In a world where pictures of my son’s latest misadventure can make it to the far corners of the electronic world in a matter of seconds, we do well to be concerned about matters of privacy and protection of personal information. We also understand, at least here in the US, that no matter how many times someone says “but the Social Security Number was never intended to be used for ID outside of the Social Security program” that this is practically no longer the case. In fact, try getting the electricity turned on at an apartment without an SSNO. You may be able to make it happen, but it is likely to take more time, money and scrutiny.
Another reality is that anything which is written online (no matter whether on Facebook, this site, the LA Times or one of the millions of other websites) is essentially eternal: That is, once data is displayed on the internet, it really doesn’t have a half-life (at least not by any measure which we’ve been able to figure out). As one might expect, this lack of a half-life is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it makes it very difficult these days for material to be shoved down the “memory hole.” On the other hand, it would be nice if some things (Jeremiah Wrights diatribes, David Letterman’s misogyny) could be run through the digital wood chipper.
But, back to the privacy and identification. Here in South Dakota (and other rural states) we are currently hearing of the “proposed mandatory National Animal Identification System” which would effectively require livestock to be tracked via some rather large databases, ostensibly to ensure that disease outbreaks are tracked to their sources quickly. I’ve no personal dog (or cow) in this fight since I do not own livestock. Nonetheless, this feels like a classic debate between freedom (allowing ranchers/hog confinements, etc to raise and track their own livestock in a manner which is suitable to their business) and security (proposing that putting an ID on everything that has hooves and then some is going to be a cost-effective and reasonable tool for curtailing disease outbreaks).
There is another ongoing debate with reference to ID and outbreaks of a disease. Here’s the scoop: Several states have implemented voter ID laws. Though they vary from state to state, they tend to say something along the lines of ” You can vote if you have a state government-issued photo driver’s license or identification card (if you don’t drive) as long as you meet the residency, age and related requirements to prove citizenship.” Not too long ago, the law was upheld in Georgia (practically speaking) when the US Supreme Court said “No, the appeals court got it right.” Of course, the fight is probably far from over, but one finds that requiring a person to prove who he or she is (via a very accessible form of ID) before voting goes a long way to restrain outbreaks of prevarication at the polling place.
How do cattle and people and these issues with IDs tie together? Well, our federal government is concerned with, ostensibly, controlling outbreaks of disease, but remarkably unconcerned with an outright abuse of the election system.
I do realize that these things are hardly like each other, but I also realize that, since government has limited resources (as well as limited powers, no matter how much those in power would wish it to be otherwise), it is past time to address a known issue with a fundamental process of the republic rather than to advance the control of government into yet another stall in the marketplace.