Can National Security and Individual Freeoms be Reconciled?

In our blogging thus far for our class on the international political economy, we have covered topics from the NSA to the rights of indigenous peoples to try and answer the question “can national security and individual freedoms be reconciled?” While the question is one that needs constant explanation and revision, we have sought to cover different angles of analysis including economic liberalism, protectionism/mercantilism, and structuralism. While these three perspectives observe the international political economy, they are applicable to our issue because we looked at how national security on a global level affects citizens of many countries, and national security and individual freedoms are interlinked with economics.

When it comes to the line between national security and individual freedom, one has to think of the Social Contract. In order for it to be successful and benefit the whole, each individual has to give up some ‘rights’ or benefits to be a part of the system. Like privacy; we give up our some of our rights for privacy in order to secure the safety of the whole population (like when you get patted down by the TSA). It’s not an attack on the individual, but a collective bargain between us and the government to allow the way our society functions to continue. The line between what is just to ask and take, and what we have to hold onto for our rights is the constant struggle. In our society, it’s a given that some rights will be infringed upon but we have to decide when it’s for the benefit of the whole and when it’s not.  How far is too far, and when is too much? This is a question we have to continually ask ourselves and confront whenever we feel like there is injustice going on. In order for progress to continue, we cannot let questions like this go answered. Boundaries between government intervention and personal freedoms is one that has to continually be re-evaluated and re-adjusted according to general consensus.

Unfortunately, national security cannot always be reconciled with individual freedoms. The actions of the NSA are proof of that, as they monitor emails and calls of the public without their knowledge for the sake of “national security”. There will always be the question of how far is too far when it comes to trying to keep the nation safe. Is spying on their own people acceptable? Is censoring the news? The government has decided before to censor the news in order to not panic the masses, but is that fair? The public has a right to know what’s going on, not just what the government deems okay for us to know, but that doesn’t happen because the government has decided to put the perceived risk that a panicked public is to the security of the nation before that right. There needs to be a limit to what the government can and cannot do. National security is important, but if the individual isn’t free, then its no longer a nation as much as a prison.

The topic of national security can be either reconciled or debated, but both sides yield the following idea: We, as a nation, must work in both a small-scale and large-scale effort in order to match our individual interests with national interests.

The gap of separation between national interests and individual interests must be closed. In order to fill this gap, we can support the idea of people using their individual freedoms to enhance national security. For example, volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps, military members, activists, journalists, and citizens alike must all submit themselves and their individual interests in order to serve a national interest, in doing this, the interests of the state and individual ultimately become one. In our text Introduction to International Political Economy, by David N. Balaam and Bradford Dillman, the authors write that they “realize that solutions requiring shared sacrifice” are difficult, but we must move past this and see that both sides sacrifice in order for the well-being of all involved (233). We all must contribute our freedoms for national security, and in that way they are reconciled.

From an economic liberalist standpoint, the government should get out of the way and let individual freedoms shape the world because (ideally) everyone acts with their own best interest in mind and they are aware of their affect on others. In reality, acting with one’s best interest is often at the expense of another (as seen with the indigenous peoples as victims of resource extraction). However, if the government did allow for enough independent function of the  market, maybe developing countries would have more of a chance in the international market (as seen in our fifth post on LDC’s). From a mercantilist or protectionist perspective, the government has to take the measures necessary to ensure that it’s public is healthy (from our second post on healthcare), safe, and faithful in the current system (from our first and fourth posts on the NSA and censorship, respectively). But, in the same blog post where we talked about the NSA, we also described how national surveillance can be a threat to personal privacy and in our post about censorship, we said that it takes away our individual freedom of awareness. From a structuralist perspective, the government is strong and and the wealthy are rich because they keep the “little people” in the dark through false consciousness and dependency theory. Our third post talks the most about this. Overall, our blog journey has lead us to consider opposing views and various perspectives, but the answer to our deserving question is this: reconciliation involves cooperation from both parties involved. There are no clear answers or solutions that could equally appease national security or individual freedoms; our best bet is somewhere in between, but we have to continually search for that happy medium

Bourgeoisie vs. Indigenous Peoples

It is an old story of humanity: Pocahontas, Avatar, and countless other western movies depict the cultural conflicts between the indigenous cultures and the society who thinks they are entitled to the land that is not being “used.” In the “white-man’s” definition of civilization, the land is used as a resource to be used in commerce to the full extent, but for native people, the land is to live on and respectfully subsist from. How can our modern society built of national governments grown from imperialism interact with indigenous cultures who have been harmoniously living with nature? For native cultures the land cannot belong to anyone, but in government, land is strictly bought, sold, and controlled by those who have the “right” to do so based on structuralist ideas of bourgeois entitlement. While indigenous people do not fall under the category of proletariat because they do not work for the bourgeoisie, they fall outside the structuralist system of workers being exploited by capital owners. However, they are subject to even more exploitation because of their lack of participation in the system. They cannot rise up in “revolution” against the bourgeoisie because they have no place within the system to levy any power it would have given them. In class we watched a recent documentary called Crude released in 2009. It tells the story of a lawsuit initiated by the indigenous people affected by the pollution and contamination caused by Chevron in Ecuador. In our textbook, Introduction to International Political Economy, 6th Ed. by Balaam and Dillman, page 494 talks about the injustices of the Nigerian gas industries and even how the government tried and hanged the indigenous peoples’ activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1997.”Critics charge that the government has displaced locals to construct housing projects for the well-off…Many structuralists blame the state for delayed or nonexistent efforts to improve Nigeria’s water supply, roads, and telecommunications systems.” (Balaam and Dillman, page 494). Oil is a big way the rich can get richer and the poor get poorer heightening the division of class in society. Every person deserves access to the same rights and resources as everyone else despite their status in a capitalist society. Something has to be done with the way we treat people who do not have the same economically driven survival strategy.

MNCs and LDCs

Multinational corporations in the United States  and other developed countries have a history of entering and taking advantage of less developed countries over and over again, in turn polluting their environment as well as their culture. In 2010, Jakarta Post published an article titled “How MNCs Threaten Our Environment” which summarizes the impact of globalization and MNCs on less developed countries. Author Kumba Digdowiseiso states that MNCs seek to operate in less developed countries because “they offer lax environmental standards” and gives the example of Asia Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd., or APP, a company that has entered Riau, a province of Indonesia, and taken advantage of their land and lenient environmental laws. Digdowiseiso goes on to write that “natural forests in the province have been cleared for pulp and mills production” thus “elephant and tiger habitats [are] being destroyed, and the land is left barren” and ruined. In polluting and destroying their land, they are affecting the health of the people who live near the sites of logging and also where they store their waste. This is clear evidence of exploitation of the bourgeois class as it destroys the only technologies and resources available to people without all the accumulated wealth. The indigenous peoples rely on the health of the natural environment much more directly than the rich people of corporations and more developed societies, so when a corporation neglects environmental health, the people living off the land are directly hurt.

Eyes on the Forest (EoF) is a website created by an environmental organization in order to investigate happenings in Riau related to APP logging and deforestation. They have profiled the destruction and looked into climate change in the area. According to EoF, residents have experiences floods, fires, as well as displaced and dangerous animals entering their villages. Over time it has been made clear that MNCs have taken advantage of  less developed countries for their own benefit, but how can we end and prevent this exploitation?

“Kill or be Killed”

        Time and time again history of mankind has proven the idea of ‘kill or be killed’. The Conquistadors conquered the Aztecs, Native Americans were demolished by White men, through disease and violence. But in more recent centuries, it has been technology that has determined the winners and the losers. Starting with the industrial revolution, the nations with the more technology and innovation have set the precedence for the world. It continues in this day and age, too. As seen in the film Crude, American companies have now the power to come in and drill oil in lesser developed countries with little consequences. Why? Because we have the power and the wealth, and Ecuador is in need of those. If they had the means and ability to, Ecuador would probably be drilling their own oil and becoming much more economically successful, and without the harmful effects, like cancer and death, on their indigenous people to boot. Our capitalist perspective on the world continues the cycle which only benefits us, and Ecuadorian oil effects are a small sliver of the consequences. Without making these large companies (especially energy and natural resource companies), hugely responsible for their actions, we only perpetuate the same endless harm to everyone else that isn’t a part of these rich companies. Who benefits? Only a few, and leaves the rest of us to suffer.

Power and Exploitation

Exploitation of indigenous groups is something that has been going on for a long, long time. The cycle of exploitation by the wealthy and powerful has continued throughout history. When the European settlers started to colonize Africa, they did it without any regard for the native tribes already there. They set boundaries that broke up tribes that had been together for centuries and had no interest in cooperating with the indigenous people to make sure that they could continue their way of life. The same thing happened when America was settled. The Native Americans were forced off their lands that they had been living on for decades. Simply because these settlers felt like they were more superior than the natives seemed to give them the right to take away their land and force them to move. Because these people did not have the technology nor the same way of life, they were looked upon as uncivilized savages and were not given the same rights as a human deserves. And these people had no way of fighting back. The governments encouraged this taking over the land, and the indigenous people had no chance. But they deserve to be treated as humans as well. Not having the same technology or the same amount of wealth as the upper classes does not mean that they should be subjected to sub-human treatment. Everyone should be given the same rights, no matter how little power they wield in society. One could say that “every man for himself” is a very capitalist idea because everyone has to work hard to keep their status in a society run by wealth and competition. But we have to recognize that capital is good for the short term and only for a select few wealth people. In the long term, environment, culture, and future generations are much more valuable to a sustainable human population. Situations like the one we saw in Crude should never happen, but until we start treating everyone the same in the eyes of the law, no matter how wealthy or influential they are, things will never change.

The Cost of Economic Security

Economic growth and stability are huge parts of national security. In order for a nation to give its constituents their due security, the nation has to be able to afford weapons, technology, infrastructure, etc. One way a nation can get the money is through encouraging foreign direct investments. When it comes to inviting in MNCs to drill and exploit natural resources at the expense of the indigenous cultures and environment, national security is not reconciling with individual freedoms. To benefit the whole nation, the indigenous people are forced to give up their cultures, their livelihood and their dignity. But they never signed up for that! Nor do they have the power to put an end to it. The structured society where the exploited stay exploited and the rich just get richer is a disgusting one. The human freedoms of individual people, no matter who they are, need to be recognized and respected when national security is being addressed. National security has to protect the people living in its territory, not exploit them and cause them such cultural damage. In order for national security to be fully functioning, economic security must not come at the expense those its primary function it is to serve.

National Security Protected by Freedom: In Trade

National security depends on the nation’s ability to compete in a global market. Individual freedoms of consumers and manufacturers play a huge role in determining how competitive the country is. If individuals are forced to buy certain products (due to lack of choice) then there is not a free market and the competition of products is compromised–tipping the scales of power internationally. In western developed countries, we see that free trade is championed, but it is not truly practiced. Pure free trade means that the market is not hindered or tampered with by government or organizations that would have the power to do so, but many developed countries exercise protectionist practices to keep their nations healthy; but this is only because they can afford to do so. Free trade means giving the power to the consumer (not the government), who is able to act rationally and choose what to buy based on his or her values and budget. This creates a market that is most efficient and caters most to people’s needs and wants, creating a more satisfied community with a comfortable standard of living. Developing countries are advised to practice free trade because of its capability to lift a country out of poverty, but developed countries are not allowing a free market to do its job

GHANA 

In class we watched The Trade Trap-Ghana. One issue discussed was that imported maize was cheaper than domestically grown maize. This caused domestic poultry farms to buy the imported maize so that they could compete with the cheaper imported chickens! Production prices of the domestic maize and poultry were high because of lack of technology and infrastructure in Ghana. Another issue was that of bananas and pineapples. On one hand, the bananas did not meet standard length and weight requirements, while on the other hand pineapples had too much chemical residue as set by the European Union. These standards are technical barriers that cause free trade to crumble. Let the consumer decide what they are buying by giving them all the product’s information and the choice to buy or not to buy. If they want to support the Ghanaian farmers so that they can develop into a healthier country, let them! In the video report, James Wolfenson, the World Bank president, called developed countries “hypocritical” because they spend subsidies on their own agriculture while telling developing countries to enter the market…how can they do that when they cannot compete, which is the very essence of the free market? The mercantilist policies of European Union members to subsidize their own crops is out-balanced with their contribution to developmental aid to Ghana and other countries. This clearly eliminates free trade principles and keeps the international playing field in a structuralist system with developed nations as the wealthy getting wealthier and the developing nations as the poor who cannot dig themselves out.

ALGERIA

In recent years, oil and gas have been highly valuable commodities. According to our text, Introduction to International Political Economy by David N. Balaam and Bradford Dillman, the authors recognize Algeria to be one of the globe’s “middle-to low-income oil exporters” and also consider Algeria a developing country (p. 352).

          According to Reuters, Algerian “energy wealth means state finances are not under heavy pressure. This makes Algeria potentially very attractive to a wide range of foreign companies, if barriers to doing business can be removed.”  These trade barriers must be avoided through the use of free trade, a policy strongly supported by economic liberals (Algeria currently is working toward more of an economic liberal approach to trade). In implementing free trade and relationships with other free trade states, the governments would not interfere or place regulations and standards on oil services and companies, which in turn, should help Algerian oil exporting businesses, thus it would help Algeria establish and maintain a higher gross domestic product.

Authors Balaam and Dillman cite international trade as an “engine to growth” and also believe that “becoming integrated into the global market economy” through trade would prove to be beneficial to developing countries and countries struggling economically (p. 275).  When countries can trade with less barriers and restrictions, their freedom to trade is expanded and their national economic security is enhanced.

NICARAGUA

Nicaragua’s economic freedom score is 56.6, making its economy the 110th freest in the 2013 Index. However, its score is 1.3 points worse than last year, with declines in the control of government spending and labor freedom outweighing improvements in investment and fiscal freedom. Weakened infrastructure means that Nicaragua is plagued by a lack of property protection rights that stops any private sector from really emerging in the economy. Anti-free market policies continue, bolstered by economic and political populism that drives income redistribution and class warfare that are used to justify the large presence of the state in the economy, under the illegal presidency of Ortega. The inefficient regulatory structure hinders expansion and diversification of the products. The lack of access to long-term financing precludes dynamic growth in the market, and the investment  lacks transparency that makes it difficult to regulate where the money goes, or that it even reaches the populations its trying to help. Nicaragua currently supports eight Free Trade Zones throughout the country and the majority of the factories within these zones are American or Taiwanese owned. Although these factories do employ thousands of workers who would otherwise be unemployed with no means to support their families, the wages are so low that this system simply perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Without giving them access to the global market, and ending our own autocratic tendencies at the expense of these developing nations, how can we expect any actual development to occur?

CAMBODIA

Cambodia is a country with a rough past, including civil conflict and little economic growth. It is growing now, though, but there are still issues to be fixed. One would be the issue of land ownership. Because of Khmer Rouge years, the Maoist movement that ran from 1975 to 1979, the land records in Cambodia were destroyed. Land ownership is now very ambiguous, and it is hard to prove that someone owns the land they are living on. Because of this, big companies such as Phnom Penh Sugar, a sugar company, has been able to have land afforded to them by the government and pushed the farmers that lived there already off their lands. This makes it difficult for the country’s small farmers to grow. To add to that, nearly all of Cambodia’s sugar goes to the EU, who have set the minimum price for imported sugar well above the rest of the world’s prices. This makes it even harder for the smaller companies to grow enough sugar for the world market. If the minimum price is high, that means that unless there is enough demand, it is less likely to be bought. Participating in free trade would free the smaller companies from this demand and help them grow, which in turn would help the country and fix the land issue, as the government is less likely take control over a large company’s land than a small farmer’s.

CONCLUSION

64223_574189292630866_2087745727_nIn our text, on page 274, there is a table for different strategies of development, and economic liberalism is featured. Notice that it is the only one that includes a suggestion of democracy. This is because economic liberalism puts the power in the hands of the consumer to decide what is best and encourage that sort of industry and service into the global market. The individual freedoms of democracy and free trade can help LDC’s (less-developed countries) develop into the country they can be. National security depends on its country’s constituents to drive its economy and this is only possible through free trade. In relation to developing countries, this means that the global powers of the world must not engage in mercantilist policies that block access to free trade for developing nations, as seen in our examples. Free trade is the best way for a country to transition from an LDC into a developed country.

Censorship as a form of national security

Introduction

   As citizens, we know the government does many things in order to “protect” us and in recent news, their methods of protection have been revealed. But the government isn’t the only one shielding information from the public. Both citizens and the government use information as a tool, but how can we decide what to use this information for? In our textbook, authors David N. Balaam and Bradford Dillman make the argument that information can “both empower and disempower: in the hands of citizens it can become the fuel for political revolution, but in the hands of governments it can be used to surveil and police society” (240). The mediator between the average citizen and the government–the media–is also guilty of withholding significant information from the masses, as well. Because news channels dictate what information their shows give, it can lead to biased updates rather than factual, non-opinionated updates. Censorship has become an issue as of recently and although the government uses it as a tool to protect, it can be somewhat unethical. Although it can interfere with our rights, some censorship is necessary to protect the masses.

     

 

“It was for the best…”

        In the movie Too Big To Fail, we see the many important players and systems occurring in the 2008 financial crisis and the Lehman Brothers Collapse. But what was most informative to me was the role of the media within the movie. There was no brave journalist ready to defend his right to the truth by uncovering some big bad secret, but instead, it seemed the media was a tool in the hands of the major players, like Paul Paulson, the then Secretary of Treasury.  “What do we tell the media?”, was a common line, or at least idea, during the film. And the answer was never the truth, or anything like it. On principle alone, this would seem to be abhorrent, the government hiding secrets from us and taking away our right to know the truth. However, had we known what was occurring, we naturally would have pulled our money from these banks, to better protect it in our own hands, and sent the whole entire system into collapse and cause catastrophic results for the entire globe. By skewing our perception of the situation, our government was trying to protect us in the long run. Does that make it right? For the sake of financial security for National Security, how much is too much or too far?

 

The Bias in Your Morning News

   News reports are very interesting things. They are meant to inform people of what is going on in the world today, whether it be another report on the biggest trend on Twitter or the government shutdown. The media is a very influential thing for most Americans. What we watch shapes how we view events going on in the world today. However, the media does not give out unbiased reports. New stations today are known to be biased towards certain viewpoints, which means the new report their viewers get isn’t just simply a reading of the facts. It’s turned into a very opinionated reading of either only the facts that fit their view or a reading of the facts that has been twisted to fit their view. This is not fair to the general populous, as we as citizens have a right to know the unbiased report of what is going on in our country. However, one cannot force the media to say what they want, as everyone also has a right to freedom of speech. So where’s the middle ground? How can the everyday American receive an unbiased news report while not infringing on the media’s right to free speech?

 

The Individual vs. The Media

    Journalists have a “code of ethics” which says that they should always deliver “fair, and comprehensive” reporting. In this code, “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” This is because the public body needs to know as much as they can about what concerns themselves and their country in order to make educated decisions for themselves and their country. But, it is often difficult to separate yourself from your biases. We all have biases because we all have histories, backgrounds, experiences, and heritages forming our opinions. Those opinions shape how we view and present information. Two major news networks are publically known to have political leanings: MSNBC and Fox News. MSNBC typically leans in the liberal direction and Fox in the conservative. Simply by looking on their respective websites we can see this! On MSNBC the top stories on the right on October 18th were “NJ embraces gay marriage,” “Tea Partier on pols: ‘They’re all whores,’” and “Obamacare: The ultimate survivor.” Likewise on the Fox news website on the same day: “Small Businesses Sound Off on ObamaCare Definition of “Full Time,” “Concerns mount over rapid expansion of food stamp program,” and “Heating Prices on the Rise: How to Save Cash this Season.” While these stories may cater to a specific audience, stories like the government shutdown earlier this month are, of course, covered by both, but with varying angles. While it is important for the United States of America to have correct and unbiased news, I’m not sure it is possible to have exactly that. In fact, it might even be better for the population to be able to choose from which networks it receives its information and understand the biases each network has.

    On the other hand, those networks can use those assumptions to give people the wrong impressions of the real story. Jon Stewart is a political satirist who likes to compare the news networks and likes to point out “absurdy.” In this interview, Chris Wallace asks Jon Stewart if he thinks his show is biased. Stewart interestingly says that he thinks his show just points out the hilarity of it all, but not to push any agenda. Both show hosts exercise their right of freedom of speech because they express what they think the public should know. Stewart responds to an accusation of Diane Sawyer giving biased information by saying that it is  “sensationalist and somewhat lazy and I don’t understand how that’s partisan.” Maybe not giving all the information is not necessarily rhetorical, but accidentally misinformative. However, if the news is going to inform its audience, it should do so to the fullest extent, and both Wallace and Stewart agree on this. But it is funny how they agree on that point but not how they each deliver that point. In this picture, the censorship of the photo definitely highlights what the networks want their audience to know.

That lack of full story changes the entire story for the people. Sensationalism is also a huge way the media decides how to frame a story. The saying, “if it bleeds it leads” really describes how the media cater to people’s fascination with extreme situations. I think to be a conscious society member we have to mediate our biases and be open to hearing different points of view as that is the only way our political tendencies can be addressed and neutralized.


    Through our research, many questions have been raised regarding what’s ethical and what crosses a line with censorship. From the idea that the government censors media for the benefit of the whole, to the other side where we, as individuals, don’t have access to unbiased media. We have a right to free speech and the media outlets have a right to free press, but can they coexist in anything other than a utopian society? In our imperfect world, the only thing we can do is understand and be aware of who and what is putting on the face of the news we are consuming.

Money, Money, Money: It’s a Rich Man’s World

Great-Wallet-of-ChinaNATIONAL DEBT AND INDIVIDUAL SECURITY

The big issue in the news as of now is whether or not the US will raise the debt celling or default on its debts. However, when I say the US, I mean all the people in Congress and the government. The citizens of the US, who this will probably affect the most, really have no say in what is decided. For as much as the US is touted as a place where everyone has a say in the government, that’s not exactly true. The average person has no say in what Congress decides to do over the debt crisis, or even over how long this shutdown will last. And if Congress can’t make up it’s mind by this Thursday, the Treasury has reported that it will run out of money to pay the bills. Which could cause the stock market to drop, restart the recession, and cause rates on loans to rise higher, among other things. All of which infringe on the individual’s freedom to be able to use their money how they like. The security of the market will be shot, all over something that citizens have no say in.

National debt has proven to be not only a headliner in the news, but has also become a matter of national security. Since the end of World War II, the United States has been serving as the hegemon. In our text, Introduction to International Political Economy, hegemonic stability theory states that “international markets work best when a hegemon (a single dominant state) accepts the costs associated with keeping them open for the benefit of both itself and its allies by providing them with certain international public goods at its own expense” (38). Although our country has been considered the hegemon for so long, that status has recently been threatened. Due to our extreme debt to China, they have more economic power over the US and may replace us as the hegemon. This poses a threat to our national security because it ultimately places China in control of our debt

FAITH AND INVESTMENT

Moody’s Investors Services, more commonly known as Moody’s, provides international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities and, with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, is considered one of the Big Three credit rating agencies. For the first time in its history, in 2011 the US was downgraded from a triple A rating, shocking and outraging the American government. It seems unreasonable that the hegemonic power of the globe could face any consequences from an outsider rating. And yet, these “opinion” based ratings, could mean serious damage to our economic security. In October 1995, the school district of Jefferson County, Colorado sued Moody’s, claiming the unsolicited assignment of a “negative outlook” to a 1993 bond issue was based on Jefferson County having selected S&P and Fitch to do its rating. Moody’s rating raised the issuing cost to Jefferson County by $769,000. Moody’s argued that its assessment was “opinion” and therefore constitutionally protected; the court agreed, and the decision was upheld on appeal. But without a good opinion from these agencies, even America could lose its good reputation, and face enormous damages in trade relations as investors pull out and countries find other nations to trade with.

Too Big to Fail is a book published in 2009 (later made into a movie in 2011) on the Wall Street financial crisis of 2008 starting with the collapse of Lehman Brothers (global financial services firm). In short the story highlights the problems and decisions the government and major finance corporations faced when the economy-as-we-know-it nearly collapsed. The causes of the crisis are too complicated to isolate, but they include Wall Street speculation, mortgage and short-term credit loaning, and financial shock and panic. Because our financial system in the United States depends so much on “trust,” if the general public withdraws their money in a hurry, the banks cannot function as they do and the system collapses. In Introduction to IPE, 6th Ed. by Ballam & Gillman, the Structuralist Perspective chapter says, “Once the working class believes that the system is legitimate, it will believe that it is appropriate and just.” This is what the whole economic system is based on: blind compliance and faith of the masses.

It is very easy to see this situation through the eyes of a Marxist. The richest and smallest portion of society (the bourgeoisie) controls the national security by keeping the proletariat in obedience. If the economy were to fail, the greater part of the population cannot get the food and resources they need to survive causing a revolution to overthrow that class and reinstate a more equal system of distribution. As it happened, the government interceded as much as it thought necessary (to honor economic liberalist ideals of limited government intervention, but still implement mercantilist practices to maintain the strength of the nation) to preserve the status quo. The government of the United States is not separate from the companies that run the economy because when the companies go under, the government rescues them in order to sustain the unequal system of proletariat exploitation. Investment through stocks and bonds into the government further support this rich-man control over the government, because only people with money to spare can invest in big corporations and government pursuits. The solution to the crisis as displayed in Too Big to Fail, movie, was to merge the companies and make them bigger. It seems the only direction our system of investment and competitive gain can take is one of further growth and entrapment. What power do we as individuals have on a monster controlled by money?

How far should the government go to protect citizens?

In the US, it is not unheard of that ‘The Man’ or ‘Big Brother’ is spying on us; that they have tapped our phones and spy on our conversations. Some think this represses our rights as individuals. But is this an American mindset, or something prevalent across the globe? Recently, American spies were found in Brazil, shocking their president and angering her to the point of canceling her visit to the White House. This could be proof of America’s widespread paranoia, and the need to have a finger in everybody’s pot. But we aren’t the only ones.

Brazil’s Take on National Security

The Brazilian intelligence agency, known as the ABIN, planted a spy in an anti-government group in February 2013.  The Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre (Xingu Alive Forever Movement), an activist group from Altamira, Pará, is against the construction of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River in northern Brazil. The spy was uncovered and confessed under pressure. Many Brazilian groups have condemned this intelligence agency and its infringement upon the rights of citizens to meet and enact social change. The ABIN was the successor of an agency called the National Intelligence Service, known for its work in spying on popular labor groups during the time of military dictatorship in Brazil. Many fear that the ABIN hasn’t moved far enough away from these practices, and maybe even encourage totalitarian styles of spying and intelligence gathering.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff reacted intensely over hearing about the NSA’s spying on her country’s (and her personal) communications. The NSA’s “violation of human rights and civil liberties” is unacceptable to her. If she has the view that reading emails and intercepting phone calls is a violation of human rights, then we can certainly see how different nations perceive this idea of preserving national safety. Her claim that it disrespects national sovereignty makes it sound like the United States doesn’t trust its allies to properly defend themselves or address threats to the United States.

China’s Take

In China’s case, the government takes national security so far as to limit how many children a family can have. Overpopulation threatens the limited resources of a nation and puts greater pressure on the government to keep the existing population safe. Perhaps forcing abortions of 7 and 8 month developed fetuses and making families pay hefty fees for having more than one child is a bit extreme. In China individual rights are, obviously, seen as a lower priority to national security. What the Chinese people give up for national security is one of their most personal freedoms.

In Introduction to International Political Economy, 6th Edition, by Balaam and Dillman, “structuralists have been particularly vocal about four interrelated surveillance issues” (224). The issue behind this is the fact that the government might be acting without authority. The structuralist perspective has to do with the balance of power within a state, and with surveillance-style government, it seems like the authorities have too much power compared to individual freedoms. Jonathan Turley points out that there are many policies that violate the very American freedoms that we champion (224). Thus is the perspective presented in the textbook (page 224, chapter 9).

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NSA

The NSA does not just stick to American soil. The recent allegation that the Brazilian President made against the NSA is a prime example. The apparent “illegal act of intercepting communications and data of citizens, businesses and members of the Brazilian government” that the NSA performed can be seen in different views. President Rousseff is upset about it, made apparent in the article, and in fact wants an apology from Obama and the US. Not only was the move illegal, it also violates the privacy of the citizens of a different country. People will argue that there has to be boundaries as to what the NSA should be able to do. There are still debates over if they should be able to spy on their own citizens, much less other countries. One could argue that national security is just that, national. It should not extend past the boundaries of the nation.

That argument could also be flipped around. Because NSA is supposed to keep the nation secure, it needs to know what other nations are doing. From this viewpoint, Obama has nothing to apologize for. The NSA cannot guard the US without knowing who is plotting against it.

Conclusion

The question “can national security and freedom be reconciled?” is one that all countries face. This poses many problems and puts the United States government in a compromising position.

It is clear the question of national security and freedom can be argued either way. Some see this extreme surveillance as a matter of defense and as a proactive, precautionary measure, whereas others view it as a violation of privacy. When confronted about the issue, a spokesman from the White House stated that President Obama has called for a “broad review” of U.S. Intelligence activity, therefore a change will most likely be applied to the way the NSA gathers information. In the case of surveillance of another country’s people, the case of security and freedom is difficult to reconcile.

In defense of the National Security Agency, and according to their website, their goal is to “save lives, defend vital networks, and advance our Nation’s goals and alliances,” but have they gone too far? When do they cross the border from efficient and strong, into infringing and unfair? The idea of national security is present in every regime, whether democratic or tyrannical, but there is a wrong way and a right way to go about it. The only problem is: how can we tell which is which?