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The Costs and Burdens of Governed Identity

December 4th, 2009

From Liberty For All

The rise of the information age has empowered millions of people to be who they are in new and profound ways. They get to be public personalities on social networking websites. People are learning to navigate a public personae. They have more ways to relate and connect with others than ever before. Sophisticated nuances about identity communication are evolving alongside new technology. Conversely, people have new ways to assume identity that isn’t theirs, claim to be who they aren’t, and defraud others of rights reserved to their private identity. [1]

From this, we can consistently see true identity is in constant power struggles. [2] One truth that follows citizens everywhere is; no matter where you go, there you are.

Wherever Americans migrate, aspects of a geological identity may emerge but the essential you is present. By itself, identity is personal and private. This is why those with a costly or sensitive truth to express assume ghost identities, wear masks and allow sanitized or sullied versions of themselves to emerge to the public. Examples throughout modern history range from Watergate’s Deep Throat to an over pixelated image of someone who denied consent to use a picture for commercial purpose. To intimately know someone emerges as an obscure power, intuitively present while declaring a boundary which eludes others grasp.

Claims of “knowing” someone can always be disputed from the outside. The constant crop of user friendly identity tools and tags pushes confrontation about identity to the forefront. Establishing the practical integrity and recognition of identity will evolve again five minutes after you finish this article. The ability to substantiate identity conventions, whether we like it or not, has become an supplemental currency.

While we don’t think about it every day, consider how many interactions require legal tender and proof of identity for the exchange of goods and/or services. For example, you can’t simply rent a video and pay legal tender for the rental service. They need to see some identity; just in case you violate the commercial contract and fail to return their property. In this instance, you have compensated with cash tender and proof of identity.


Businesses have made it common practice to require identity (ID, drivers license) to “prove” who you are. The demand on identity as a currency is now something businesses and governance seek to escalate. The advance of the Internet, depreciation of the dollar as world currency, a global interpretation of society, and general U.S. power shifts establishes the subtle increase of required identity to attain goods and services.

There are goods and services available which do not require identity tender. However, they usually come from within personal networks rather than normal business relationships. Trusted friends and family are of priceless worth. Jails create and use community currency in the form of cigarettes. Fashonistas barter clothing to access style economies available to the few, at the right place and the right time. Marketing professionals intimately know the value of contacts, addresses and networks in order to turn over profit for the proliferation of an idea or message. So much so, cost analysis of hiring individuals or Human Resources comes down to their identity capital, essentially, who they know.

Identity as supplemental capital has been around for a very very long time. Children begin the art of the trade in their infancy. Those skilled in networking get the best jobs, exhibit the most courage, and tend towards establishing the standard of reliability. Scarcity works in the identity economy as well. Celebrity exhibition as identity tender is available typically for business development only. It is deliberately made exceptionally scarce or exclusive to maximize opportunity for profit.

Regardless of existing identity as indirect currency, it is not cheap. Identity is worth, sometimes, a person’s life savings. Ask anyone who has suffered from identity theft.


For national security purposes, today’s government assumes complete access to your information at any time. For these reasons, some see gains to depreciating the integrity of your identity and US citizenship. Usually, to justify a constant squandering of power. The nature of the State is to demand an undue amount of arbitrary control over the tangible interpretation of personhood, which is identity. [3]

Governed interpretation of identity is presumptive. The demands to start are archaic and disorganized. As a currency, the more identity capital invested in any government program, expectations on return of the investment should be exponentially low. An example is to observe what happens when the destitute apply for medicaid or social security benefits. These persons must present proof of their destitution. This requires documentation of all aspects of their lifestyle and several forms of conventionally recognized identity. After providing proof of destitution, they may be altogether denied any exchange for their effort past a yes or no answer. Government bureaucrats are always aware of the disadvantaged. Those with limited opportunities usually submit to identity demands of public welfare agencies for little in exchange. This lends to a role play of systemic ownership and surrender in this situation.

Typically, when you approach the government for any kind of service it determines what identity is required to participate. Different forms of identity conventions are available on-demand to the US government: DNA, fingerprints, retinal scans, blood, urine, hair,
(biometrics), height, weight, birth certificates, driver identity and whatever qualified Intel is scooped by prying networks. There are no limits here – anything from rooting through garbage to asking for an add to your social media profiles. They just want to get to know you.

Many people if given the option determine just how much is just too much information to just give away.

Let’s say for advantage sake, government observers have all the conventional information known to man about you. What’s next? Omnipotence and the panopticon. Go as extreme as you can in your imaginings: outer space, inner space, subtle levels to exact targeting of your person, and possibly paranormal levels of intrusion. The finances to expand into this comes from your taxes and yet the entitlement on your personal information is huge.

The motivation is simple: many powerful people desire godhood.

One objective of the game might be to expand dominance of markets which require the voluntary surrender of your identity capital in lieu of proof of purchase. The interpretive ability to identify someone brings a tremendous amount of power. From there, society denies or permits your access to resources based exclusively on a qualified form of identity.

Today Americans are suffering intense challenges to the perception of their identity. The cheap pride from owning the Ford F-150 is failing the pragmatic agenda miserably, along with frenzied flag waving patriotism. America is now nothing like what we imagined. Somehow discovering the fatally flawed human wizards behind the Congressional curtain has merged an agenda to demand proof of your identity at every interaction. Whether you recognize it or not, this is the cost of knowing the disturbed secrets of our government’s dysfunction. They are coming to collect on national identity currency to balance an angle of power to the desired level. They do this because they have blown the public trusts they ordinarily draw from.

The American people are still who they always were. Our identity hasn’t changed. The only difference here is that we know what our government is, by what it has done. The balance of power is off due to corruption: lies about going into Iraq and Afghan wars, torture, kangaroo courts, warrantless wiretapping, illegal prison system practices at Guantanamo Bay and expanded powers instituted by unconstitutional laws.


Programs attached to laws like the PATRIOT Act, the Real ID Act, and the Western Hemisphere Travel initiatives all contain language which expands the government’s powers to demand identity and to track or limit your movement based on “official federal purposes”. [4] Ordinarily, you have a right to demand accountability for actions which required your consent and finances to search you in these circumstances. Increased demand for identity comes down to demand of this currency in advance of any potential challenge or threat you may pose from entering federal buildings, banks, and airports where you paid to travel in advance. Challenging the requirements for identity when approached by local and federal authorities gets tricky. For example, I will call a random demand of identity by an authority figure an identity toll. An example of an identity toll is showing your ID to TSA at the airport in order to fly.

If you want to exercise right to refuse or challenge a random identity toll by local or federal authorities, the very least you must do is qualify the request for identity currency. For instance, ask them to self-identify. Write down what type of identity they asked for, get the first and last name of the administrator and/or a badge number. Then the exchange is even and a toll would balance.

The frequency ofdentity tolls will continue to escalate as long as the legal precedents are tolerated by citizens. 24 state governments recently refused the hefty demands on identity in the Real ID Act. These States punted the regulations along with the expensive price tag back to Washington for repeal or at the very least reconsideration. The Real ID Act to some is a paper zombie, appropriated for in name dormant until immigration policy is dealt with. However, it remains law and even recently received $60 million in a DHS appropriations bill. An amount which did not differ from 2008 for national identity developments. I venture a guess that Legislators behind the PASS ID Act are gambling on States who will file extensions to in order to give a relief quote to identity vendors waiting in the lobby.

This is proof citizens realized they reserve the right to deny the unqualified surrender of their identity capital to national security or governed agendas. It is always up to us determine the demand on something as personal as identity.


Among many agendas which have found federal legislative sponsorship is the push to require every citizen to submit biometric information as a requirement to travel, to work or to bank. This Summer Senator Chuck Schumer stated [5] an intent to sponsor legislation to mandate fingerprinting of every employee in order to work as part and parcel of the controversial E-Verify system. The rationale is that a simple birth certificate is not the best way to prove citizenship and may be unreliable. Birth certificates and other conventions to establish family record at birth are being interpreted as subjective identity. This is not good news for those who cannot or will not supply a bodily identifier. Fingerprints by themselves do not establish citizenship, even if they do establish personhood. The biometrics industry is playing into the manipulation of valid citizenship through an arbitrary demand on physical identity.

US citizens stand to lose a great deal more than mere convenience over the matter of national identity cards and use of biometrics. A question to clarify: what happens if a fingerprint does not establish my citizenship? Or my birth certificate? Or any other piece of documentation I present to work or attain goods and services? Well, I lose my recognized rights as a U.S. citizen. People without legitimate citizenship live in fear of losing their established lives and livelihoods in the event of a federal raid. One could be detained, assets seized for prolonged periods with or without counsel. If a citizen has no control over the documents which interpret their citizenship and their rights at birth, they may lose everything.

Conspicuous public private corporate lobbys tend to put marketing ahead of interpretations of citizenship or privacy. The laws are present to support the market for their technologies or gadgets. This is one contributing reason why repealing legislations, like Real ID, would get $60 million in taxpayer finance. Government contractors have the corner to capitalize on our free and established identity as long as the law will support it.


Vendor profit is a poor excuse to allow bad law to continue. Grassroots abolition coalitions are always forming. Discussions about how to do away with bad laws are ongoing in Washington. There is an unnatural attachment to law in Washington, even treacherous, deeply flawed laws like the Real ID Act.

One question being tossed around by analysts and thinkers in Washington is what will replace a repealed law like Real ID once it is gone?

You might get the picture of panicky politicians fretting about the absence of a rotten tooth in the mouth of a massive bureaucratic beast, which breaks teeth, loses teeth and grows new teeth all the time.

A repeal would not simply kill Real ID, it would kill the corporate entitlement check going to an biometrics or ID card vendor. The difference it makes is in the bottom line of those most impacted by the removal of corporate welfare finance.

Washington can simply make new laws tomorrow. That’s what they should do in Washington – make laws. The biggest difference here should be in who they make the laws for: individual citizens or public-private interests competing for the taxpayer dollar. One thing you can be sure of, vendor lobbies don’t care about your rights or who you are. You shouldn’t leave something as personal as your identity up to them and their pet legislators.


[1] Information revelation and privacy in online social networks

[2] Example of identity in political power struggle

[3] ‘State Identity’ and ‘Collective Self’: Problems and Solutions

[4] Wikipedia entry

[5] Chuck Schumer quotes

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