Liberty and Security: A Critique of the Balance Model | Humanities & Social Sciences

Liberty and Security: A Critique of the Balance Model

Tuesday Seminar
Manohar Kumar
Date and Time: 
Tue, 19/04/2016 - 12:00am
02:57 PM to 04:27 PM
HSS Committee Room (MS 610)
Abstract A common way of understanding the relationship between liberty and security, since 9/11, is through an image of balance. The metaphor of balance not only populates the political and social imagination but has also been widely accepted within the legal and philosophical debates. Recent anti-terror policies and legislation also assume a similar relationship of balance in their conception. A way of achieving balance is through deference to the judgement of the executive in matters of national security. Yet, it is interesting to note that the contemporary debate on liberty and security veers away from the classical conception of the relationship between these terms. This paper critically analyses this predominant conception of balance. In order to do so the paper has been divided into two sections. The first section presents the argument from balance and an interpretation of the balance model in the form of a tradeoff between liberty and security. It then demonstrates how the prevalent conception departs from the classical conception of the same relationship. In the second section I critically analyse the limitations of a balance kind of reasoning. I argue that the metaphor of balance is flawed and should be discarded. The argument for this claim is as follows: (i) any conception of balance assumes a form of quantification which is difficult to assign for goods such as liberty and security; (ii) any balance kind of reasoning opens up questions of distributive justice with regards to the distribution of liberty and security; (iii) the balance model is not really a balance after all as it ends up privileging security over liberty; (iv) balance kind of reasoning threatens dissent; (v) deference to the judgement of executive opens up the possibility of arbitrary use of power that threatens civil liberties; (vi) deference opens up space for unrestrained secrecy practices without the concomitant accountability structures to check abuses in power; (vii) deference arguments call for unqualified trust in the executive which has no epistemic basis. Bio Manohar Kumar is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi. His research interests include Liberty and Security, Whistleblowing, Civil Disobedience, and Epistemic Injustice.