Security, the foremost freedom?

Little did Plautus know just how right he was when he said: “Homo homini lupus” (man is a wolf to man). Since the time humans first walked the Earth, they have built stockades, embankments and ditches to protect themselves from animals and from their fellow human beings. Next they built moats and fences and posted guards to keep watch because, however sophisticated they may be, there will always be someone clever enough to breach their fortifications. Added to these were armed representatives of the State as it was not enough to protect against outsiders because even humans from the same family, tribe or community will injure, fight or kill one another.

Protecting the State, which in turn is responsible for protecting its citizens, is such a fundamental imperative that humankind has always devoted a large proportion of its know-how to it. This reached a peak in the 20th century when humans built ever more sophisticated airplanes, tanks and submarines, developed weapons, bombs, missiles and increasingly deadly chemicals, not to mention bulletproof jackets, alarms, safety locks, spy microphones, telephone taps and other devices. What do they have in common? They are all designed to reassure, to defend and to guarantee people’s peace, stability and liberty. Security is a right demanded by citizens and a duty shouldered by governments. Although there is certainly some truth to French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s motto that security is the most important of all the freedoms, this freedom should not be given precedence over all others. Will Europe be able to find the right balance?