The Lesser Evil in Political Thought
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Recent scholarship has begun to challenge the prevailing lesser-evil approach to politics which pits rights and freedoms against order and security. Most liberal scholars attempt to chart a careful (and slippery) course between the perceived poles of moralism and pragmatism. The apparently irreconcilable political views of such paradigmatic thinkers as Kant and Machiavelli stand at the fountainhead of this debate, now being played out on the world stage in the so-called War on Terror, and several scholars have recently begun to question the assumptions of this difficult balancing act. Perhaps appeals to rights and freedoms should not be framed as deontological concerns in tension with practical exigencies; rather, there might be a consequentialist argument for the primacy of rights and freedoms in the struggle for order and security. This would have strong implications for the conduct of government secrecy and intelligence gathering, and perhaps most importantly, for the status of human rights in the twenty-first century. Recent scholarship challenges the prevailing liberal doctrine of "the lesser evil" in politics.