NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 24, 2006

As states begin requiring enhanced drivers' licenses to access planes, bars and banks, now may be the time to consider a national identification card, says Douglas McGray of New American Foundation. Advocates of the cards say a national ID will help protect against terrorism and illegal immigrants, but some people fear privacy abuse.

According to McGray, there are many reasons a national ID is appealing. Among them:

  • A national ID network could provide the backbone and security to mobilize patients' medical records, whereas today a patient's medical history is what they remember to tell their doctor.
  • It could help people without a stable address or the cash to pay registration fees to get a valid photo ID -- essentially helping to reform poverty by allowing the homeless and the working poor to claim benefits, apply for work, get health care or cash checks.
  • Increase the ability of public schools to track each student's annual performance as well as allow school officials to differentiate drop-outs from students who merely moved.
  • It could help immigration enforcement by shifting the emphasis from impoverished undocumented workers and onto the businessmen who hire them.

A national ID database might also help social welfare in general by sharing data across agencies, which could lead to better allocation of resources and quicker responses to emerging needs.

Indeed, privacy still worries many people. However, the notion of a national ID empowering citizens, rather than monitoring citizens, may inspire the design of a card that works, says McGray.

Source: Douglas McGray, "A Card We Should All Carry," New York Times, February 21, 2006.

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