Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I can't believe I'm endorsing anything that Jedediah Purdy has to say, but he's profoundly right on the issue of balancing liberty and security. Money:
The Bush-era conceit that we accept no level of terrorist threat is, as philosopher John Searle once said about Jacques Derrida's work, the kind of bullshit that gives bullshit a bad name.... It may be rational in one way to lump terrorism in with traffic accidents and trans-fats as just another way for Americans to lose quality-adjusted life years; but that public-health take on terrorism is superficially smart, profoundly obtuse. Terrorism strikes at a government's capacity to protect its people from organized violence. That protection is one of the most basic reasons to have government at all. Terrorism is a glimpse of Hobbes's State of Nature, the antithesis of political society, in a way that the worst traffic accident or artery-clogging restaurant chain can never be. But to say that it's never "acceptable" doesn't mean either (1) that we can always prevent it or (2) that we should sacrifice other core values in trying. The fact that we can't perfectly prevent it is tragic, literally - the product of a clash of irreconcilable values, and of flaws in the formation of the world - but imagining that because it's evil, we can stop it altogether, is the kind of magical thinking that gives magical thinking a bad name.

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