They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

January 31, 2014

Liberty and Security are 2 issues that way heavy on the minds of most Americans.  I think we all know there has been a renewed sense of urgency since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but I find it a bit surprising when I learn that many my age and younger adults, seem to be under the impression that this is a new concern.


The exact wording of the quote I chose for the title of this article is accredited to Benjamin Franklin, as being written for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its reply to the Governor, on November 11, 1755.  That’s 21 years before the Declaration of Independence, and 36 years before the Bill of Rights came into effect as constitutional amendments.


Unfortunately, the need for security is far older than that.  Humanity is no less honorable now, than we were thousands of years ago.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the term, poisoning the well.  That isn’t just a metaphor, people have actually done that, and still do.  By any definition, this action is very much an act of terrorism.  It’s generally motivated by some sort of political or ideological agenda, it causes death, but it also causes fear.


I specifically mentioned this particular vulnerability of civilization, because it is an example of something to which the general population is in need of constant access, but must also be protected.  Sound familiar?


If you’re thinking internet, we’re already on the same page.


I actually started this article because I was made aware of an interesting piece of federal legislation related to the subject.  It’s being called the USA Freedom Act.  If I read it correctly, this bill is an attempt to address privacy concerns related to the data collection methods, currently being utilized by our intelligence services.


We’ve all heard about the NSA and other agencies spying on American citizens.  This is no small matter by any means.  Individual privacy is an essential component of liberty, and individual liberty is by far the most essential founding principal of our society.


Unfortunately, the issue of cybersecurity is vastly more complicated.  For starters, I think we all have a pretty good idea how much money changes hands on the internet every day.  Depending on which country the thief is in, all too often it doesn’t matter how much is stolen, or from whom, short of a military incursion which isn’t going to happen, there’s nothing anybody can do about it.


Some of our lawmakers want total control, like they have in Communist China, and for the same reasons.  The Chinese have absolutely no respect whatsoever for our treaties that protect intellectual property.  They have almost no problem at all stopping the spread of ideas that could potentially undermine the regime, but it’s also presumable that those who engage in internet commerce do enjoy a bit more security.


It works for them, because nobody is allowed to say that it doesn’t, but I don’t see that going over so well with my fellow citizens.


So how do we find and maintain that balance between privacy and security, in the rapidly changing and unpredictable internet world?


Well, as for those of us who vote, we need to pay attention.  Taking a look at the bill I mentioned is a good place to start, but we also need to make sure we pay attention to which of our lawmakers are also paying attention.


On that note I do have something to share.


Just today I was doing a little more research into U.S. Senator James Risch (R) ID.  Senator Risch is running for reelection this year, and so far appears to have no conservative challengers.  Right off the bat, that gives me less to write about than some of the other races I’m following this year, but I found one thing so far worth talking about.


I came across an article about a recent Senate hearing with U.S. intelligence leaders.  According to this article, at some point Senator Risch commended these folks for making cybersecurity a priority.  If I may paraphrase, the Senator said most of the American people are not aware of the magnitude of the potential impact of this threat.


That is a statement I very much agree with.  I know enough to know, that I don’t know, I just know it’s serious.  So the question is how do we decide who to trust to take care of it for us?


Just like most issues facing this country, we have communist examples we can follow, but we also have evidence of the inherent value of free market competition.  Neither offers a 100% solution to the problem, but one has long since proven to be far more adaptable to changing situations, and that’s the one I’d support.


If you’re wondering just how, free market competition can be applied here, take a look at the immediate predecessor to internet commerce.


My Grandmother still talks about the Sears catalog.  Just like the internet today, a time was you’d have an easier job making a list of what they didn’t have, but how did ones money get from say Butte Montana, where my Grandmother grew up, to wherever it needed to go back east, and how did the requested product get back to Butte?


Sears didn’t own and control the whole process, and the government didn’t provide armed guards to escort packages from east coast factories to western consumers.  It was a network of private couriers and railroads that relied on each other to enforce integrity for their own specific leg of the journey, and they had the threat of losing business to motivate them.  It wasn’t 100%, but it revolutionized commerce in the United States, and then the rest of the world.


This very same concept can be applied to this situation.  It is our job to elect lawmakers that recognize the problem for what it is, but more importantly, recognize and acknowledge our nation’s most reliable source for effective solutions.


When the government works with the private sector, it facilitates innovation.  When the private sector works for the government, innovation is bound and gagged by red tape, then buried in compliance reports.


This is just one more thing I’ll be thinking about between now and November, and I encourage others to do the same.


Glenn W. Uncles Jr.

Helena, Montana

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