that really living?
If safety and risk mitigation become the number one priority, freedom will greatly suffer. Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers, “To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
I certainly don’t advocate for foolish and reckless living, but I lean toward the sentiments of Thomas Jefferson: “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”
Consider some of the greatest advancements and achievements in human history, such as the discovery of electricity, taking flight, nuclear fission, going to the moon, and fighting a revolutionary war to gain freedom. There was great risk in all those endeavors, but the freedom gained as a result has benefitted millions.
Who do you trust?
As with most things, it comes down to a worldview.
In whom do we place our trust? God or government?
If government is our source of trust, we will always be fearful, and we will always need them to help us.
But if God is the source of our trust, we need not fear. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 56:3, 2 Timothy 1:7, Mark 5:36, Psalm 91, and literally hundreds more.)
Let’s circle back to Franklin’s words: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
I agree with Mr. Franklin. It shouldn’t be either/or, it should be both. We can have liberty and safety. This great country proves it. Throughout our brief history, we’ve been the freest and the safest in all the world.
We must not let our freedoms slip away. Once liberties are eroded, they are rarely, if ever restored.