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Monday, September 29, 2008

Pierre Lemieux: Crucial battle lost

"Your papers, please!" We hear this line or something like it at the border. In less free societies, government agents can make this demand at almost any time, with dire penalties for those unable or unwilling to offer up the required documentation.

Is our society moving in that direction? Pierre Lemieux thinks we might be. For example, the UK has unveiled a new national ID card for foreign nationals. Some think this is the first step toward requiring citizens to also carry some sort of standard identification card. In Canada, Bill C-31 requires people to bring government issued photo ID with them to the voting booth.

Thus, next time you vote, you may hear "Your papers, please!" And only those who have government-issued photo ID -- like a driver's license -- will be allowed to cast their ballots.

In his column this week, Lemieux examines some of the arguments that have been offered in support of national identification cards and relates programs. What these arguments miss, he claims, is the most powerful reason to resist a national ID card:

Just think of what the state is unable to do when it cannot rapidly and reliably identify peaceful individuals. Like a (diminishing) host of procedural and substantive restraints on the state, the absence of official ID papers increases the cost of enforcing laws that delve into people’s private affairs and invade private property. Thus, without official ID papers, such laws are less likely to be adopted. We should know because we lived in a free society a few decades ago.

We don't usually think that making it more expensive for the government to enforce the law is a good thing. Typically, the more efficient some process is, the better.

When it comes to the enforcement of the law, however, Lemieux may have a point. After all, one argument in favor of the individual right to bear arms (as enshrined in the Second Amendment to the American Constitution) is simply that tyranny becomes more costly to the tyrant when his potential subjects are armed.

Contra a certain left-wing straw-person, we don't even have to imagine a citizenry so well armed that it can defeat the government in battle. Rather, an armed citizenry can make tyranny so expensive to enforce -- think of government agents gunned down at every turn by citizens-turned-snipers -- that would-be tyrants have to rethink their plans.

In contrast, a national photo identification system, combined with modern biometric technology, makes it easier for tyrants to enforce most any law their minds might devise. Want to keep track of people's movements? As apartheid South Africa discovered, it's easy when everyone has to carry an ID card linked to a national database. Want to know what your citizens are spending money on? Again, it's easy when everyone has to present a national ID card before opening a bank account.

Want to know which of your citizens visit the Western Standard website a little too often? Make them present their ID card before getting Internet access.

If Lemieux's argument has a flaw, it's that it's already pretty easy for the government to know most of the things about its citizens we just discussed. A national ID card might make things a little worse, but not by much.

More excerpts from Lemieux's column are below the fold.

The argument for official ID papers is that they facilitate law enforcement, which is why conservatives are all excited. Any realistic appraisal of the world around us shows that this argument is exactly upside down: it actually runs against ID papers. For which law enforcement are we talking about? Laws against murder and theft were enforced long before official ID papers appeared. And after the state had introduced them, sophisticated criminals and terrorists obtained or falsified them. Nearly all the 9/11 terrorists had proper ID.

The crucial battle against official ID papers has, I fear, been lost. A formal ID card is being introduced in the U.K. In the U.S., the federal government is standardizing state drivers’ licences and transforming them into a de facto national ID card; the Canadian government is slavishly imitating this fraud.


Posted by Terrence Watson on September 29, 2008 in Western Standard | Permalink


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All conspiracy thoughts aside...this is a looming reality. And one we must all be aware of and very much against, no matter your personal political affiliations. Oh Canada, we stand on gaurd for "thee"...not the government. They simply aren't the same thing.

Posted by: JC | 2008-09-29 4:54:51 PM

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