More Than Just Your Papers, Please...

Written by Eric Peters on Wednesday, 30 July 2014. Posted in Opinion, Eric Peters

Wouldn’t we be better protected if government didn’t force us all to carry ID tags like two-legged cattle?

More Than Just Your Papers, Please...

Do we live in a police state?

What other state forces non-criminals to submit to fingerprinting in order to obtain permission to drive?

Or merely to exist?

The state of Texas does. So do the states of California, Georgia and Colorado. Soon, the entire United State (singular usage, in the interests of editorial accuracy) is likely to require it. Indeed, already does – under the auspices of the REAL ID Act, passed back in ’05 by the Heimatsicherheitsdeinst.

That’s Homeland Security, in English.

But it amounts to the same thing. 

Like Clover overtaking a garden, this business is spreading across the land. It’s been pruned here and there – for the moment – but the general trend is depressingly clear. Within a decade, at most, it will probably be impossible – legally – for any person in this country to avoid being fingerprinted. Perhaps also retina scanned and DNA swabbed, for good measure.

Under the USA Patriot Act (gag me - and hopefully gag you, too) the state of Michigan (and other states) requires over-the-road truckers not merely to be fingerprinted but also that they submit to a background check once every four years, if they wish to be able to transport “hazardous” materials. That is, to be able to work. See here.

How does all this make you feel?


The state will – does – claim that forcing people to queue up like cons and submit to being “inked” is merely (here it comes) for their own good. To protect them against identity fraud and so on. But what has this to do with driving?

Oh. I forget. We do not have a right to drive. That is, to freely travel. We are allowed the conditional privilege to operate motor vehicles which we’re similarly allowed to possess – for awhile – provided we abide by various conditions (and continue to pay the requisite fees). If we wish to travel by motor vehicle, we must accept the state’s terms and conditions. That is the reasoning.

It’s silly reasoning, of course. As well as vicious reasoning.

Vicious, because being (legally) unable to travel freely is a denial of a very basic human right. How is it possible that anyone not entirely asleep at the switch can entertain the idea that he’s a free man if he’s not free to come and go as he pleases, without the state’s permission?

Silly, because being able to travel via motor vehicle has become a de facto necessity, courtesy of the state. And even if one elects not to drive, one cannot function in this society without a driver’s license. Without an ID – which is what a (cough) “driver’s license” has effectively become. Can you open a bank account without a government-issued ID? Obtain employment (other than as a migrant tomato picker)? Rent an apartment? Buy cold medicine?

You are aware, of course, what will likely happen to you if you get caught walking without ID?

So, this idea that one can opt-out of being fingerprinted by electing not to get the state’s permission to drive is preposterous. It is akin to demanding that people either submit to fingerprinting in order to use a computer (or a telephone) or give up using computers or telephones. No, it’s worse than that. Because it is feasible – though difficult – to live without a computer or a phone. It is not feasible to live without a government ID...if you wish to avoid living in a state facility (i.e., jail or prison).

Where, of course, you will be issued – and must accept – ID.

And why – and when – did it become the government’s business to “protect” anyone’s identity? Wouldn’t we be better protected if government didn’t force us all to carry ID tags like two-legged cattle? Isn’t it government that has made identity theft not only possible but a ubiquitous problem by forcing everyone on the feed lot to have a number that is tied to everything we are and do? If it were possible to exist and function without one number in particular – the infamous Social Security number (which, some heretics may recall, was “never to be used for purposes of identification”) we’re now forced to present at almost every turn – it would be a whole lot harder to steal anyone’s identity.

It’s quite true that Smith could very easily decide to call himself Jones, if he wished. But it would be less easy for Smith to access Jones’ online bank accounts, because these would not be tied to some number tied around Jones’ neck that, once discovered, would enable Smith to vacuum out Jones’ accounts.

And in any case, we’re not little children . . . are we? If we’re not – if we’re adults – free men and women – our “ID” is no one’s business but ours.

The novelist Robert Heinlein once wrote that a sensible man who values his liberty knows it’s time to move on whenever authorities begin demanding that people carry ID.

One wonders what he’d think about societies that demand citizens submit to fingerprinting in order to be allowed to drive.

Throw it in the Woods?

Image Credit: CC By -SA 2.0 (Flickr)/cogdogblog

About the Author

Eric Peters

Eric Peters

Eric Peters is the author of the books Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs. He covers transportation news and the car industry from a libertarian perspective. 

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Copyright © Eric Peters. Used with permission.


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Comments (1)

  • Lynn Atherton-Bloxham

    Lynn Atherton-Bloxham

    30 July 2014 at 16:27 |
    Right on point. Another atrocity being put in place (and supported by people who should know better, but in some in their hysteria about "illegal aliens" are welcoming) is the Worker ID called E-Verify , E-Verify will encompass us all as it controls the businesses and who the owner can hire. Time to re evaluate for the American people.Thanks Eric for all your wise words.


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