July 13, 2003

Let me see your ID

Wow, that's some set of cojones the British Parliament has. They are planning to make everyone in the UK carry a "universal ID card." But that's not what stands out to me (the fact that Britain is inching towards Big Brotherism is old news now); what I can't believe is that they are going to make everyone pay for it:

The ID card will be required by everyone over 16 -- more than 40 million people -- and cost around 40, though with concessions for the elderly and the poor.
Can you imagine the outcry in the US if the government decided to charge everyone for their social security card? (It's free here. And yes, I know that "free" in the context of a government service means "paid for by taxes," but at least we don't have to fork over another US$65.00, which is about what 40.00 is according to the current exchange rate.)

(Via Kim du Toit.)

Posted by Andrea Harris at July 13, 2003 12:42 PM

"Britons never, never, never, shall be slaves."


Posted by: Dark Avenger at July 13, 2003 at 12:44 PM

As an expat living in Britian, I should probably clarify a couple of points.

Yes, the Lbour government is "trying" to make ID cards mandatory, but the chances of it passing through parliment are nill at this time. The British still remain highly sceptical of having to carry ID. A case in point. If I get pulled over by the cops for speeding, I am legally entitled to take up to seven days to show proof of license and identification.

Oh! I forgot to mention. You state an uproar would occur if the US gov tried something like that. It already has, and you haven't even noticed it. Your driver license is your ID card. And you pay for that every five years. A small bit of irony for you.

Posted by: john o at July 13, 2003 at 03:52 PM

Driver's license? Nope, don't have one -- only the insane drive in NYC. I've not been stopped on the sidewalk or in the subway to prove my identity. The only times I've used photo ID around NYC, it's been for specific stuff -- my passport, for travel; my student ID, to get into NYU buildings and check out library books; my corporate ID, to get into the buildings, get corporate discounts, and to pay for lunch in the cafeteria.

I'll get a driver's license again if I should ever need to drive, but there's nothing forcing me to get one.

Posted by: meep at July 13, 2003 at 04:36 PM

65 clams? holy hell! That's outrageous. If you get an ID card (not a driver's license, just an ID card) from a state it'll only cost 5, maybe 10, bucks. The high cost of a driver's license is due to the exams and related hoo-haw, not ID related costs.

What in the hell could make a British ID cost that much? Going by the population of the UK over 16, that works out to a revenue of $2.5 billion dollars from the ID cards (or an effective tax of ~0.2%). Even dropping that to account for the elderly and the poor who won't have to pay, that's still a few billion dollars. And the UK only spends $32 billion on defense. What the hell are they going to use all this money for? The only thing I can think of is government employees to spy on the citizens of the UK, that kinda money buys way more employees than would be needed for simple administration.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at July 13, 2003 at 05:09 PM

Moreover, Robin, this is a poll tax: a single, flat numeric amount to be paid by everyone, which means its highly regressive since the more you make, the less it represents as a percentage of your income. Margaret Thatcher took severe heat for bringing in a poll tax at some point in the 80's and it was eventually killed.

Of course, every Briton with a TV currently pays a poll tax in the form of the BBC license fee as well.

Posted by: David Jaroslav at July 13, 2003 at 09:54 PM

I was going to point out the regressive nature of the expense, although some of that would be offset by the allowances for the "elderly and the poor" I'd imagine. $65 is still a significant chunk of change for most folks. That's about a third of an x-box or a bit more than the cost of a new video game. Or about the cost of reclothing a kid or two on the cheap. Certainly not out of the realm of affordability for the working poor or lower middle class, but still the kind of expense that could put a crimp in a family budget if they didn't have many months to prepare for it.

And now that you point it out, in the nation of the TV Tax, this new, insane, overly expensive national ID card fits right in.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at July 13, 2003 at 11:52 PM

I do agree it is being viewed as a poll tax by many. When the new pricing structure was leaked to the press, The Guardian and The Times both pointed out the outrageous cost to the public. It also sparks huge privacy concerns across the political spectrum. Officially the ID card is being promoted by labour as a way to prevent benefit fraud,help reduce illegal immigrant access to services, and bring us inline with continental europe.

It is wise to remember, there is virtually nill support from the public or the parliment to pass any type of mandatory ID scheme. One can only hope it is an idea that will disappear sooner rather than later.

Posted by: john o at July 14, 2003 at 12:54 AM

Sorry, Andrea: Voyeurweb.com is the only site that gets to see my id. The rest of you will have to settle for seeing my ego.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at July 14, 2003 at 11:24 AM