Despotism and tyranny wear many cloaks. Modern Western leaders are above using raw, brute power to fulfill their desires. Instead, they wheedle and whine and the public gives in, worn out and worse for the wear. Thankfully, these days may soon be a thing of the past, if Elizabeth Moon gets her way. The science fiction writer told the BBC last month:
“If I were empress of the Universe I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached – a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals.”
She goes on to say what a boon it would be wartime that soldier could differentiate between the opposing armies and the innocent civilians. It is a pity that she doesn’t think this through, and consider the advantage that bar-coded people would have for dictators with genocide on their mind.
Moon isn’t the first to come up with the idea of tagging the population, proving yet again that a bad idea never dies. She has tapped into something that appeals to the nanny-staters who positively drool at the prospect of having absolute power over every nook and cranny of everyone’s life. It is well known that most people are fools and will vote Republican, even if is against their interests. Therefore, they need to be lead around by the nose. “Everyone” doesn’t include those who hold the leash.
In the United States, many still cling to the idea that the people have supremacy over the government, and that the government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In the last forty years (again, in the United States) there has been a reversal of who’s in charge, and the preponderance of evidence shows that the government rules the people, rather than the other way around.
It is neither the responsibility nor the obligation of the government supervise the non-criminal behavior of the people. If people pay their taxes and strive to obey laws, then the government ought to leave them alone so they can engage in their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Just because having people tagged makes life easier for the government not only to “identify” everyone, but also to find tax cheats and detect other criminal activity is not a reason to implement a massive bar-coding scheme.
Recent history suggests that some politicians may resist the idea of electronic tagging. In New York State there was a flap about fingerprinting food stamp applicants. The mayor of New York City was all for it, but the governor believed that practice treated welfare applicants as criminals. Using the governor’s logic, bar-coding the public would be akin to treating them as criminals.
Although, if the Affordable Care Act passes muster with the U.S. Supreme Court, there could be a basis to open the door for electronic health surveillance. Maybe the technology isn’t there yet, but such a smart chip could monitor not only one’s vitals, but also whether if one imbibed more than 16 ounces of soda, enjoyed more than the daily quota of adult beverages, or smoked a cigarette.
Our founders recognized that such a grievous state of government surveillance and interference was possible, and they had the foresight to propose a way out when they drafted the Declaration of Independence:
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”