Skip to comments.My Papers? No Thank You
Posted on 04/27/2012 5:18:32 AM PDT by Kaslin
With the Supreme Court taking up Arizona's "show me your papers" immigration law, we're once again thrust into a useful debate over the role of the government and the obligations of the citizen -- and non-citizen. Rather than come at it from the usual angle, I thought I'd try something different.
If there were one thing I could impress upon people about the nature of the state, it's that governments by their very nature want to make their citizens "legible."
I borrow that word from James C. Scott, whose book "Seeing Like a State" left a lasting impression on me. Scott studied why the state has always seen "people who move around" to be the enemy. Around the world, according to Scott, states have historically seen nomadic peoples, herdsmen, slash-and-burn hill people, Gypsies, hunter-gatherers, vagrants, runaway slaves and serfs as problems to be solved. States have tried to make these people stay in one place.
But as Scott examined "sedentarization" (making mobile people settle down), he realized this practice was simply part of a more fundamental drive of the state: to make the whole population legible to the state. The premodern state was "blind" to its subjects. But the modern state was determined first to see them, and then organize them. This is why so many rulers pushed for the universal usage of last names starting around 1600 (aristocrats had been using family or clan names for centuries already). The same goes with the push for more accurate addresses, the standardization of weights and measures, and of course the use of censuses and surveys. It's much easier to collect taxes, conscript soldiers, fight crime and put down rebellions if you know who people are and where they live.
Perhaps the most obvious means of making the populace legible is the identity card or internal passport. The history of the identity card is a fascinating and shockingly complex one. For instance, did you know that identity cards were seen as a war on bigamy in many countries?
Opponents of the Arizona immigration law like to conjure scenes from Nazi Germany, with the Gestapo asking, "Ihre papiere, bitte" ("Your papers, please"). And it's indisputably true that police states, from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union to Castro's Cuba and the North Korea of the Kims, have a deep relationship with the identity card for obvious reasons. But German officials were saying "Ihre papiere, bitte" long before anyone heard of the Nazis.
The United Kingdom has debated the merits of identity cards several times over the generations. During World War I, Britain's National Registration was hugely controversial because it was seen as too "Prussian." A generation earlier, the Prussians, under Otto von Bismarck, had famously created the first modern administrative state, which included the precursor to America's Social Security system and what today might be called "jobs programs." The Prussians also pioneered the public school system in order to make the people more legible to the state -- imposing common language, political indoctrination and the like.
A system of reliable ID was necessary for conscription and internal security -- government's top concerns -- but it was also necessary to properly allocate the benefits and jobs the state doled out in order to buy popular support, and to enforce school attendance.
And this brings me to our current debate over Arizona's immigration laws. Opponents like to conjure the police-state association of "Ihre papiere, bitte." I think that's wildly exaggerated (and so do several Supreme Court justices, apparently). But as someone who's against a national ID card, I'm sympathetic to the concern nonetheless. The Constitution lists three federal crimes -- treason, piracy and counterfeiting -- but today we have more than 4,500 federal crimes, all because the government in Washington wants to make the American people more legible. I don't want to make that easier with a national ID card.
But what I wish liberal opponents would understand is that in a society where the government "gives" so much to its citizens, it's inevitable that the state will pursue ways to more clearly demarcate the lines between the citizen and the non-citizen.
Most (but by no means all) conservatives I know would have few problems with large-scale immigration if we didn't have a welfare state that bequeaths so many benefits on citizens and non-citizens alike. I myself am a huge fan of legal immigration. But if you try to see things like a state for a second, it's simply unsustainable to have a libertarian immigration policy and a liberal welfare state. Ultimately, if you don't want cops asking for your papers, you need to get rid of one or the other.
Your birth certificate please.
1) I do not give a flip where you are from as lng as you are here LEGALLY
2)If you want to drive a car you will have to have ‘papers’ to show.
This shows just how insane environmentalists are in their hate for useful products, services and production.
Most people are aware of the medical community’s problems in dealing with hospital infections (staph and otherwise) - many US hospitals use this bottled water for their patients be cause of this.
Yet, rabid environmentalists inside the medical community, and those outside like the idiots in this MA town seem willing to go back to the days when patients are bled to get rid of those evil vapors, etc.
So now, this town has relegated its medical institutions to giving their patients their water in vessels that are more susceptible to contamination throughout the whole process from tap to jug, to open transport, to patient...really smart, people.
Wonder if Jonah is a “huge fan of legal immigration” by everyone that wants to emigrate to Israel? I am 100% for any US emigration to be law abiding but not for unlimited emigration into the USA.
Why do so many Republicans refuse to understand that unlimited emigration is a huge problem whether legal or not?
Non-sequiturs of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your coherence.
I don’t believe Jonah said anything about unlimited immigration.
Confining immigration to legal immigrants only implies a political discussion over which people should be allowed in.
I find it odd that every country in the world limits immigration. Only in the USA, AFAIK, is doing so viewed by a powerful pressure group as racist or unfair.
Best bet is to get rid of both - tightly control the borders to keep illeals out and do away with the welfare state. I'm not againsthelping those that can't help themselves, but supporting and rewarding lazy leeches and striving to bring their living standards up to some magical utopa is nuts. To quote the great Walter Williams, "For someone to receive something without paying for it, someone else has to pay for something without getting it".
I have mixed feelings about a national ID.
Real ID passed by a Republican congress in 2006 and signed by GWB forced the lib Maryland State to stop issuing drivers licenses to illegals. They had put a special loophole in the drivers licence law for illegals and were attracting them like flies, ironically they take them away for not paying child support.
We were endlessly reading stories of drunk illegals causing serious traffic accidents and this state was a illegal magnet.
I suppoes a National ID could be used for voting identification, that would send Dems into a tizzy.
exactly. If you are a green card holder you can be asked for the appropriate document at any time....
“2)If you want to drive a car you will have to have papers to show.”
Why? I don’t need papers to ride a horse, or drive a carriage. Before you give me the “it’s dangerous” angle, remember that the Constitution says we don’t need papers to carry firearms, which are just as deadly.
Carried one of those from entrance in March of 1964 until naturalization in September of 1970. Not much of a burden, it sat in my wallet next to my CDL.
That was then and this is now (unfortunately).
Why? Because every state requires you to have a driver’s license if you are driving a motor vehicle on a public road ( most do not require it for farm driving).
I made no comment about Constitutional issues just the reality of every day life. If you prefer then ride your horse
“I made no comment about Constitutional issues just the reality of every day life. If you prefer then ride your horse”
My DL expired over a decade ago.
I parked the car and took the battery out in the 90’s. I decided my lazy azz needed the exercise and terrorists didn’t need my contributions. I haven’t had a vehicle since.
Where I’m at right now it’s 4.4mi round trip to the nearest store, and I’m perfectly used to it. I make the rounds at least every couple days.
In addition, I think it’s good for your instincts to be on the street, rather than watching it go by, and forgive my racism, its good for the community if I represent. I’m in N FL right now and a drop of cream in a big cup of coffee most days.
There are ‘other’ ways than a national ID... don’t ever want to ‘show my papers’ to drive to a city in a free country...
You drive around the country with no drivers license?
I assume you mean no Federal ID.
Would you be against a Federal voter ID?
No vote. No sale. No trespassing.
There were better ways of securing the southern border, but political, regulator, busybody folks didn’t respect their elders. On through default.