Monday, September 9, 2013

The dilemma of Protection vs. Freedom

This is a recurring topic of politics though we rarely take the time to scrutinize political subjects in these terms and we often fall into the trap of making decisions too fast. Often times a political or justice decision comes down to a choice between overreaching protection (nanny state) and dangerous freedom (deregulation).

The 2nd amendment to the USA's Constitution is a good illustration of this. On the one hand, letting everybody own and carry a gun leads to many more crimes and accidents than in other equally developed countries. On the other hand, it is essential to guarantee freedom. For people unfamiliar with USA's history, the founders of this country wanted to guarantee that people could enter rebellion and civil war at any time to overthrow the legal regime (like they did with UK 200 years ago) to defend their independence and freedoms. And the 2nd amendment is the constitutional embodiment of this idea.

Another example is the freedom of parents to do what they want with their children and the duty of government to protect children from the harm that their parents could cause. For instance some parents do not want their children to receive vaccines. In some cases, this is a matter of religion (Jehovah witnesses) and in other cases it is a matter of belief in conspiracy theories.

Here are a few highly polemic examples of Protection vs. Freedom. If you have a clear-cut opinion on any of these, you may want to take extra-time to consider honestly the arguments of people who disagree with you:

  • The right of parents to use physical violence (slap on the face, on the butt, on the hand) as a form of punishment of children
  • The right of parents to circumcise their son or excise their daughter
  • The right of parents to teach 1 single religion to their child (including a fundamentalist form of religion)
  • The right of parents to remove their child stricken by a severe disease (leukemia, cancer...) from the regular medical system in order to use exclusively some alternative medicine
  • The freedom of expression (on specific subjects) regarding claims for which the person has been proven wrong. In other words: the right for a person to repeat lies after being proven wrong
  • Freedom of expression to express racist ideas or other kinds of verbal discrimination
  • Freedom of expression in the publication of revenge porn
  • Extended rights of scientists to conduct experiments on fatally-ill voluntary human subjects
  • The right of doctors to use dead people's organs without prior consent for transplantation
  • The right of doctors to answer positively to patients' requests of euthanasia
  • The right of astrologers, palm readers, mediums, tarot readers, exorcists, and other practitioners of unproven supernatural "disciplines"
  • The right to reveal publicly Top Secret information pertaining to war crimes or crimes against humanity


This article was about a particular way of looking at politics. Based on this approach, the message is essentially that we should give a chance to both sides of an argument before we make a decision. Sometimes, there isn't 1 good choice. There's a dilemma in which we have to weigh the protection aspects against the freedom aspects.

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