Before we even got the whole picture detailing exactly how widespread the government’s phone tracking efforts were, we were hit with news of the NSA PRISM program. The details are still being uncovered and debates and questions concerning both programs abound, but the most important question doesn’t concern the leaker, the morality of leaking, the consequences of living in the information age, or the efficacy of the program.
The most important question in this new world of electronic Big Brother is not new at all. It is simply this: Are you willing to die for your freedom?
The unstated notion through all of the discussions I have heard is that we have to be safe, we have to have these or similar programs to keep us safe. I reject that unquestioning philosophy. The government has a responsibility to protect us, yes, but the entire reason we instituted the federal government was to secure greater liberty. Our safety is not the only concern that must be satisfied, our liberty must also be protected.
The trade-off is not as dramatic as it was for the veterans throughout our history. We do not have to choose between death and freedom, but merely between dramatically-decreased freedom — a much-altered relationship between government and citizen (or subject) — on the one hand or restoring freedom at the cost of a very slightly increased threat of death on the other.
Revolutionary General John Stark wrote “Live free or die.” It is now the state motto of New Hampshire. Do we believe it any longer? I want to have the autonomy that includes privacy, freedom from arbitrary and warrantless government searches, freedom from being a child the government nannies in every way. I want to live free, and if that means a world in which I have an increased chance of dying, I gladly accept that. As General Stark’s complete toast stated: Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.