Thursday, January 19, 2012

When your ID expires, you're not a person anymore.

Experience has taught that no one can receive money or favors without proof of identity. This is a good thing. Nobody should be allowed to cash my paycheck or pick up my Lady Gaga ducats at will call or fly to Pittsburgh with my Delta ticket unless they can prove they're me. So when I push an endorsed check through the teller's window at the bank, I also submit a state-issued document with a photograph that seems to prove that I am, indeed, the person whose name is on the check. The teller will examine this item of identification not only to ascertain that my face closely resembles that of the photo, but that the document itself has not EXPIRED. There's a problem with this "expiration" concept. With the arrival of an arbitrary date printed on a driver license, the license holder is no longer legally authorized to drive an automobile on the streets and highways. There's perhaps more than one reason for this but a major reason is that the issuing authority is collecting a tax. This tax is paid just as much for the privilege of presenting legal proof of identity as it is for legally conducting a Buick down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But when the expiration date arrives, does my identity expire as well? Does the invalidity of my state identification card invalidate my identity vis a vis actors that are not state agents? Maybe the bank could ask to see my birth certificate, which evidently does not expire. As a private business, they have the right to establish requirements that may or may not guarantee their services but why should they care about the date on an identification card? Or is there some sort of legality that turns one's ID to junk with the passage of a day as far as the bank is concerned? And what about passports? Why should a passport ever expire or require renewal? Is there the possibility that a person's identity might change over the ten year lifespan of a passport? And if it did, for instance when a woman takes her husband's surname after marriage, couldn't something be done for that particular eventuality? Or, since the money involved is relatively small, is this just another case of the state shepherds attempting to assume as much control as possible over the subject flock?

Update: The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby reflects on the same subject.

1 comment:

wintercow20 said...

I recall a chapter in here that details how the state is responsible for us having surnames and first names today. There is a good summary of it somewhere, but cannot locate it.