Science fiction author Larry Niven's fourth law:

F × S = k. The product of Freedom and Security is a constant. To gain more freedom of thought and/or action, you must give up some security, and vice versa.


This was published in the Niven anthology N-Space in 1989, along with numerous other Niven's Laws. It has since been revised in November 2002 and the revised version published in the November 2002 edition ofAnalog:

4) Giving up freedom for security has begun to look naive.

Even to me. Many of you were ahead of me on this—Three out of four hijacked airplanes destroyed the World Trade Center and a piece of the Pentagon in 2001. How is it possible that those planes were taken using only five perps armed with knives? It was possible because all those hundreds of passengers had been carefully stripped of every possible weapon. We may want to reconsider this approach. It doesn't work in high schools either.
Perhaps the 9/11 terrorist attack would have been prevented if there were armed policemen on the airliners, perhaps not. In Columbine, the "peace officers" did not even carry sidearms. Could they have stopped the shootings? While it is certainly easy to second-guess the past, Niven presents a good point in that security obtained by giving up one's freedoms is at best temporary and at worst non-existent. The USA PATRIOT Act is a good example. By giving up such fundamental freedoms as privacy and free speech, the government claims that this will help fight terrorism by restricting the freedom of terrorists. But then, this causes more harm than good. Gun control is another example of a situation in which giving up one's freedoms can seem to give everybody increased safety, when it really does just the opposite. By taking firearms away from the law-abiding citizens, the government takes away their only real defense against criminals who buy guns illegally. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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