Sunday, May 15, 2005



So Congress wants to require states to require showing a birth certificate and a social security number in order to get a driver's license.

I heard someone describe this as "one-stop shopping for identity theft," and I'd have to say that sounds about right.

The idea is to standardize driver's licenses across the nation to create an identity card that will be useful for identifying passengers on airplanes. This piece of brilliance comes from Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who came across like a doddering fool in the television interview I saw. It's an attachment to the bill funding our continued military action in Iraq, which passed the Senate 100-0. By the way, govenors from both parties hate it. Here's a story about it from PBS.

But... suppose you don't drive? There are a lot of residents of New York City, for instance, who don't have a driver's license. Are you going to require that they get a driver's license, or even a state-sanctioned identification card? Will we need to learn how to Heil Hitler while we're at it? Isn't it only totalitarian regimes that require citizens to carry identity papers?

How about others? Are children now going to need identity papers? Are we going to prohibit resident aliens from getting driver's licenses?

Worse, will any of this protect us from the idiots on the roads? You know... the jerks who turn left and don't quite make it all the way across the double yellow line in the new direction? Or maybe those people who tailgate you in the right lane when you're doing the speed limit? The ones who do 5 mph below the speed limit in the passing lane? The ones who don't know how to parallel park? Or who can't put their SUVs into a single parking spot at the mall's parking lot? The ones who don't know who goes next at a four-way stop? Who don't know what the yield sign means?

No. So this thinking fails two ways. Add three if you include the fact that identification is always easy to forge. Make it four: You're going to love waiting hours or days for your new driver's license.

What was it that Shakespeare wrote? "A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing"? Of course, he couldn't get an identification card today either. Actually, more apt is the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, more and more my favorite founding father: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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