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Argument: Identity cards have been used oppressively historically

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Supporting evidence

  • Sean Gabb. "A Libertarian Conservative Case Against Identity Cards". Libertarian Alliance, London, 1994 - "Those of us who watched the film Schindler's List will have been struck by the efficiency with which the Germans committed their great crimes. There were moments of passion, when individuals were shot or beaten to death. But the main impression was one of bureaucratic purpose. Every edict would produce long queues in the open behind trestle tables. Every sentence - of death or momentary reprieve - would so far as possible be carried out by the authorities. There is the word "list" in the film's title. The posters advertising it showed a blurred list of names.
Now, it is worth asking - how these lists were compiled. How was it that the Jews of Poland, and of Central Europe in general, found themselves on a list of those to be robbed and deported, and in many cases killed? Not all of them looked like extras from Fiddler on the Roof. Most of them were indistinguishable from their Gentile neighbours, in dress, in speech, in occupation. Many had become Christians. Some did not look "Jewish". A few even looked "aryan", with their blue eyes and blonde hair. Yet onto the lists the overwhelming majority went. How?
The answer is that every Central European had an identity card which carried details of name, address, age, and religion. Since these cards had to be shown on all official and many other occasions, it was quite easy to catch any Jew who failed to register as demanded by the Germans. Weeding out the converts and their children was more difficult, but not greatly so. Though identity cards here would have classed their bearers as Catholics or whatever, they referred back to central or local archives where further details were available.
I could immensely elaborate this point, showing the ubiquity of identity cards in these societies, how no one could be said to exist without one. But I have made the point. I can say that without identity cards, there could have been no full persecution of the Jews. I will turn this to a more general proposition - That identity cards make such things possible, and even encourage the kind of people who want to make them happen. By abolishing anonymity, identity cards enable the authorities to find their victims among populations of millions or hundreds of millions.
It was identity cards that enabled the massacres in Rwanda. Here, as in Central Europe, there was no immediately obvious distinction between persecutors and persecuted.[6 ] Though claiming an infallible eye for who was Hutu and who Tutsi, the killers notoriously relied on checking identity cards. These stated tribal origin, and determined the fate of their bearers.[7 ] What little hope the region has of a return to peace may rest on reforms to the identity card system, so that members of both tribes can go anonymously about their business in public.[8 ]"

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