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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Identity cards last time round

I am currently re-reading Are We At War?, a collection of letters to the Times 1939-1945. (Pub. Times Books 1989.) Here are some extracts from letters on the subject of identity cards:

From a letter from Antony Wells:

Sir, -While obtaining, recently, a National Registration identity card for my small daughter, I remarked that it was pleasant to think all this bothersome business would soon no longer be necessary. I was blandly informed by the clerk that my expectation was quite wrong, since registration was to continue after the war. On looking at the card in my hand, I discovered it was valid until 1960.

In happy fact, identity cards were seen off as a result of a court case soon after the war. But the fact that the government saw fit to plan for them to expire so many years after issue shows how purported “emergency measures” have a way of becoming permanent. The letter was written in December 1944 and the war was quite clearly nearing its end; the government could not have seriously believed it would go on until 1960.

This second extract comes from a letter from (Baron) Quickswood:

…Such cards may seem only a small inconvenience, but they are seriously dangerous to liberty in two ways: -First, they facilitate all sorts of further regimentation of citizens, and that is, of course, why it is desired to retain them; secondly, they have a most mischievous moral effect in treating the individual as a numbered item in the aggregate that makes up the State. There lie before us two alternative conceptions of the State: it may be thought an organization useful to individuals and essentially their servant, or it may be thought a pagan demigod for whom the individual exists, whose service is his greatest glory and whose supremacy is without limit.

…We have to fear an Anglicized totalitarianism, humane and benevolent but esentially destructive of personal liberty and initiative; and there will be a strong coalition of philanphropists and bureaucrats eager to regulate their fellow-citizens. We must be jealous for our liberties, and to begin with must resist being numbered by convicts in order to facilitate our servitude.

I have nothing to add to that.

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