Essay: The Inevitable Limits of Security

As soon as there is life," says Ralph Waldo Emerson, "there is danger." Likewise, as soon as there is danger, there is the urge to ward it off. This most fundamental of human impulses is not really remarkable, except when it turns into a compulsive wish for absolute safety. The question is whether the widespread preoccupation with security is on the verge of leaving reasonableness behind.

Today's popular feelings of insecurity often resemble an obsession. "As a result of our fear," says one major study of American attitudes toward crime, "we may soon be...

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