We all want safety. None of us want to be living in fear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We want to be sure the water we’re drinking isn’t going to poison us. We want to be sure that, if called, the police will be there to keep the streets free of those who would do us harm. We want to be sure that the playground our kids are playing on isn’t constructed using toxic materials. The list goes on.
One of the top reasons for forming a society is so that we can have these safety standards enforced by a government elected by the people. We oftentimes choose to live in quiet, docile neighborhoods where our children can play in the street without worry that someone snatch them up. We post speed limit signs in the areas so that accidents are less likely to happen. It’s okay to be appreciative of the everyday safeties we often take for granted.
But as time goes on, we become obsessed with these safeties. We think “surely basic safeties are good, so advanced safeties must be better.”
Suddenly, you’re not just having to obey a speed limit, you now have to wear a seat belt in a car you had to pay more for, due to all the safety devices put into it as regulated by unelected officials.
Those kids who were playing out the in the street are now being kept indoors because their “free range parents” are being harassed by the CPS for not having their children under watch 24/7.
That weapon you carried with you that allows you to look after your own safety is under threat of being taken from you – or at the least registered – because the people you carry that weapon to ward off like to go to places where armed people like you aren’t, and shoot up the place.
You’d call your friend to complain about it but you feel a little nervous about the NSA listening in and hearing you talk about how much you despise the overreach of this government. You don’t want them to take it the wrong way and put you on a Fifth Amendment violating no-fly list, which would allow them to violate your Second amendment and strip you of your gun – and all without a trial.
Being safe is great, but only to a point. Safety is never attained without some kind of cost – and that cost is your freedom. What’s more, that safety you garner from giving up your freedom oftentimes doesn’t really keep you safe at all. It just makes you feel safe. In some cases that feeling of safety masks the fact that you just made yourself less safe by making yourself less free.
Take the TSA for instance. It was a government organization created after the 9/11 attacks whose sole purpose was the prevent something like 9/11 from ever happening again. While they like to flaunt on their Instagram feed that they catch would-be dangerous criminals from hijacking planes by confiscating batarangs and that knife John McEveryjoe forgot to take out of his bag before leaving his home, the truth of the matter is that they’re horribly inept. According to Reason, security testers known as “Red Team” managed to sneak bombs past TSA screeners 67 out of 70 times. That’s a 95% failure rate.
All in all, the TSA is there to take your novelty cigarette lighters, and make you late for your flight. If we abolished the organization tomorrow, we’d be no less safe than we are today, but we’d be saving a whole lot of taxpayer money, and hands running up your leg.
But where the TSA is really just a massive annoyance to most Americans, there are laws that we implement in the name of safety that don’t make it safe for you at all. In fact it only makes it safer for those who have zero problem not following laws.
For instance, the gun debate raging across America right now has many rattling off statistics – often untrue – about the firearms they fear – often inaccurately described. They fashion laws that strip you of your ability to openly, or clandestinely, carry a firearm because of just how dangerous a gun can be. You’re now robbed of the ability to protect yourself because you don’t want to break a law and face the penalties for doing so. Meanwhile, there are people planning on breaking these laws for hostile reasons, and now instead of there being a good dangerous person and a bad dangerous person, there’s only the latter.
Danger, in itself, is not a bad thing. Danger is neutral. It does damage to both good and bad, but it can be utilized and directed. We make our police forces as effective as possible because we know what positive effects dangerous people with good intentions can do. The dangerous man who draws iron to defend his life and the life of others is danger weaponized against evil. The knight that slays the dragon does so because his righteous fury is dangerous to evil. It’s a concept we’re more familiar with than we think.
But these are easy examples. To take a step back and see a law or institution that wears the mask of safety while accomplishing nothing or doing the opposite takes little effort to agree with that we shouldn’t have things like it at all.
There are things that have risks to the populace at large. Things that do put our health, and our lives, in danger that we don’t have much in the way of arguments against. What do we say to them?
It’s okay for those who defend freedoms in lieu of safety to admit that something is dangerous – and potentially harmful. We have to be ready to admit that we’re willing to forgo safety in order to maintain freedom.
I feel like many of us are stopped short in debates by someone rattling off a statistic such as “Did you know X kills Y every year? What do we plan to do about that?” Really, the answer those people don’t seem to receive enough is a shoulder shrug and the word “nothing.” You’ll likely receive an aghast look and have your care for humanity questioned, but so what? Your personal safety is really none of their business. That’s for you to see to.
If someone wants not to wear their seat belt while driving, then they are taking a risk unto themselves that has nothing to do with anyone else. We don’t require seat belts on motorcycles, which are far more dangerous and yet gloriously legal. So why should it matter to the guy in the car next to me whether not I’m buckled in? Yes, it’s dangerous for me, but that’s my choice.
Why should a state restrict how much salt I intake? What I eat is my business. Why should my neighbor care about my loaded gun being next to my bed at night? It’s not going to walk off the table, sneak into his home and shoot him. Is a gun dangerous? Hell yes it is – but I’m in control of it and, thus, it’s no danger to him.
Why should government officials look over my shoulder to make sure I’m watching my kid who is confined to playing in the front yard despite the fact that he’s old enough to ride his bike to the store for some Skittles all by his lonesome. Yes, there’s a chance he could be snatched up, or robbed of his Skittles money, but if I judge my neighborhood and his trek to the store to be minimal in its danger, then that’s on me and my family.
Safety can be just as dangerous as danger if responsibility for it falls into the wrong hands. In the name of safety, men have stolen, killed and repressed millions upon millions. In an age where “safe spaces,” restrictions on hurtful speech and apocalyptic talk about the climate that we need to act on right now, we need to stop and remember that when it comes to your safety and well being, you are the best judge.
Don’t ask others to restrict you. They will.
“He who gives up safety for freedom deserves neither.”
~ Ben Franklin
Photo by Roman Slavik/Getty Images
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Brandon Morse has been writing about politics and culture across many websites for the last six years, with a heavy emphasis on anti-authoritarianism. Aside from writing articles, he is also known for voice acting and authoring scripts. He is an avid gamer, dog person, and has a bad habit of making vague references to things no one has heard about or seen. Follow him at @TheBrandonMorse on Twitter.
Click through the gallery below to read more from Morse in his previous EveryJoe columns:
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