In these days of global trade and supposed free movement of people, it’s amazing that we still have – and continue to put up with – the ridiculous ritual of passport control. The obsolete technology, the humorless border police, the queues, the ban on use of mobile phones or cameras in the hall (why?!) – all these contribute to making sure that your very first impression of the country you’ve just entered is a bad one.
I was therefore first surprised, and then increasingly annoyed, by finding out from an article entitled “Passport to the Total State” that passports are a relatively recent invention, were until even more recently a voluntary document, and were originally developed to help those who carried them:
A passport is where the security theater begins. Indeed, without a passport those who wish to fly or cross a border are not “allowed” to be scanned, searched, interrogated, or undergo a plethora of other indignities imposed by uniformed thugs. The hoops through which passport carriers jump are all prelude to “permitting” them to exercise a right belonging to every freeborn person: the right to travel.
America and the world were not always this way. It is important to remember that there once was a world in which people traveled freely across borders without paperwork to visit families, pursue education, conduct business, and mingle. Freedom worked once. It enriched the world economically, culturally, and psychologically.
The passport has grown into what is arguably the single most powerful tool of totalitarian America, second only to law enforcement itself. It no longer pretends to protect individuals; not a single terrorist has been apprehended as a result of passport checks. But it does cement the totalitarian state. The mandatory passport should be reviled and rejected as an abuse of human rights and common decency. A nation that requires one cannot be free.
The passport is yet another part of our everyday lives that, along with Big Government, tax, inflation, war and a host of other things, we accept as completely normal.
Via the excellent Mises Institute, I came across an article written by Clarence Darrow that was excerpted from his book Resist Not Evil, written in 1903. The topic of the article is the nature of Government – how it came about, what its goals are and what that means for us, the ‘governed’. What’s amazing is how this article could have been written yesterday…
Everywhere it seems to have been taken for granted that force and violence are necessary to man’s welfare upon the earth. Endless volumes have been written, and countless lives been sacrificed in an effort to prove that one form of government is better than another; but few seem seriously to have considered the proposition that all government rests on violence and force; is sustained by soldiers, policemen, and courts; and is contrary to the ideal peace and order that make for the happiness and progress of the human race.
Now and then it is even admitted that in the far-distant ages yet to come men may so far develop toward the angelic that political governments will have no need to be. This admission, like the common concept, presumes that governments are good; that their duties undertaken and performed consist in repressing the evil and the lawless, and protecting and caring for the helpless and the weak.
If the history of the state proved that governing bodies were ever formed for this purpose or filled this function, there might be some basis for the assumption that government is necessary to preserve order and to defend the weak. But the origin and evolution of the political state show quite another thing — they show that the state was born in aggression, and that in all the various stages through which it has passed its essential characteristics have been preserved.
The rest of the article is well worth a read – highly recommended!