Saturday, 14 November 2009

The price of freedom

How do you view freedom? Is it liberating to have CCTV because we can walk safely through the town centre? Is there a great liberty in holding an identity card so that criminals can be named at once. Should we have our DNA on record so that convictions would be so much easier? How about security shutters on every shop window in the country?

The problem with these liberating ideas is that if they go unchecked you end up with a Sylvester Stallone science fiction type vision of the future. We end up spending more on security than we have possessions that we are securing. There is an argument that says "I have done nothing wrong so I have nothing to fear from these measures". The person that says they have done nothing wrong is a liar so should be sent to prison (please note ironic tone). Take speeding in a car for example. Is there a driver who has never exceeded the speed limit? If everyone pays for the latest technology in burglar alarms then they are a very expensive means of providing no deterrent at all.

If you advocate CCTV then either the mugging continues because it is not a deterrent, or it goes on around the corner because it is. The same with DNA. It either makes criminals consider the crime in terms of avoiding detection and they change the crime, or it doesn't and the crime continues. Our prisons are already full so the greater detection will cripple the country.

Do we want to live in a country where everyone is presumed guilty? If you treat people like criminals they start behaving like them. Would you prefer a society in which people are dealt with respectfully. According to Thomas Jefferson the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. You can add to that with the financial costs of CCTV, security shutters, more and more locks, more prisons, DNA records, police officers like Sylvester Stallone on every street corner...

Change the world

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