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The Contender
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security is greater than liberty

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/29/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,104 times Debate No: 59705
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




security is greater than liberty

it is common, and frankly par for the course, for people to quote many great founders, that say that he who wishes for security over liberty, deserves neither liberty or security.

here i am mostly referring to things like the NSA spying on Americans and sometimes crossing the line. constitutional rights being infringed to bring us a more secure society.

i draw issue. would you rather die, or have your 'rights' compromised? i agree that there is an issue with proportion. frankly, i would guess most people even if they didnt come out and say it, would be for some slight compromises so as not to die. heck, if you put it that way, most would take some major compromises. it's just not politically popular to admit. and not something people really think about enough to admit.
and i could possibly agree that major compromises should not be allowed for the most part.
it is mostly an issue of proportionality. what it is not, though, is all all or nothing security being trumped by liberty.


“MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. How did this change come about? I do not know.”

Jacque-Jean Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book I

Today, we discuss the most popular topic in political theory, the issue of the struggle between liberty and authority, with a new outlook upon the world. We think of ourselves as liberated, and free. But in reality, we are seeing the government develop in the guise of plutocracy. We are not free. The chains are still on us.

The resolution upon the floor is “security is more important than liberty” This resolution is a normative resolution; henceforth the BoP shall be rested solely upon the opponent. As the opponent seems to presents her argument in a dialectical manner; I shall do so after defining a few terms.


Liberty is the quality of being to do whatever one would want; the free will for people to do anything.


Security is the act of concern over the people’s outlook and their action, whether for political or safety purposes.


Of more worth

The opponent starts out with a question; would one rather die or have one’s liberty violated? Death is the ultimate answer, for a life without liberty is an animalistic, brutish, robotic and undesirable life. We are human beings, with a will that is naturally free; every one of us has this moral worth, in which we ascribe as liberty. We use this liberty to the fullest in the state of nature, but it is precisely because we have used this liberty to the fullest that a state was needed, as the liberty of the people was to be protected by law. When law was implemented, a coercive force also had to be implemented; henceforth the government was developed in order to go with law.

In time, the state became more defined, with more institutions to manage the people and the nation, but yet the state’s fundamental job is to find the Golden Means between authority and liberty. It is never harmful to have too much liberty; even Machiavelli, a staunch totalitarian, stated that “if one wishes to subjugate new colonies of people without military force, then one must leave as many of the old institutions and as much liberty as the people desired possible” This was how the Ottoman Empire was able to grasp onto the large empire that it held; officials in conquered territories held their jobs. Alexander the Great and his empire was another example; many of the old officials held power and did their jobs with proficiency, whilst the only change was that they now answered to different ministers.

However, it is always harmful to have too much power. A tyrannical government is like HIV; it makes the institutions that protect the people from injustice unjustifiable. A tyrannical government cannot stop itself from evil; when there is no division of power, a tyrannical government will not stop because there is nothing to stop the corruption of a leader’s mind; Nazi Germany, whose monopoly of power laid upon one group of people, quickly (within 13 years) delivered Germany from what promised to be a new and strong Germany by invading Poland and other countries. “Once you have set foot towards the Dark Side, there is no turning back” is a particularly true statement to be said for tyrannical states.

With this stated, I would like to refute the opponent’s cases:

The opponent draws upon NSA as an infringement of liberty; I object. The NSA has never stopped anyone from doing what they willed. Accordingly, NSA’s job is to [2]:

Collect (including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions

Henceforth, it has no role in deferring the liberty; it cannot authorize arrests of terrorists and “people who threaten the tranquility of the nation” It can only process information mined from many places. The opponent then concedes here by saying that “frankly major civil rights compromise is immoral” Hence we must go deeper; liberty is a civil right, and the violation of any civil rights is never justified.

The opponent states that the NSA has brought tranquility to the American nation; firstly, two objections.

The path down tyranny starts with the government justifying civil rights violation; the “Enabling Act” that the Reichstag passed in 1933, which gave complete power to the Nazi Party, justified the violation of freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of expression for the tranquility of this nation. Obama is doing this in a much milder term; but he is still more or less innocent, because liberty has not been deferred. Albeit the “Patriot’s Act” was not as extreme when compared to the “Enabling Act” it was the possible start of the path down tyranny. Tyranny is a war waged against the people; dishonor is the violation of liberties of the people without any resistance. Churchill once said “Faced with a choice between dishonor and war, if one chooses dishonor, then we will have war”

My second objection is this:

This graph shows the amount of terrorist attacks since 1980; the NSA was established in 1952. For 28 years, the NSA mined data which was not used properly and henceforth saw the amount of terrorist attacks rise dramatically in 1982; it was not until 1987 when we see a sharp decrease in terrorist attacks due to the work of other organizations, like the FBI and CIA. It was not only until 9/11 when stricter measures were taken to decrease terrorist attacks that we can see an almost eradication of terrorism in the USA, and this was when the FBI and CIA introduced stricter measures. For its entirety, the NSA did not prevent any terrorist attacks; the data mined was useless and a violation to the rights of the common man. This is further proven by a study released by a NPO; it examined 225 terrorist incidents. Many of these incidents has resulted in the death of the person convicted for terrorism; in only four of these 225 cases was NSA data used to apprehend the terrorists. [1]

Apart from these objections, we must look at this from a utilitarian point of view; the three fundamental rights of the common man is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For liberty to be greater than security is to destroy the other two fundamental rights; the right to live freely and independently is destroyed because security makes people robots. If liberty is greater than security, then security would destroy the need to pursue happiness.

Time constraints and my laziness have degraded the quality of this argument. I apologize. Back to you pro!


Debate Round No. 1


linate forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


con argues it is never harmful to have too much liberty. that is just wrong. if we can wiretap Bob and prevent a terrorist attack, it is harmful to not wire tap him in the name of giving more liberty to the population.

con argues it is bette to be dead than have no liberty. didn't make it an either or proposition though. i said major intrussions are probably not good or needed. but overall, security over death is a good thing. we'd rather live than be inconveienced and intruded upon sometimes

con argues it is a slippery slope from where we are now with spying and such and something like Nazi germany. one can always tell an argument is weak when it starts down the road of comparing things to hitler and the nazis. sure, it could go that route. but most governments have spying programs and such and do not turn into something like nazi germany.

con argues the NSA is not effective at stopping crime, but that the FBI and CIA are. basic logic shows that this is not true. if you can get more info illegally, we are better off for it. the question is not whether we can decrease security attacks and such....the question is whteher it is just and moral to infringe on people's rights some times. and to that, i argue it is.


3R1NRC: On "Bob"

Liberty is a human right; it is so important that the violation of it would mean the violation of all means of living. The opponent's example, hypothetical to say the least, of this "Bob" character and how wiretapping him would result in the prevention of a terrorist attack, is not a violation of liberty. Liberty is defined as the quality of being to do whatever one would want to do; the free will, to be more exact. How would wire-tapping Bob be a violation of liberty? It is indeed a violation of privacy, but the debate motion presented with today is on liberty, not privacy. Apart from this, it is never wrong to have too much liberty, as long as that liberty is expressed within the laws.

3R2NRC: On Death and Liberty

"Give me death, or give me liberty" was a common quote used during the American Revolutionary Wars. Would one want to live a life, in which all commands comes from the outside? There is no free will when there is no liberty. Security is very important, one must say, but security can and must coexist with liberty. A good example of liberty and security coexisting is in Singapore, where albeit the police has the rights to arrest anyone for infringements of the strict laws, for the good law-abiding citizens, they have the liberty to do whatever they like within the rules of law. Denmark is also another example of this; liberty and security coexists with each other, and henceforth, the Danish people are one of the happiest people on this planet, as of now. This is because free will enables the pursuit of happiness; the freedom for me to pursue music, which also happens to make me happy, increases my happiness to do things. Note that at this point, the opponent has the burden to prove that liberty is of lesser importance than security, thus for the opponent to win this debate, the opponent cannot compromise the resolution. The violation of liberty is a major intrusion of human rights, and this violation has been condemned and will continue to be condemned throughout human history. Apart from this, if we were to quantify the violations of liberty into a formula, and how this would do upon the happiness of the people, we must employ to formulas. The first one is the utilitarian principle of happiness, which states that "the combination of biological standpoint, living conditions, and voluntary actions" contribue to happiness. Or in algaebric form:


I will not quantify this factor, as this formula is purely subjective, but the loss of liberty has negative effects as it would highly put a decrease upon c (living conditions) and v (voluntary actions), as both of them put a high emphasis on the free will. However, the next equation, so called the util formula, measures the number of people effected via an action. This formula states that "the number of people profited minus the number of people affected equals the util value. i.e the number of people left in a state of happiness" In Algaebric form:


This one is quantifiable in some measures; for example, in Nazi Germany, there are 90 million citizens. For the loss of liberty, less than 100 people profit, as the nation is not a person and cannot be measured as a person; 90 million people are effected. So henceforth, the loss of liberty in Nazi Germany produces a negative util value of -90,000,000 (approx.) Let us apply the same equation for the gain of security, at least Nazi security, which includes the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, Political Dissidents and many more. For the extermination of these subhumans (accordinglty to Nazi doctrines) create a negative 6 million (number of Holocaust victims) util value, there is barely anyone who gains. The total loss of security in the Nazi form also comes with the loss of liberty; henceforth, we can conclude that 96 million people are effected from the loss of liberty and gain of total security in Nazi Germany. Then the util value for the gain of total security is -96,000,000.

Via quantifying this, we see two important factors develop; firstly, we can now see how much the total loss of liberty to security can cost us. Secondly, we can now see that the gain of liberty produces much more positive utils than the loss of it due to security. If utilitarianism is the measure of how a philosophical figure is greater than another, then clearly, liberty is greater than security.

3R3NRC: On the effectiveness of the NSA

Since the beginning of the NSA, it has been involved in "cyber" warfare. Firstly, however, we should premise that the NSA is not a violation of liberty in our sense, but rather a violation of privacy. Nevertheless, the NSA has been involved in digital data mining for many many years now, but since the exposition of the PRISM program by Edward Snowden, many of the NSA's secrets are out.

However, one would want to know NSA's sources, and what data it in reality mines; the PRISM program mines data namely from Google and Yahoo, with the intent of stopping drugs from crossing the border. They mine data in forms of voice, email, special requests, Facebook posts, and secret social networking details. However, there has been an increase of drug murders, considerably, in Mexico and drug-related violence is also increasing in the United States. [1][2]

Apart from this, data mined by the NSA is also, allegedly, used in the suppression of terrorism. However, a study shown states that only 4 cases, out of 221 cases of terrorism in the US within the 30 years, used data from the NSA. The FBI and the CIA has its own apparatus of gaining data; again, we come back to the dillema. Should the NSA mine data from it's own citizens, as well as others, when clearly NSA's data mining program is quite ineffectual? A logical answer is no, as the NSA's data mining program is clearly inefficient enough to ensure that the US people can achieve security, whilst the NSA's practices undermine US liberty.

In conclusion, liberty is more important than security because if we lived upon the needs of total security, we would live an animalistic, brutish, robotic, and undesirable life. Security, in the case of NSA, is also undesirable, because as well as violating the rights of it's own people, is more or less ineffectual.

Vote meh

Sources used in last round

Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by macaztec 7 years ago
How is it missing the point?
Posted by Sfaulkner 7 years ago
I would say it depends on what rights are being violated. Taking away someone's property and putting them in a camp because they might possibly be a bad guy is wrong; simple privacy is a little different but still violates someone's rights.
Posted by linate 7 years ago
i would not answer yes to that as it seems to miss the point of the debate as i'm describing it
Posted by Sfaulkner 7 years ago
If you answer yes than I will accept the debate.
Posted by Sfaulkner 7 years ago
So the imprisonment of the Japanese in the 1940's was justified?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct for the forfeit. As to arguments, I don't think Pro was able to create a compelling case--I don't even think Pro was able to create a coherent case, really. Was Pro saying that *some* liberty has to be sacrificed for security? That seems self-evidently true, and the question is always where the line is to be drawn. Con showed that we should prefer liberty in general, and minimal at most intrusion, lest we wind up in "brutish" "robotic" lives. Arguments to Con. As always, happy to clarify this RFD.

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