June 06, 2008

liberty and security

It can be argued that security and liberty is a trade off, you can only get better security at the expense of liberty. That at one extreme when society is in a state of chaos you have perfect liberty, but no security, and at the other in a police state you have perfect security, but no liberty.

Personally I think that this isn't necessarily always the case. There are two reason for this.

1. The government is incompetent. If you ask them to do anything then they will do it in such a way that does not necessarily work, so long as it favours the internal empire building of the bureaucrats that run it.

2. Good security, as apposed to the security theatre that the government seems to prefer, is invisible. It protects you, but otherwise gets out of your way to let you do whatever it is you want to do (so long as this does not harm others).

Here are a few suggestions that could increase security without doing too much damage to liberty.

1. Let people know that they do have the right to self defense, that if they are attacked and have to defend themselves the the law will be on their side, so that more people are willing to try and defend themselves. This is good for liberty because self defense is a fundamental right, and it is good for security because it tilts the risk/reward balance of an assault meaning that there would be less of them.

2. Replace CCTV with uniformed police patrols. CCTV cameras cannot chase and catch a criminal, their quality often isn't even good enough to be used at a trial when somebody else have done the leg work. Police on the other hand can chase and catch thugs, and their evidence is always useful in court. So if there is a chance that there is a policeman just around the corner then there is a much higher risk for any would be assailant. If there is a CCTV camera around the corner then there is no risk what so ever, since it cannot get up and walk around that corner to see you. So uniformed police would be better for security, but they would also be better for liberty by reducing the database state and the way that peoples movements can be catalogued and tracked.

3. Take Habeas Corpus seriously. By reducing the amount of time between arrest and them getting their day in court mean that its deterrent effects do not get eaten away by people discounting future pain compared to present gain. This would be good for security because it shifts the risk reward balance and good for civil liberties because it reduces the state's ability to detain the innocent. I am not talking just about pre-charge detention either (though a return to the pre-1974 period of 1 day would be a good thing, returning to the pre-2000 2 days would welcome) but also sorting out the abomination of the remand system. The fact that somebody can spend so long on remand that even if they are found guilty they are immediately released is a sick joke. It means that guilty or innocent the state is going to punish you just the same amount, and that is simply wrong.


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