Richard Posner’s “Not a Suicide Pact” Brief Summary

Richard Posner discusses through “Not a Suicide Pact” how the Constitution is an ever changing document, which constantly must be interpreted differently in order to find a new balance between how much civil liberties are given and how much rights must be taken away in order to ensure safety.

During times of war, or unstable situations in which the public safety is threatened, the government must responsibly decide how much they should decrease the civil liberties of the people in order to ensure safety without taking away too much rights from the people. Because the Constitution is such a flexible document, we can interpret it freely enough so that we can alter the document’s meaning for times of war or peace and thus treat each situation with more unique, workable solutions. Posner points out the need for flexibility in the Constitution on page 1 of his narrative, “Like any brittle thing, a Constitution that will not bend will break”.

Posner’s message throughout his entire book is that we must interpret the Constitution loosely in order for our country to survive through any situation.
The threat level that the United States government deals with effects the range of how far civil liberties from the Constitution should be allowed to vary; but, the specific amount at which they should vary is never concrete. In fact, the we are always trying to find a balance between these two points on the spectrum that best fits each new given situation When values such as personal liberty and privacy come into conflict with those of equal importance, like public safety, which have suddenly become magnified by the onset of a national emergency, then it is more important to sacrifice some of our personal liberty and privacy in exchange for the safety of the public during a time of crisis. When there is a time of crisis it is more important to protect the safety of the people than to get as much rights as usual and then have the lives of the people at greater risk.

I personally agree with Posner’s ideas on the balance between freedom and security, and I think that the sacrifice of rights to an extent is a good solution, as long as civil liberties never disintegrate. According to Posner, civil liberties in order to protect the people from a tyrant or oppression, and states that they are for making sure that there is no situation where “such actions get out of hand, creating a climate of fear, oppressing the innocent, stifling independent thought, and endangering democracy.” Protection from terrorisms is essential, and I am very thankful for many of the steps that the government has taken to give us security, and the price of a little less privacy is alright with me if it saves countless lives and keeps our nation safer.