The myth of safety

I got some junk mail from The American Prospect. They seem very persistent in their attempts to get me to subscribe. This one had a question, intended to be thought-provoking, printed on the envelope:

How can we make America a safe place without sacrificing a few liberties?

I think this is a stupid question. You usually can’t make something “safe”; certainly nothing as complicated and full of people as America can ever be “safe”. The real question is what constitutes an acceptable level of risk. Yes, we can give up all our civil liberties—and for a while, that’ll maybe make us safer. Only for a short while, though.

I always used to feel that the UK was gradually lurching towards fascism because it had never really experienced a ruthless dictator. (Margaret Thatcher doesn’t quite count.) It suddenly occurs to me that the same might be true of the USA.