How Much of One Are You Willing to Sacrifice for the Other?

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A “Billboard” posting that appeared on my Facebook newsfeed from something called the “Heartland Institute” contained a picture of Barack Obama together with Ben Franklin. Below each picture was a quote from each man but not before observing the caption that reads: “It’s embarrassing how low our leaders have sunk.”

The following are the quotations that appeared in the posting:

 

I think it’s important to understand that you can’t have 100 percent security and then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.

–Barack Obama

 

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

–Benjamin Franklin

 

The intent of this message, obviously, is to insinuate how badly Obama has abandoned liberty and justice for all–that Obama is the leader that has sunk so low when compared to the values held by Franklin. However, I think the institute has conveniently forgotten that it was not Barack Obama who initiated the programs that critics claim our most whittling away at our privacy and liberties but, in fact, it was a conservative president, George W. Bush who initiated those programs when he signed the Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001. Ironic, isn’t it? And how things change?

I imagine the Heartland Institute had, at one time, championed President Bush and his policies as being good for the nation. I wonder why the Heartland Institute was not so concerned about this topic regarding the limits placed on liberty when George Bush was President. Has the Heartland Institute had a change of heart? What’s up next for the Heartland Institute? Before you know it, they’ll be championing Edward Snowden as a patriot (if they haven’t already).

The Heartland Institute’s posting seems a bit foolish in that the institute fails to recognize that both quotations are really saying the same thing: American society needs to make choices. One of the most obvious side effects of achieving increased liberty is that it has a tendency to produce a general reduction in the security that can be provided by government. Finding an acceptable balance between liberty and security becomes one of those choices American society needs to make.

The quotations are not contradictory, but, in fact, are complementary. Nor is there a measured degradation of value between the two quotes as is implied. But, the Heartland Institute is betting their spin regarding something so obvious won’t be recognized by their target audience. Sadly, given that their target audience already has a disposition to being so polarized, they are probably right about that assumption.

Ben Franklin made a good point but it doesn’t really make President Obama’s point any less worthy. Both statements have implied questions in them: “America, what do you want: more liberty or more security and how much of one are you willing to sacrifice for the other?”

 

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