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11/09/2005 Archived Entry: "To ID or not to ID...*that* is the question"
A recent entry on Claire Wolfe's blog caught my attention and revived an old debate I've had with myself regarding governmental ID. Like most libertarians, I burn with resentment at having to prove my identity at every turn, to being numbered and sorted into various officious files just in order to go about my peaceful business. Unlike Claire, however, I've swallowed my distaste because the personal cost to me of being without a driver's license etc. is too high. On November 3rd, Claire encountered one of those costs, good and hard (as Mencken would put it). [Please click on 'more' to continue.]
She wrote, [i]Just recently, the mail receiving service I've used for many years suddenly closed up shop. The former owner is still receiving the mail for a few more weeks "until customers can make other arrangements." But I find myself in the embarrassing position of being such a non-person that I literally don't qualify to have a mailing address! No post office nor private mailbox place will serve the government-IDless (and therefore obviously evil, terroristic, money-laundering, drug-dealing, etc.) likes of me. One "legit" friend tried to offer service and got put through a bureaucratic wringer. I turned to another friend who made his best try -- and discovered that not only was he not able to help me get a truly private new mailing address; he himself would never again be "allowed" to rent a p.o. box or private mailbox! Of course I'll get another address. And he, too, will never let himself fall into the limbo our government and private masters are preparing for those who prefer privacy and self-ownership to state control. We'll eventually find friends, or subterfuges, that will get us our mail. And my friend, even with his own predicament, is still nobly seeking the best solution for me. But it's still a ridiculous situation.[/i]
I mentioned debating this topic with myself for years now. One reason: I have friends who decided some 15+ years ago to [b]not[/b] register the home births of their children and to avoid all subsequent governmental paperwork on them. (I am purposefully altering some details of the situation because, unlike Claire, they have not chosen to be public about this matter.) With homeschooling, the children do not even have school records. I remember being uneasy about this strategy when I first discussed it with them because -- although I could see clear-cut privacy reasons and other advantages to opting out of the system -- I also wondered whether the children themselves would want to opt out of the system...whether it would be their choice to forego so many of the "privileges" that are purchased only with governmental ID. For example, the eldest cannot currently get a driver's license, without which he/she cannot handle a part time job. I wondered whether or not, in the future, they could buy a house, settle a dispute in court, get married, go to college, open a bank account? And, yet, I still saw and do see the advantages. The word "draft" comes to mind.
I suppose my hesitation in the case of "opting out" children is because I believe this is a decision that every individual must make for himself or herself. By the time a child wants a driver's license, the lack of official documentation on his/her life may be a tremendous barrier. On the other hand, I could argue as easily that putting a child into the system at birth also takes away choice because it is probably as difficult or more so to opt out of the system as it is to get suddenly plunged into it as a teen or young adult.
I honestly don't have an answer to this one. But, to those who might tend to be overly critical of my friends' choice with their children, I should point out 1) they are both loving and protective parents; and 2) before 9/11, it was much easier to function without documentation at every juncture of life.