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Why I Refuse to be Numbered

by Anonymous
Number 116 - 1st Quarter 2003

Counting by governments has been going on for many centuries. However, it is only in recent decades that individuals in the United States have been faced with being given a government number. One historian of the public health movement observed that it was not until the federal government began disbursing Social Security checks that there was any financial incentive to have a state-issued birth certificate and federally-issued number. (1) Under the Social Security Administration rules it became important to be able to prove when you were legally entitled to receive benefits. It was not until the early 1960s that federal tax returns were required to carry an identification number. The point is that as citizen-numbering has evolved, the government has used the carrot and stick approach: get a number — receive government largess; refuse a number — be penalized and be ineligible to receive government benefits; refuse a number — be excluded from many activities which may only be described as government-granted privileges (issuance of a driver's license, access to licensed-physician medical care, access to state and federally-chartered bank services, etc.). To the normal, obedient citizen receiving a number is as innocuous and innocent as being inoculated against certain diseases at birth. It also automatically puts each and every productive citizen into the position of being tracked and spied upon as the government makes sure that the citizen pays his or her taxes.

I refuse to be numbered because I want no part of paying taxes or receiving any of the benefits that government bestows. I want to be responsible for myself and my family. America was built on that attitude and will survive only as long as that attitude persists. It is impossible in the nature of things, as described by the law of the conservation of energy, for more energy to come out of a social system than goes in. Someone has to produce goods and services, in order for there to be goods and services to be distributed. History is replete with examples of economic systems dying when there is no longer enough incentive for the producers to produce any more than they need for their bare survival. Although government bureaucrats may assume that goods and services automatically replicate themselves, like fruit on a tree, I assure them that the tree will eventually wither and die if it is mistreated or abused. The high standard of living which Americans enjoy will disappear if the economic inputs of the producers are not encouraged.

Although we have been taught that the whole purpose of government is to protect us from criminals and foreign invaders, in reality the purpose of government is to conquer and control us. There are benefits to be found in wide-spread social cooperation and the social division of labor, but benefits can only arise if trade and exchange are voluntary. By the very nature of things, if someone must be forced to trade or exchange with me (or I with them) it must be obvious that they (or I) do not see enough advantage to the trade to willingly engage in it. This analysis applies as much to groups that provide security from criminals and foreign invaders as it does to buying food at the store or buying shoes for your children. Government is the only organization in our society that regularly and legitimately obtains its money from compulsory levies — what it euphemistically describes as taxes. What happens to those who refuse to pay their taxes? Their bodies are put in prison or their property is seized by the government, or both. As much as the government tries to disguise it, taxation is robbery and violates the common sensical and moral dictum against stealing. (If everyone stole, eventually there would be nothing left to steal.)

The underlying premise of government taxation is the idea that you and your property belong to the State. You are its slave. Whatever the government allows you to keep is simply a result of its generosity. What you produce is not yours by right, but by sufferance of the government. I do not want to be a slave; nor do I want to participate in a social system which enslaves others. I do not want to give my sanction to government. I do not want to support any coercive institution. I do not want to steal or be stolen from. I do not want to put others in jail for refusing to trade with me; nor do I want others to put me in jail for refusing to trade with them. Stealing (taxes) and coercion are not activities that lead to social harmony or prosperity. They are not activities that can be universalized. My objection to government (however good it may appear, or however many benefits it may distribute — which illusion can only be maintained by refusing to consider how much property it has first stolen, for government has nothing of its own) is to its coercive nature. I object to the compulsory manner in which government operates — regardless of how beneficial it appears — regardless of how necessary it considers itself — regardless of how many people embrace it. If government is so good, let it prove itself on the free and open market; let it depart from the coercive arena in which it now operates.

It might be argued that I consent to be numbered in many voluntary transactions. Every receipt I receive from Wal-Mart has a transaction number; every insurance policy has a contract number. While that is true, it ignores the main point of my objection to government numbering. I am not Wal-Mart's slave; I am not Hartford Insurance's slave. I may or may not choose to trade with them. I may or may not use a number to identify myself to them; but I do not have that option when it comes to dealing with the government. Slavemasters desire to control everything they can and numbering systems which allow no activity to be untaxed, unrecorded, or unnoticed are important to their success in controlling their slaves and expropriating their property.

It should be more than obvious now: I refuse to be numbered because I refuse to accept the badge of slavery. To be a number is to be a slave. I refuse to be a slave.

1) "The national Social Security Act proved to be a great stimulus to accurate birth certification. Many people never considered a birth certificate to be of any importance until old age assistance, unemployment insurance, and other ramifications of the Social Security Act demonstrated to them that it was necessary to have this official proof of their existence." Wilson G. Smillie, Public Health Administration in The United States (3rd ed.), 1947, p. 191.

[Editor's Note: This article was submitted for my forthcoming anthology Trademark of Totalitarianism : Opposing Government Enumeration.]