Nationalize U.S. Driver’s Licenses
To promote safety and cut red tape, state-by-state licenses should be replaced by federally issued ones. Pro or con?
Pro: One Country, One Driver’s License
Everywhere in the U.S. people are approached and asked the question: “May I see some identification please?” The main form of verification is a driver’s license, issued by a state. But these state-specific licenses are not necessarily the best identification for drivers. The U.S. should stop issuing state-specific driver’s licenses and instead issue nationalized driver’s licenses.
Why? First of all, it would cut red tape for Americans who move from state to state. On top of changing addresses, doctors, and jobs, do we really need the hassle of using personal or vacation days to stand in line at the division of motor vehicles to obtain a new state-specific driver’s license? It would be easier to have your records stay intact when you move from state to state.
National licenses would also make it harder for motorists to conceal bad driving records. And they’d serve as a boon to national security, according to the Homeland Security Dept., a proponent of the Real ID Act. This measure establishes countrywide standards for driver’s licenses to ensure the authenticity of those licenses Americans present when boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings or nuclear power plants.
Although the Real ID Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2005, objections from numerous states have halted implementation of its measures, and it may not go into effect until 2011. We live in a huge country with a wonderful diversity of peoples. But let’s all unite under one driver’s license.
Con: Blueprint for Big Brother
You don’t have to be an excitable George Orwell devotee to be turned off by the idea of a nationalized driver’s license. The chief logic behind such a scheme is simple: Standardized identification will curb fraud and bolster national security. But such reasoning is deeply flawed.
A national driver’s license would simply create a gold standard for identity fraud. There would be, in other words, a single, uniform ID for potential thieves and even terrorists to falsify. In contrast, the current multiplicity of identification standards means a number of forms of identification are typically required, making it more difficult to commit fraud. Security is strengthened by the redundancy and overlap in the current system.
Moreover, such an idea is not feasible. The burden of implementation would largely fall to states, whose budgets already are under extreme duress. The cost to standardize countless bureaucratic processes and databases, retrain personnel, and properly inform the public about changes would be enormous—prohibitively so.
Last, and perhaps most important, national ID in any form is antithetical to basic U.S. principles of self-government. America’s identity and economic prosperity have been, and continue to be, founded on an unfettered mobility. Boundlessness is in the national DNA. A national driver’s license, without much justification, would unnecessarily constrain us.