On Fox News the other night an interesting debate took place between the neocon mainstream Republican thinker Charles Krauthammer and the libertarian Judge Andrew Napolitano. The conversation centered on North Korea’s hacking of Sony and on whether or not we, as American citizens, should give up some of our liberty to keep these institutions secure.
Watch the fireworks:
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: We have these cycles where we have a period of quiet, a period of safety and all of the sudden we get all upset about the methods that we have used in the past, as in the interrogation report, or about NSA intrusion into our lives, you know, this is the government spying on us. We have to understand that in the grown-up world there’s a trade-off between security and liberty. You can you pretend, as Obama does, that there’s no trade-off. There always is, it has been since the beginning of time. We are now seeing the results of these kind of attacks. It starts with a movie studio, which in the scheme of things is trivial, but it can hit our power stations, hit our nuclear facilities. It could hit our banking system where all the records are wiped out. This could be a catastrophe for the country on a Pearl Harbor scale. And I think we have simply have to grow up as a nation and say if it takes the NSA intruding, of course with the consent of the companies involved, we’re going to have to accept that, otherwise we’re going to live under the sword of Damocles.
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO: The relationship between liberty and security has to be a bias, not a balance, a bias in favor of freedom. You can sacrifice your liberty, but you can’t sacrifice mine.
KRAUTHAMMER: And what happens if the banking system is wiped out and the country is absolutely immobilized.
KRAUTHAMMER: Because they’re going to have to open up their internal networks and their secrets and have the government intrude and you and I are going to have to trust the government not to overstep.
MARA LIASSON, NPR: Why is the government the only one?
KRAUTHAMMER: They have the resources, they have the facilities, they have the experience and they are the ones who can do it.
NAPOLITANO: Nobody trusts the government to restrain itself because it can’t.
KRAUTHAMMER: It’s protected you since the American revolution.
I think we could debate the merits of both arguments for a long time. When it comes down to it, I personally agree with Judge Napolitano on this issue. I would rather live freely in a dangerous world than safely as a slave. While the “slippery slope” argument may be a “logical fallacy” we talk about it because it is true enough. If we give up some of our liberty, we lose the moral high ground to defend other liberties. If we say ‘we can give up this liberty or that liberty’… how can we later say ‘no, we can’t give up this one’?
I also wholly agree with Judge Napolitano’s argument about the relationship between liberty and security and our own interests in other people’s freedom.
“The relationship between liberty and security has to be a bias, not a balance, a bias in favor of freedom. You can sacrifice your liberty, but you can’t sacrifice mine.”
What right do I have to sacrifice your liberty, or what right do you have to take some of mine?
I find that line of thought quite compelling.
Also, I think that Mr. Krauthammer forgets something here… he argues that only the government can protect business or corporations (specifically banks) from these kinds of assaults… but is that true?
Consider Sony vs North Korea. North Korea’s GDP in 2012 was around $28 Billion. Sony’s total operating expenses in 2014 was just over $29 Billion. Are you telling me that Sony shouldn’t be able to protect itself from North Korea when they can protect themselves from their competitors? And honestly, Sony is hardly one of the largest or wealthiest companies in the world…
The point is that saying the government is the only entity able to protect companies from these kinds of attacks… is just not true. Sony could have and probably should have been able to defend itself.
Sony’s mistake is NOT a reason for the rest of us to give up any bit of our liberty.
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