ID or not ID -- that is the question


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By L. Neil Smith, Senior Editorial Consultant. February 20th 2014. (

Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. © JPFO. Inc 2014

A long time ago, when America was free, and new inventions and ideas seemed to be popping up every day, there arose the gravest threat to individual liberty, and to everything the American Revolution had stood for, that the people of this nation were ever to encounter.

That threat wasn't slavery, civil war, the Spanish Influenza, or even Kaiser Bill. It was the invention of licensure and registration for everything and everybody, and an idea -- much worse than slavery, as it turned out -- that there had to be a place for everything and everybody, and that everything and everybody must be in its or his place.

It was called the "Progressive Era", and its earliest noticeable beginnings were in the 1870s. It hit an initial peak in the 1920s, when Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was king, and every possible kind of counter of every possible kind of bean was prince. Regrettably, as we have recently been discovering -- think about Obamacare -- the Progressive Era never really ended. It is still very much with us, and today's "progressives" are the genuine heirs of the Progressives of yesterday.

For a humorous, but revealing look at the Progressive Era, keep an eye out for a 1950 Clifton Webb movie called Cheaper by the Dozen, about the world's first time-motion efficiency expert, and the total insanity of trying to apply that sort of discipline to everyday human life.

However the threat of bureaucratic OCD began considerably earlier than all that. In a sense, it has always loomed over the human race. The great freedom teacher and philosopher Robert LeFevre used to tell the story of how the British Empire fell out with countries, like Norway, where they were accustomed to getting tall, straight pine trees for the masts of the warships on which their world domination depended.

Colonists in America were suddenly informed that they couldn't cut another pine tree -- in a time and place when wood was the principal building material, land had to be cleared for planting, and a squirrel could leap from Boston to the Great Lakes without ever touching the ground -- until the King's foresters had inventoried every one of them.

The colonists rolled their eyes and shrugged, as if asking G-d to witness this bureaucratic stupidity, and the new nation's first flag was born: the image of a pine tree, with the words, "An Appeal To Heaven".

Such undertakings were not without precedent. Exactly like a burglar counting up his swag, the 1086 "Domesday Book" was William the Conqueror's only partly successful attempt to enumerate every single human, house, hay rick, acre of land, cow, sheep, pig, and chicken in Britain so he could figure out exactly how much he could extract in taxes.

I've heard that William and his boys were called Normans because the British hate to admit that they were ever been conquered by the French.

But I digress.

Similar conquerors have had similar ideas. Joseph and Mary were responding to an Imperial tax census decreed by Augustus Caesar when Jesus was born. A national census was mandated by the Constitution, ostensibly for assuring that every American is represented in Congress. For some reason, these days, that seems to require their knowing how many television sets and toilets you possess. Like I said, OCD.

What America really needs is a flag that says "Don't Number Me!"

Once you've been counted, of course, you need to be marked in some way that shows you have, so you don't get counted again. A flotilla of bureaucratic bright ideas -- tattoos, RFID implants -- have been put forth and so far thoroughly rejected. But we are coming to an historic fork in the road, and at the moment, contradiction and confusion reign.

The left is ambivalent. They don't believe anyone should have to identify himself before he votes, as this would prevent non-citizens from voting Democratic, and preclude anyone from voting "early and often". On the other hand, I've never heard any one of them suggest we do away with driver's licenses -- they want them issued to illegal aliens.

The right is ambivalent. Republicans desperately desire some kind of voter ID system that might prevent Democrats from being installed in power forever. On the other hand, whole legislatures of them across the country have persistently rejected a federal initiative to modify state driver's licenses so that they become a uniform national ID system. Nowhere is this kind of contradiction more obvious -- and absurd -- than in the matter of issuing permits to carry a concealed weapon. Despite the crystal clarity of the Second Amendment, and having fairly successfully resisted efforts during the 1950s and 1960s to impose licensure on gun owners at the national level, conservatives have since turned around and battled for three decades to be given written permission by the government to exercise a fundamental, unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to own and carry weapons.

Licensed carry, together with the provisions of the vile 1968 Gun Control Act, are providing the enemies of freedom with lists of gun owners. If individual liberty is to survive in America, the former must be abolished in favor of "Vermont" or "Constitutional" carry, in which no permission to exercise that right is asked or given, and the latter must be repealed and the records it has caused to be gathered destroyed.

We have seen, historically speaking, the way driver's licenses -- once a simple certificate of proficiency to operate a motor vehicle -- have become a means of tracking and controlling human beings that owes, in its conception, far more to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union than to American values. In essence, driver's licenses have become the internal passports for which we criticized the communists so harshly, a collar and leash to bring once-free individuals to heel. It is long past time to do way with them altogether, before they can be modified into a compulsory electronic device to be inserted under your skin and mine.

"It's not just a good idea -- it's the law!"

Your ability to drive is a matter between you and your insurance company. Let them issue you a certificate, keep track of speeding tickets and DUI arrests, and cancel your policy if they need to. Apply the best security measures to insurance company records, and make it a felony for anyone -- including agents of the government -- to examine them.

As far as voter ID is concerned, keep this distinction in mind. Weapons ownership is a human right. It is no more properly subject to legislation, judicial rulings, or licensure than breathing. Voting, on the other hand, is a civil right, created and dispensed by the State. It is also, as H.L. Mencken said, a sort of advance auction sale of future stolen goods. It seems reasonable to me to require that someone identify himself before he can participate in what amounts to a mass felony.

If an ID-less plan is required, try this one: when you vote, you create, at the same time, a receipt showing how you voted, which, if you wish, you may turn over to your party, or to websites dedicated to keeping elections honest. After you've voted, you receive a big, dark rubberstamping on your hand that will last for weeks -- a token that you have done your civic duty -- that will also keep you from voting again.

A final caveat: I believe a study of history will show that every mess we find ourselves in, with regard to our vanishing rights, began as an attempt to deprive somebody else of the exercise of the same rights.

Across the south, following the War Between the States, and in other states, as well, it became a crime for black people to own guns -- until the 14th Amendment passed to protect that uniquely American right.

New York's infamous Sullivan Law was passed by Irish politicians to keep guns out of the hands of Italians, and the National Firearms Acts of the 1930s had exactly the same motivation, made even more urgent -- in whatever politicians use for brains -- by the appearance of the 1932 Bonus Army and the "Business Plot", an attempted coup in 1933.

The 1968 Gun Control Act was a product of pure cowardice and racism, copied from Nazi gun laws of the 1930s and rammed through primarily to disarm black people, in an era when many of America's cities were in flames, and the poltroons in Congress were trembling in fear.

The Clinton-Dole ban on ugly guns and adequate magazines was inspired by unreasoning fear of Hispanic and Asian street gangs in California.

The Brady Bill, requiring you to get permission rom the federal govenment when you buy a gun was born when misogynistic politicians noticed that the majority of handguns in this country were owned by women. The idea was to make a hostile environment, the exclusively male gunshop, even more inimidating to women who wanted to purchase a gun.

However ...

They can't make you ask for permission to be human. You don't need their permission to exercise your human rights. But don't expect your rights to be protected unless you're willing to protect the rights of others. There's no need for ID of any kind as long as we stay true to ourselves.

Author and lecturer L. Neil Smith is Senior Editorial Consultant for Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, he is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.

Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.

© Copyright Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership 2014.

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