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Safety or freedom: What do you prefer?

Translated and adapted by me.

Illustration for article titled Safety or freedom: What do you prefer?

On May 17th, Reforma (1) newspaper published a poll pondering the following: “What do you prefer. That violence and insecurity go down even if your liberties are limited; or that your liberties are respected, even if there’s violence and insecurity?” Seventy five percent prefered the former, and twenty five percent the latter.

The poll supposes that, to be safe, we need to limit liberties, and that respecting liberties implies violence and insecurity. In other words, our liberties are what we need to exchange to be safe, and if we don’t want to make that exchange, then violence and insecurity will continue.

The assumptions made by the poll have uncanny implications because they ignore that the biggest conquest of safety in a democracy is, precisely, the construction of the necessary conditions to enjoy freedoms.

The poll doesn’t consider the existence of a democratic lawful state: one with safety and liberties. The opposing arguments in the poll point to the compromise of such a regime: It is not possible to defend liberty and also live in peace.

Collecting opinions is both a validation and an address of an imaginary idea whose logic implies that living in peace conflicts with liberties; the answer of the majority makes Reforma’s preconceived notions true, and at the same time the majority makes Reforma believe in this imaginary idea.

If we’ve learned at all anything, it is that the safest spaces are those where there have been the most investments to protect rights and liberties, starting with family spaces and scholar spaces. There is more safety where there are more rights. And it happens that way in rich and poor communities.

The poll’s design is as unfortunate as the results it gathered.

If society itself accepts that the cost of security is their liberties, then any security is possible, except that which works to protect society itself.


-Ernesto Lopez Portillo for Animal Politico.
He’s the program director for public safety studies at Universidad Iberoamericana.

(1): Reforma is a large, relatively elite newspaper in Mexico, they got a bomb threat recently.

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