Security is generally recognized as a good. But is all security equal in this regard? In this article from Philosophy Now (UK), professor of philosophy Seán Moran raises concerns about the growth of private security forces:
"Security workers of all stripes are a common sight on the streets in this region of the world [Karachi]. Neighbouring India has over seven million private security guards. In industrialised countries, private security personnel are also becoming more numerous than ‘proper’ policemen and women. For instance, in Britain there are now more than twice as many private security operatives as there are police officers (Benjamin Koeppen, PhD thesis, 2019). Similarly, in the United States there are over a million private security guards, comfortably outnumbering the police. Security, in its broad sense, is a public good. According to philosophers in the tradition of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the first duty of a nation state is to protect its citizens from harm, providing defence forces and police services to tackle external and internal threats. ... But private security does not generally conduce to the public good. A shop’s security is there first and foremost to protect the stock, staff and premises, rather than to safeguard the general public. ... In spite of this, the sector is growing. Private security guards patrol buildings, city streets and shopping malls (which themselves have an ambiguous public-yet-private status). They operate prisons and refugee centres, and even undertake secret operations in conflict zones. ... This is not a welcome development. Philip Zimbardo’s ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ of 1971 showed that even decent, intelligent people can become sadists when put in uniform and granted power over others. If security guards are given weapons and a sense of authority, some of them will behave badly. ...
"One fascinating philosophical analysis of security involves the notions of ‘immunity’ and ‘autoimmunity’. Paradoxically, when there is too much emphasis on achieving immunity from threats to the self, the defences activated can damage the thing they are supposed to protect. Here the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) uses the metaphor of autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks the host organism’s own tissues. Another French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), points out that the nastiest pathogens emerge in the most sterile places: the highly resistant hospital superbug Clostridium difficile, for instance. Analogously, the presence of large numbers of armed security guards (especially together with gun-toting private citizens) raises the chances of injury to the very people who are trying so hard to achieve immunity from attack."
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