[By: Emiliano Landkroon]
During the last decade the world saw a steady rise of so-called Private Security – and Private Military Companies taking part in security matters. In conflict areas as well as in countries free of (official) conflict, security seems to be up for privatization. Security is not a commodity though. It is a basic human right and should therefore be available to everyone.
Security measures stand in a strange relationship towards the feeling of insecurity. Men with guns, even if they are there for our security, don’t necessarily give us a sense of security. Their absence does. Everyone fortunate enough to have visited countries like Israel, South Africa or Brasil knows that gated communities and heavily armed private security guards in front of a bank, do not necessarily make you feel safer. They more often make us feel uncomfortable.
Security can’t be bought, because security is rooted in mutual dependence. The rich might buy or hire private guards and guns, but these guards and guns inevitably threaten the security of others. Hence the security dilemma. Security is first of all a collective good and, together with taxing, inseparable from the state itself. It can only be guaranteed by a neutral state equipped with checks and balances to manage conflict in society as peacefully as possible.
The Navy should protect trade vessels against pirates, as it has been doing for centuries. Inner-city violence in large cities should be managed by unbiased police forces, to which appeal is possible irrespective of wealth or social status.
It is not a sensible idea to make security into a commodity which can be bought and sold by creating market mechanisms. It will foster its own demand which will keep growing. If my neighbor – whom I don’t trust – buys a gun, I will need to buy a vest and a bigger gun. Solving the dilemma is only possible by a third party, that both my neighbor and I can trust to arbiter neutrally.
Even if we go beyond the fact that it’s simply not safe to live in an armed environment, privatizing security will only work for those in a confined geographical space, for a short period of time. In the long run it will increase the insecurity, not only the ones not being able to hire guns, but also for the one hiring the guns. The root causes of violence need be addressed if we want to call it to a halt in the long run. Reacting to (criminal) violence with more guns, will trigger an arms race. Security can only be achieved collectively. The notion that security can be achieved privately is a dangerous one which will foster more insecurity and is a false notion in itself.