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How could society function without government-issued IDs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How could society function without government-issued IDs?

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Question:

Without a national ID (for example, Social Security numbers or driver’s licenses) how would banks and other institutions verify your identity for their services? How could they prove, for example, your claim to ownership of a piece of property or a car? How could they know you didn’t just steal or forge a deed or title?

ID

Answer:

A government-issued ID can always be forged. Already today, a thriving underground black market exists in forged Social Security cards, passports, and driver’s licenses.

Indeed, banks are losing so much money on forged ID and identity theft that many have started fingerprinting customers. With identification information, as in so many other areas, government does a very poor job.

As you have observed, identification — proving that someone actually is who he says he is, or has the qualifications he claims — is a vital need in a market economy. Private institutions have an enormous stake in being able to quickly and accurately insure the identities of customers who, in today’s global economy, may engage in transactions around the world.

In a libertarian society, banks and other financial institutions would establish the level of identity verification they needed to protect their interests, as has been the case in the past. Such institutions would have a strong interest in creating ways of identification that would appeal to — not offend or burden or harm — their customers.

Competition would quickly create new and innovative ways to meet this demand. We would expect to see the kind of constant innovation, low cost, ease-of-use, and concern for pleasing customers that we today see in other significantly unregulated areas of our economy, such as telecommunications, computers and the Internet.

People would be free to decide for themselves if they wanted to provide information in order to work with these institutions. Governments couldn’t force individuals to carry IDs. The most innovative and customer-pleasing solutions would be the most successful.

Finally, in a libertarian society there would be no danger of governments collecting vast databases of such information, a threat to our liberty.

There is a great need for identification services that aid consumers while protecting their privacy. Only the market — not government — can provide this.

Campaign for Liberty: National ID Is Back

in Immigration, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Bad ideas never seem to go away. The Republican House leadership has unveiled brand-new “Immigration Reform Principles” — and the pro-liberty organization Campaign for Liberty reports this proposal resurrects once again the foul idea of a national ID.

In a section entitled “Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement” the plan says: “In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.”

This, warns Campaign for Liberty, will require a new national ID card based on Social Security cards — cards that would:

* Be tied to a national database containing biometric identification information, potentially including fingerprints, retinal scans, or scans of veins on the back of your hands, which could easily be used for government tracking.

* Be required for all U.S. workers regardless of place of birth, making it illegal for anyone to hold a job in the United States who doesn’t obtain this ID card;

* Require all employers to purchase an “ID scanner” to verify the ID cards with the federal government. Every time any citizen applies for a job, the government would know — and, warns Campaign for Liberty, it’s only a matter of time until ID scans will be required to make even routine purchases, as well.

Further, according to Campaign for Liberty President John Tate, this sets us up for a swift slide down a steep slippery slope:

“Gun ownership, health records, purchasing habits, religious beliefs — virtually anything you could dream up could all be added to this massive national ID database.

“And doing so wouldn’t even require a vote by Congress. Instead, it could happen with a simple stroke of a president’s pen.

“This is exactly the type of battle that often decides whether a country remains free or continues down a slide toward tyranny.”

Terrorism, border control, immigration reform, voter fraud, gun control, insurance, health care… seems like every year Congress discovers yet another urgent new reason why we need a national ID.

Liberty-minded folks across the political spectrum have denounced the insidious dangers of these schemes. See Wired, the ACLUReason, and the conservative Rutherford Institute, for starters.