Dry Those Eyes, Governors!

Crocodile tears are being shed by the nation’s governors at the prospect of a billu2014the Real ID act — mandating federal regulations of drivers’ licenses, becoming law. One of their complaints is that it will be expensive — as though the states ever worried about that! State governments are very profitable enterprises, and need worry more about ways to spend the money than to acquire it. Besides, if need be, you-know-who can foot the bill.

One of the more amusing arguments I’ve seen on the internet is that the driver’s license is not intended for identification, but to assure the competency of the driver. Oh, please! Drivers’ licenses are simply another revenue-raising scheme. When I got mine, the only "competency" that was required was the ability to hand over a few bucks. The license arrived shortly thereafter in the mail. Today it costs very much more, in time and money, to get a license, but are today’s newly licensed drivers any more competent than we were?

And doesn’t everyone obtain a driver’s license, eventually? Yes, many flunk the exam on first taking it, but it must be extremely unusual for a person to NEVER obtain the license. Obtaining a driver’s license, therefore, is a little like obtaining a grammar school diploma. Everybody gets one; what does that prove?

Of course, after the appropriate weeping and wailing, the governors will stop their sniffling and accept the new law. Yes, they could refuse, but in that case, residents of their states would not be allowed to board an airplane, or enter any federally protected building. Gosh, I guess that means if the IRS sues you, you won’t be able to attend the trial!

Of course, in all the hot air being blown about, there is a conspicuous absence: no governor has, or likely ever will, suggested abolishing drivers’ licenses, thus making moot the question of using that license as a federal ID. Nor have any of the governors made the obvious point that there is nothing in the Constitution that even hints at a grant of authority to the federal government to control the issuance of licenses by the state — assuming such licenses serve a valid purpose in the first place. I realize that the Constitution is a dead letter, but if the governors are so truly horrified at the prospect of a national drivers’ license ID, they could hold the feds feet to the fire with the Constitutional argument, knowing that no federal official will publicly acknowledge his profound contempt for that document.

It would behoove the governors to consider the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1799. Written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, respectively, they asserted the right of the states to disregard unconstitutional federal laws. (Specifically, they referred to the Alien and Sedition Acts of the previous year.) The same arguments presented by Jefferson and Madison are applicable today, in spades. Would the states be punished by Washington for exerting their sovereignty? Of course, as mentioned above. But it would work both ways: the states could retaliate. For example, the state could make it a crime for any state-licensed business or individual to send any tax monies to Washington. State troopers could escort state citizens onto airplanes, or into federally guarded buildings.

Have things come to such a pass? Well, it would seem so, if freedom is not to be nibbled into oblivion. The pretext for the Real ID law is the fight against terrorism, but the law only makes "proper" ID more difficult to obtain. A dedicated terrorist will obtain the necessary documents to obtain his driver’s license, rest assured. But, in truth, he doesn’t need to. The mere whisper of "terrorism" has already convulsed our society and inconvenienced the citizenry without the terrorist having to set off so much as a firecracker. And it will eventually dawn upon our rulers that individuals without proper ID can commit acts of terrorism despite that handicap.

If your state won’t protect your rights, who will? And if it can’t, who needs it?

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.