Freedom and its Cost

This started out as a very different post. It was going to be a post about weev. Gradually, with the latest Snowden leaks and some other current news, it has become something else. I actually abandoned that draft to start fresh.

I truly believe in American exceptionalism, for one reason only — I believe that this country was founded as the most true embodiment of Enlightenment principles that has ever been intentionally created on this Earth, though I don’t believe we’ve always maintained those principles.

We have, perhaps, the strongest protections for freedom of speech in the world. We are free to speak ill of our politicians. We are free to praise Nazism (a la weev’s recent bent). And we’re free to back those rights up with force, or at least to own the implements to effect that force. Our founders were revolutionaries, and seemed to believe that if the government they created violated the principles upon which it was founded, revolution was warranted again. I think that a violent revolution currently has too high of a cost, and I hope we can avoid it indefinitely. But a revolution in attitude might be needed.

Most people don’t really care about the stuff I mentioned above. They may pay lip-service to it the way the casually-religious pay lip-service to God. They care about their day-to-day lives, and that’s fair. They’re subject to cognitive biases, and so am I. They don’t generally see how this stuff affects them. Or they do, and it doesn’t really affect them much. They see scary things like the WTC having planes flown into it. They see beheadings on YouTube. They see people saying things we all know are Wrong and Hateful. They see kids being shot in a school. And then they start rationalizing loss of freedom. They say they don’t mind the TSA, because it keeps them safe. They don’t mind the NSA intruding on the privacy of nearly everyone in the developed world, because what do they have to hide? They don’t mind when people are sent to jail under terrible laws because they’re doing and saying Bad Things. They support “common-sense” gun-control laws, because of the deaths that can be avoided.

I’m writing this partly so I don’t have to explain things to people in the future, so I don’t have to have a protracted Twitter conversation again. I am willing to accept people saying horrible things in exchange for freedom of speech. I am willing to have the occasional firearms accident or “mass shooting” incident in exchange for the right to keep and bear arms. I am willing to have the occasional terrorist attack in exchange for my privacy. I will defend those rights for others vehemently, even if I disagree with their words or actions 100%. That’s the cost of what we have here in the USA (though increasingly we are losing it). To me, it’s a cost that’s worthwhile.

BEGIN EDIT 2014-10-16
Almost as if on cue, the current director of the FBI has been saying how encrypting smartphones by default will prevent the police from solving crimes. We already know we have the opposite problem — the police have been searching smartphones despite the dubious legality of that activity. I would rather have a few (and it’s really only a few) crimes go unsolved than have the police able to search (legally or illegally) a bunch of stuff that they’re not really entitled to at a whim.

From the Supreme Court in that second-to-last link:

“We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime,” Roberts wrote.

The right to privacy, he said, “comes at a cost.”

END EDIT 2014-10-16

Epilogue: Values

I enjoy learning things, both facts I didn’t know and opinions of others, via discussion, what in some circles is termed “forensics and debate”. I’m happy to change my opinion if the information I get warrants it. What I’ve learned, however, is that sometimes two people can agree on all the facts and yet disagree on the conclusions. Abortion is a great example of that. This comes down to values, and we all have different values. We all weigh some things as more important than others, and those things rarely agree completely between two people. I recognize that this post is based on my personal values, and even though you may agree with the same facts that I do, we may disagree on these values. That’s OK. Feel free to comment if you’d like to try to convince me otherwise.