October 01, 2016
Sir, Simon Kuper writes: “Every society tries to make the trade-off between security and freedom… According to Google, mentions of “freedom” exceeded mentions of “security” in English-language books every year from about 1830 through to 1985. In 1985, mentions of “security” surpassed “freedom” in books… We entered an era of compulsory seatbelts, bans on public smoking and laws against drink-driving.” “Safety first: the new parenting” October 1.
To which I would add that we also entered into the era of the risk weighted capital requirements for banks (1988 Basel I); with which regulators cared more about the short term safety of banks than about the long term safety of economy.
So when Kuper writes: “Every society tries to make the trade-off between security and freedom”, I would hold that de facto more often that represents a trade-off between short and long term security. That is because unfortunately, c'est la vie, security weakens and freedom strengthens. Simon Kuper, having cycled alone to school at age of eight, and comparing that to his daughter’s (perhaps even supervised) walk of one block to the bakery, knows what I mean.
And one major security issue is that security measures are not all equally applied. Out there, in the real world, there are still “savages” living in strengthening freedom, while we subject our young to suffer debilitating security. What that is going to mean to their future no one really knows… but while our kids are more comfortable [and “safer”] in their rooms socializing on computers, the “abandoned” are perhaps getting stronger and making the streets ever more insecure.
Don’t we wish we had the strength to allow our kids to be more savages? That strength can only come out of fully understanding and accepting the implications… we must allow them to take more risks. But it is so hard to gain acceptance for the concept that there’s nothing as risky as excessive risk aversion… especially when so many nannies are in charge.
Here we are, soon 10 years after a crisis that should have laid bare the stupidity of bank regulations that only lead to dangerous overpopulation of some safe havens (AAA rated securities and Greece) and equally dangerous under-exploration of risky bays (SMEs and entrepreneurs)… and the issue of the distortions it produces in the allocation of bank credit is not even discussed.
Sir, I do fret we, as a society, are slowly drowning ourselves in oceans of imagined security. Even our war capabilities are security driven… more safe drones - less risky feet on the ground. That’s great now… but what about tomorrow?
If our sons are not allowed to lose themselves, how on earth will they learn how to find themselves?
PS. I just refer to “sons” as I had only daughters, and both my grandchildren are girls, and you know it is not easy to live as you preach.