Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Choosing Security over Freedom

Charles Krauthammer writes about "the strangest revolution the French have ever produced" (referring to the under 25 year-old strike in France) and notes that:
...it is not just a long way from the ideals of 1789. It is the very antithesis. It represents an escape from freedom, a demand for an arbitrary powerful state in whose bosom you can settle for life.
Usually, the freedom vs. security dichotomy has been put forth by the left or right with regards to the War on Terror and the Patriot Act. This is the first time I've seen them used in such a way.


Nathanael said...

I don't know if I agree with Krauthammer. 1789 produced contradictory tendencies: liberty on the one hand, fear of its vulnerability on the other. Many saw the state as the sole protector of liberty very early on.

Marc said...

True, but (not to get too theoretical) was it the state as protector of liberty or that which was sovereign? In some cases it would be the state, the crown, whatever, but in the U.S. it was "the people" who were sovereign and thus the people themselves were most responsible for protecting their own liberty. Perhaps Krauthammer is applying the American notion of sovereignty to the French, who historically have viewed the state as sovereign and not themselves? (I'm not knowledgeable in the least in French history, so correct me if I'm wrong.)

Nathanael said...

"What is the Third Estate? France!"--Siey├Ęs.

The French Revolution, ideally, inserted the people into the place of sovereignty once occupied by the monarch, who had been the unique representative of the nation. Perhaps there is a difference in how the two constitutions conceptualized the distance between state and people, the notion of the nation being more plural than in American than in the French context.