A LinkedIn discussion brought up the normalcy of citizens carrying identification. Here’s a confession: I don’t carry any.
Yes, there is wisdom in carrying ID, especially in the case of an accident and such. Except that one time I was pulled over and asked my address without giving him any documents, he questioned if I were telling the truth — I had moved and did not change my address on my license, something he was able to pull up from my license plate. And to be honest, if I’m traveling outside my ordinary circles alone, I do keep identification one me. But in general, I don’t even carry a wallet.
But the reason I take the arguably less rational path is for one simple reason: because I have a right to.
When in Russia
When I was in grade school, we were taught how totalitarian life was in Russia, and one of the examples of oppression was that citizens had to have papers at all times. In New York State it’s not a law you have to carry ID, but if pulled over, you could get a ticket until you produce it in court. Some officers even tell people it’s required, either ignorant or lying about the law, and so it is popularly accepted that you must have your driver’s license on you when you drive — which as far as I have been able to figure is not true.
And so it is on the grounds of a philosophical justification for a legal requirement — rather then the wisdom of having ID — that I engaged in a debate on the subject.
But first, let me say that I respect the choice to have identification, just not the lack of a choice. I volunteer for the Masonic ID program and would consider micro-chipping children, so I’m obviously not against such things so long as they are VOLUNTARILY.
The first volley in defense of requiring ID was in the form of professional licenses. Okay, we can agree on that. But those are all voluntary on the part of the consumer. The degree on the doctor’s wall or the badge number of an officer are part of the contract of their profession in relation to those whom they serve. If your electrician cannot produce an insurance certificate and license to operate in a municipality, you can choose someone else.
Even car insurance, and the requirement of ID to protect the integrity of banking transactions — these are all fine, since they are part of the particular activity you are engaged in voluntarily.
What is not fine is for society to expect me to have ID just to walk down the street, buy something at a store with cash, or even drive across state borders.
If there’s a problem, such as being pulled over or being accused of a crime, they are welcome to take me in — or better yet interview me on the spot so they can call in verifiable details of my identity. A state trooper has immediate access to large amounts of information about me (or whomever owns a car) just by reading the plate. Me having ID doesn’t protect anyone if I don’t get caught, and not having it doesn’t hurt anyone if I don’t do anything wrong.
But this argument goes deeper to the basic legal precedents of innocent until proven guilty, and no search and seizure without just cause.
Historically, when society closes up all the “free space” it starts out restricting movement and privacy to the point where the powers that be can target people based on their personal characteristics (using ID more and more, from cow bells for untouchables and stars of David for Jews, to RFID passports and driver’s licenses).
The wilderness of the New World was an escape from that — for a while — and was the foundation of the US Bill of Rights — representing perhaps the very pinnacle of human liberty.
But now we filled in much of the open space again — with few places for a free man to choose to live relatively outside of “society”, and we are devolving backward under the guise of collective social necessity.
I do not think we need to sacrifice such liberty for any common good. In fact, I think it’s a contradiction of both sense and human nature, which is why there will be widespread revolution this century to determine what sort of world we will live in — because there will always be many, many people who don’t want to be told what to do and be watched closely “for their own good and the good of the collective”.
Hypothetical ‘If’s and Justifications
At this point there was some objection to the case of being pulled over, et alia, were hypothetical. Ironically, they argued that a store owner has a right to know who is in their store because they MIGHT pose a threat.
When I used “IFs”, they were not hypothetical, but used as “WHENs”, as in “the case of”. There was no error in that, just misunderstood as a logical argument.
However they used “IFs” when they said someone MIGHT be a threat, and that is the whole reason I mentioned “innocent until proven guilty”. Fear is an illogical IF, the requirements of remediation and recourse are logical WHENs.
The very notion that you have a right to know who someone is when they enter your store or walk down your street is ludicrous. If there is any case where such a thing is more likely a threat than not, you have much bigger problems on your hands than social ethics. It’s a police state. It’s martial law.
Either we choose to live in a society based on fear and mistrust — which will not function in any healthy way — or we have one based on reasonable assumption of good faith.
There’s always some moron who will defend molestation and child pornography at airport security, saying “you’d change your mind if there was another 9-11.” The point is that for an ethical human being who is strong enough to stand for something, a thousand 9-11s don’t justify it. If the cost of security is such liberty, there’s nothing left to protect and we may as well be animals herded by those who “attack us” and “protect us” — being the same caliber of person, just with different outfits.
An Odd Statement and A History Lesson
My counterpart in the discussion, from England, in defense of government knowing who and where people were, suggested that “America might not have persisted through the last World War” if it had not done so. I don’t know who tight the “authorities” kept tabs on most Americans, but we certainly know one huge thing done on the basis of “WHAT IF”:
We interned over a hundred thousand innocent Americans of Japanese descent under the idea that IF any of them were spies, the mainland would be attacked.
No one is arguing that sacrifice isn’t necessary in hard times. But we have a CHOICE what to give up, and not taking a stand in our own house means our enemies already won. I can’t help but repeat what refuses to sink into the public’s collective mind no matter how many times this great truth is said:
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Drawing the Line
Of course I’m not saying this is black and white. There are plenty of times we give up a little privacy, and there’s less LICENSE, but there’s a point where “essential” liberty is violated, not just an inconvenience of being screened to make sure you’re the ticket-holder, or having a metal detector in a gun-free building.
In other words, this isn’t about rationing goods or taking on extra duties as a citizen to survive the Blitz. It’s just not what I’m talking about. Such things were necessary and even noble, but there are lines that once crossed make us our own enemies.
So where to draw the line? The challenge was “If you have a store, open for business, you supposedly want people to come in and introduce themselves as potential buyers. If they are not apparently looking to buy anything, you are within your rights as owner, to tell them to get out. ”
Yes, but I can also run down the street clutching my purse if a “black man” looks at me wrong at the bus stop. That is my right. But should I request ID to everyone that comes into my store? Or should I not allow minorities in my store that have a statistically high crime rate?
THAT is what I’m talking about.
Individuals need to be held accountable, for their individual ACTIONS, not their “identity”. If you are a public servant, you need to be identified at least by a badge number and such. A professional license for electrical work, a frame on the wall for cosmetic surgery? Very reasonable. A police background check for a baby sitter? Absolutely. These are all relationship-specific requirements that both parties enter into.
But everyday acts such as travel and personal consumerism are being tracked more and more for EVERYONE, not merely convicts or even suspected criminals. Does the government really need to save all emails passing American switches? These are issues that can no longer be ignored. All the hypotheticals of a [[Brave New World]] are already here. [[Pandora’s Box]] is open and I don’t know in what ways it could be closed, if it should be, or even if it ever could be again.
This is another are in which we are at a watershed moment due to globalism and technologically that will force humanity to make a decision to either empower humanity as individuals — or have it made for us as sheep. And whether it’s a piece of paper of a microchip, the fundamental issue is the same. The difference is that we can no longer avoid the responsibility of dealing with it.