“Freedom versus Security” or “Freedom as Security”
Colaboración de Dimitris Christopoulos*
regularly raised by human rights activists and defenders is the dilemma between
freedom and security. This question seems to imply that being secure means
giving up liberty.We accept
surveillance – we give up our freedom – because we believe that this will
protect our safety. While it is true that freedom and security can potentially
be in conflict, to construct the argument in this way is to be dangerously
not only police. Security is safe roads, functioning kindergartens, and hospitals,
proper education and so on. Security inevitably suffers during times of economic
or political crisis because the State’s social responsibility to its citizens erodes.
Security has a social dimension which is hidden by one-dimensional
representations of security as a barrier to freedom.
safety can be a barrier to liberty, but freedom is unthinkable without
security. If one is not safe, one cannot be free. These things should go
the general assumption was that when faced with the dilemma of “Freedom v.
Security”, those in the human rights movement would opt for freedom, leaving an
empty space for neo-conservatives to claim security. This resulted in a
paradoxical situation wherein anti-human rights political discourse monopolized
security, turning security into a rallying call to repress a dissenting
citizenry. This situation becomes even more paradoxical in light of the
increased human rights violations which occur due to the securitization of
politics, and also how precarious and profoundly unsafe our lives have become
due to the monopolization of security by neo-conservativism.
Bentham was the first post-revolutionary thinker to imagine liberty completely
absent from the legal domain. According to his thinking, what remains of it
should be legally considered as a branch of security, so asto
avoid confusion. In his concept of liberty, liberty is understood as a privacy
right, as a shield against the intrusion and interference of people and/or
holders of authority. Liberty can only be secured where ‘real’ rights are
established through a legal system. In developing his system of thought,
Bentham proposed to use the utility principle rather than ‘natural rights’ to
resolve conflicts. “The utility or interest of an individual”, to quote
Bentham, is the basic ingredient of societal calculus.
persons”, says Bentham, “may be surprised to find that ‘Liberty’ is not ranked
among the principal objects of the law”. But, Bentham continues, “We must
regard it as a branch of ‘Security’”. “Personal libertyis
security against a certain class of wrongs which affect the person; while what
also a branch of security - security against injustice at the hands of the persons
entrusted with government” (Principles of the Civil Code, Part I, Ch. 2).
Here I am not
arguing that Bentham and other Utilitarian thinkers offer a good solution for
the many problems contemporary society faces. Rather, I propose that keeping
some of Bentham’s ideas in mind can be worthwhile, acting as catalysts for the
generation of new ideas.
Before again posing the “Freedom v. Security” dilemma,
we need to re-address, semantically, the very question. It should not be
‘either-or’ but instead ‘and’…Freedom and Security. Security is a fundamental
pre-condition if liberty is to exist. If
we are not safe we cannot be free. So, defenders of human rights, let us say
“We, too, are for security, but against those who, in the name of protection,
make the world less secure’.
It is time to re-appropriate some of these good concepts, instead of allowing
our political opponents to misappropriate them.
*Dimitris Christopoulos, Associate Professor –
Panteion University of Social & Political Science (Athens GR), Vice
President of the International Federation for Human Rights
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