Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Monday, December 20, 2004

ID Cards For The Transfer List?

Tonight, the House of Commons will vote on whether to let the government carry on with its attempts to introduce a compulsory identity card scheme in Britain.

The whole issue has been discussed all over the place for months and even years now. I for one have heard most of the arguments either way, and can't help but come away with a complete lack of clarity about where I stand.

I hear those in favour of the scheme talking about reducing crime and terrorism, which of course could happen provided it is all done properly and provided the authorities actually gave any credence to identity cards when a scheme is introduced. But don't they understand that if society introduces a tool designed to destroy these vices, the perpetrators will only find methods of making the tools obsolete.

It will not be difficult to create a fake card, will it?

Well, actually, perhaps it will. The biometric technology to be used does offer significant benefits to identify individuals to be who they claim to be, with the ability recognise an iris or a palm, as well as all the other fancy party tricks they'll be able to do. But this function can only work properly if we have a database of these physical features unique to every individual which is stored centrally and exploited by the authorities.

Basically, the card is free from counterfitting if the State has all your private details first. The proponents may argue against that, but the opponents will spin towards that.

What really turns people off is not the inability of the card to have one concrete function that no other device has, is the cost. According to the Home Office, the whole scheme would cost the taxpayer £186 million over the next three years (that is, just to set it up). Other estimates go for around £3 BILLION! An individual Briton will pay £77 for a combined passport/ID card. An identity card by itself will cost £35. Under-16s and retired over-75s will not have to pay, and low-income individuals will pay a reduced cost of around £10.

This is a scheme that will hit the pocket of every single British citizen, not only through taxation but through the cost of the little laminated bit of card itself.

Considering the numbers who always complain during a war about how much it costs to make a stealth fighter and how that money could have been spent on textbooks or on hospital equipment, I am sure that these complaints will be repeated when the full cost of this scheme becomes evident.

So this is where we are: identity cards are our centre-back in the fight against crime and terrorism, yet they're rather prone to injuries and we can't afford their wages. It's time, I think, to put compulsory identity cards on the transfer list.

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