THE (PREDICTABLY) IRRATIONAL SACRIFICE OF FREEDOM FOR SECURITY – A BEHAVIORAL PERSPECTIVE

Liberal democracies are increasingly exposed to external and internal “threats”. The reaction tends to be to limit freedom in pursuit of security. Liberal democracies risk to sacrifice the very pillars that define them – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance – to purportedly safeguard themselves. How come? The paper argues that common biases, wrong probability calculations, and cognitive dissonances by the public as well as by governmental decision-makers are a key explanation for this paradox. To advance this argument, the paper centers around three questions: first, analyzing the biases prevalent in the discourse (such as stereotyping, selective perception, salience and availability bias, endowment effect and loss aversion, framing). Second, exploring how political leaders take advantage of common biases and heuristics. And third, exploring possible strategies of de-biasing as well as improving the “risk literacy” (Gerd Gigerenzer) of decision makers and the public.