Liberty, Whatever the Cost [Updated]

There is not enough poxes for your houses” says Jay Rosen to the pundits discussing #Tucson.  Well, here’s an astonishing quote from a non-pundit which goes places no politician dares to tread:

This shouldn’t happen in this country, or anywhere else, but in a free society, we’re going to be subject to people like this. I prefer this to the alternative.

That was spoken by John Green, the father of Christina Green, 9-year-old girl killed at the shootings on Saturday.  His statement eloquently explains the tough trade-off between liberty and security.  He acknowledges the limits of Government, and that ackowledges that horrible things will happen in a free society, and explicitly says that this is a preferable state of affairs.  It is a difficult case to make at the best of times (I have tried on a few occasions, regarding cannabis, ID cards, and other civil liberties). For Mr Green to say it at the depth of his grief is truly courageous.
Compare this to Nick Clegg and David Cameron, who seem to want to have it both ways.  If you want to argue for more civil liberties, I think you must acknowledge that the mythological state of absolute security does not exist, that there can be negative consequences to liberty… and that we should all be comfortable with that.


When I read this quote I instinctively assumed it was referring to the idea of liberty in general, and did not think too much about the particular tyoe of liberty that Green was advocating. However, a colleague points out that he can only be referring to gun-control (or lack thereof in the American system). And as many others have been arguing these past few days, liberty and the unfettered ‘right to bear arms’ do not necessarily go hand in hand.  Indeed, surely the whole point of consituting a state is to get away from all that! So it is worth adding a line here to emphasise that I do not share Mr Green’s views on gun control, and am relieved that we do not have that sort of ‘liberty’ here in the UK.  There’s no point in whitewashing my original post though – I think it best to leave my excesses and embarrasments for all to read.
Having said that, I think my central point remains.  Mr Green acknowledges that his ideology has negative aspects, and he embraces them anyway.

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