Is Big Brother Watching?

The editors of National Review argue that it’s time for the REAL ID ACT:

This unequivocal defense of the REAL ID Act is especially welcome in light of intense opposition to the law from some quarters. The ACLU and its fellow-travelers on the right have denounced the law as creating a national identification card, with the usual sophomoric references to the Gestapo. At the same time, state governments that have long been content with their laughably insecure identification documents are now objecting to the cost of complying with the new standards, and complaining of an unfunded mandate. The Maine legislature in January passed a nullification resolution “refus[ing] to implement the REAL ID Act.” Other states may follow Maine’s lead, and the National Governors Association has called for a delay of up to ten years.

Of the two main gripes—ideological and fiscal—the first is easy to deal with. The act simply does not create a national ID card. Any modern society must have a means of identifying people—for national security, business transactions, and more. Most countries have opted for unitary national-identification documents. The U.S., on the other hand, has over the years stumbled into a decentralized approach, with state motor-vehicle administrators taking the lead. Regardless of whether this system is ideal, it is the system we already have, and it needs to be more secure. Moreover, as Phyllis Schlafly has written, the REAL ID Act may be “the best way to prevent the demand for a national ID card, which might prove irresistible if we suffer another terrorist attack on our own soil.”

I’ll admit to getting the desire for such an act, given our broken borders and the constant terrorist threat. But I also have the same nagging feeling I get anytime I hear about an expansion of government. I also seriously doubt that the NR would be so quick to dismiss the critics if this legislation had been proposed by, oh say, Bill Clinton.

I frankly don’t have the answer, but I find myself inclined to oppose the REAL ID Act. Laws always have unintended consequences. You may like President Bush and think he won’t abuse this act, the fact remains that he won’t be president much longer and any power you give him you are also granting his successor.

UPDATE: This post is taking part in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

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