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L. Neil Smith's
Number 623, June 12, 2011

"The State is Crumbling"

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Identification and the Security State
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

[An excerpt from the forthcoming book Down With Power.]

Let me get this straight: America is based on the idea that an individual's fundamental rights are his or hers by virtue of having been born—the best evidence of which is that you're standing here, right now. So why, in order to exercise a good many of those rights, are you required to present government-issued credentials?
—L. Neil Smith

It never fails to interest me that the first American President to be assassinated was also the first to try to assume the powers of a god.

Abraham Lincoln resculpted history and the law to suit his essentially evil purposes. He intimidated, kidnapped, even deported those who failed to agree with him. He sent army troops to smash the opposition's printing presses and to the polls to make sure he got reelected.

Lincoln oversaw the deaths of 620,000 of his fellow human beings, not to end to slavery as was widely (and falsely) advertised after the fact, but because some of those 620,000, those who were paying 80 percent of the taxes, refused to be his slaves, and had the temerity to stand on their rights, instead of meekly bowing to his imperious will.

Before Lincoln, public officials, including the President, could be seen on the streets of Washington City, walking to work, going to lunch, enjoying the evening with their wives, families, and friends. And there was a good reason for that. Before Lincoln, few politicians were in a position to utterly destroy the lives of those they'd been elected to serve. Any who might have been in that position restrained themselves, out of common decency, a positive regard for what America was supposed to be about, or for fear of somebody ruining their lives back.

Then along came Abraham Lincoln, with the evil dreams that he had inherited from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, of buildings roads, canals, and railroads to enrich those who had steamrollered him into the White House, and to manage what was supposed to have been a loose confederation of independent republics as a massive, monolithic super-state.

Along came Allan Pinkerton, whose self-assigned objective boiled down to nothing more than helping the President avoid having to face the individuals he was damaging, and the American security state was born. Today, it takes longer to cycle through White House security than it does to see the Pope, and increasingly, there are millions of cameras everywhere across the country, backed up by face-recognition software.

It is the hallmark of a totalitarian regime that you can hardly go anywhere, or do anything, without carrying your government-approved identification.

"Progressives"—left-wing socialists who used to call themselves "liberals"—can never bring themselves to believe that the Founding Fathers really meant what they said in the Bill of Rights, especially in the Second Amendment, because they're incapable of using words with careful precision themselves, and often say things that they don't mean.

And mean things that they don't say.

Some of them do believe in an armed citizenry—whenever there's a Republican in the White House (they aren't really wrong about that, as far as it goes). And they will defend to your death, their right to say anything they want, no matter how evil, stupid, or crazy it may be.

However, thanks to thousands of hours of "progressive" propaganda, half a dozen decades of broadcast "news" and "entertainment" TV, not many Americans realize that it is a violation of their basic rights to require that they identify themselves in any way in order to buy a gun. Before such laws were passed, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, violent crime was much rarer than it became in the middle of the 20th, when it began to rise steeply as government at all levels made it increasingly difficult to obtain, own, and carry the means of self-defense.

But as I often do, I have digressed.

We have gotten to a point in America—banks love to blame this on Homeland Security but I don't believe them; they were leaning hard in this direction in the 1970s and blaming it on the government even then—where you need photographic identification to open a checking or savings account. Then you need one to present at the cash register with your credit card. Soon they'll be demanding your fingerprints and a retinal scan just to buy an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen for cash. Or how about a drop of blood so we can check your DNA and blood sugar at the same time? Can't have the Faux Lady getting mad at us, now.

Because, of course and after all, only criminals use cash. And since there are already ten or fifteen million laws on the books, with more being passed every day in a desperate race with an American public increasingly cynical and suspicious about the very concept of government, and since no one can move a step or take a breath, or blink an eye, or even exist for half an hour without breaking one of those ten or fifteen million laws, we are all criminals—and must be watched.

Totalitarian governments—Mexico, Venezuela, Britain—hate, loathe, and despise cash, and they are taking whatever steps they can, employing their phony War on Drugs as an increasingly shabby and threadbare excuse, to make it illegal. One of the most wonderful things about cash is that it makes identification unnecessary and unjustifiable.

"Hold on, gonna to hafta to see some ID with that half-ounce gold coin."

I don't think so.

Carrying cash also increases the importance of being prepared to defend yourself at any time, anywhere, which—despite the whining and whimpering of giant infants who refuse to acknowledge and accept the responsibilities inherent in self-ownership—is a very good thing.





"Take a gun with you on all your walks," as Thomas Jefferson put it. I could be wrong, but I don't believe he said a word about photo ID.

So the question arises (or I'll pretend it does), how do we unburden ourselves of all this poking and prying, all this laminated lawlessness on the part of a government that was never authorized to impose these requirements on those who were supposed to be its masters?

At this somewhat revolutionary moment in the nation's history, the authoritarian establishment has some philosophically and therefore politically vulnerable spots. One of them, believe it or not, is the original intrusive and obnoxious identification system, driver licensing.

Originally intended, during the badly-named "Progressive Era", when everything was to be registered and licensed, simply as proof of your proficiency at operating a motor vehicle, it has now become your leash, something you need for practically every transaction with the government as well as what we laughingly used to call the private sector, a means of tracking you right across the country unless you can somehow avoid buying food or gas or sleeping anywhere but your car.

Most drivers' licenses include your photo (notorious for making you look like the uncaught felon that you are) and one or more of your fingerprints. Somewhere they may incorporate your federal prisoner's code—commonly called a "Social Security Number" or more accurately, your taxpayer ID—and there is relentless political pressure to add computerized information like your medical history and status with the IRS.

Did you know, by the way, that it has never been scientifically proven that no two fingerprints are alike? It's just a Progressive Era assumption, backed by questionable statistics, just more phlogiston, phrenology, and globular warmuling. Piltdown Man would be proud—if he had ever existed. It can't be proven, either. You'd have to take the fingerprints of everyone on Earth, six billion individuals, and then crank them through every government computer on the planet for a thousand years, before—hey, isn't that a great idea? Take all the money being spent now on acid rain, ozone depletion, and the menace of video gaming, and devote it to proving what government claims about fingerprints.

And then, if they prove it, forbid them from collecting them.

Similarly, early autombile registration—and the metal plate that went with it—was merely meant to assure all the sloppers at the public trough that you had paid your protection money, as private individuals have had to do for more than a century in America, for anything too large to hide away from the unifomed or bureaucratic racketeers.

License plates now carry your very own personal police tracking numbers and any society organized for the convenience of the police— lately, they've been demanding the power, using OnStar and similar services, to turn you engine off by remote control—is a police state.

A nationwide organization, not just to prevent the imposition of an intrusive universal ID system, but to abolish drivers' licenses altogether, might do more for the freedom movement than practically anything else. If anyone is still concerned with your ability to drive a car, a certificate of proficiency—without anything but your name and account or membership number—could be obtained from your insurance company, the automobile club, even the manufacturer of your vehicle.

The so-called Progressive Era began more than a hundred years ago. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover are all dead, as dead can be, and the world is in no better shape for their having been here to begin with. Everything these homegrown fascists believed in and shoved, one way or another, down the throats of their fellow Americans, has long since been discredited and is obsolete. All of their numbers, all of their tags, all of their registration and licensing have proven counterproductive. Every social ill that it was claimed they would cure is a thousand times worse today than it was then.

Americans need their liberty, Americans need their privacy, Americans need their personal sovereignty, and Americans need their identities back, not only for their own sakes (although that would certainly be more than reason enough), but if they ever hope to repair the damage done to them by so-called "progressives" of whatever era, from the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, to that of Barack Obama.

It must be illegal for government to track you, using your own cell phone to betray you. It must be illegal for government to eavesdrop on your conversations. It must be illegal for government to open your letter mail, or to spy on your e-mail or other Internet activity.

Given government's past proclivities and abuses, the Fourth Amendment, which presently reads, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized," must be amended, removing the word "unreasonable" and establishing the harshest possible criminal penalties for judges and other public officials responsible for issuing or serving documents (such as so-called "John Doe" warrants") that do not meet, in each and every respect and detail, the criteria listed.

Get started with drivers' licenses and autombile registration, then. Move on to the Social Security and gun laws, all of which are unconstitutional. Shame conservatives into joining the fight. Don't be afraid to be made fun of by the left-wing socialist media. In this age, any publicity is good publicity, especially coming from statist idiots whose attacks on you will be seen by others, in effect, as an endorsement.

By a splendid coincidence, I was recently mentioned in a comments section of the Huffingtion Post as a leading "gun-crazy"; the quote was innacurate, improperly attributed, but I'm certain, well-intended. And the criticism of me (not of what I didn't say) by ignorant others had absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. But my name was mentioned twice, and will stick with those inclined to check out my writings.

May you, too, have such luck.

Was that worth reading? Then why not:

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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