Thursday, February 15, 2007

Are We All Snitches Now?

by Tibor R. Machan

Periodically I go shopping, like many other people. And I have even hired some folks to do cleaning at my house. There is even a handyman in my neighborhood who does extensive work on my house.

Now in none of these cases have I ever asked the people with whom I engage in commerce for any kind of identification, proof of citizenship, nada. If they are well recommended, if I am convinced their track record is fine, I'll take my chances. And the last thing I would want is for the government to force me to check up on these folks.

It is bad enough that government forces employers to do the dirty work of extorting money from employees, by means of the withholding process—it kind of hides the nasty business and makes it look like government isn't really perpetrating the crime. But then to force businesses to do the government's job of crime control, that's quite over the top.

In the last several days I've been hearing how Bank of America, with which I do some little business—checking, savings, etc.—hasn't been insisting that its customers prove whether they are American citizens. So what? Unless these customers are doing something wrong, why should the bank butt in with such detective work? That's not what banks are supposed to do. They are supposed to make sure that they do business profitably—that's what they are on record doing for their owners and investors.

In a free country people are innocent unless proven guilty and that is how they are expected to treat one another in many endeavors. The people I may bowl with or with whom I may shoot baskets or play tennis or do all kinds of other things—worship, attend school, travel, and so forth—who haven't done anything untoward to me will be left in peace by me and I would expect the same treatment from merchants. Accordingly, when I take my clothes to the cleaners, or my car to the mechanic or purchase a phone at Circuit City I am not asked for an ID. So long as I pay up, do what I promise, I expect to be left in peace about who I am, where I come from, what my religion is, whom I date, etc., and so forth.

So I am baffled ... why all this hostility toward Bank of America when all the bank is doing is following the spirit of due process? Do not bother people unless there is some kind of case against them you are aware of.

Some argue, not surprisingly, that it is because bank deposits are backed by the FDIC—which is another body the government ought never to have established and funded from taxes—banks may be coerced to act as snitches. This is bunk; it is also yet another move toward the creeping police state—people are “given” another subsidy only to have it accompanied by all sorts of restrictions and demands.

So perhaps all this brouhaha about the bank isn't really about what they are doing wrong but rather about what doesn't please those who are eager to catch illegal aliens. OK, I am not in favor of illegal aliens but neither do I believe it is a bank's or anyone else's business outside of law enforcement to chase them down.

Maybe if our government didn't get involved in millions of other tasks, it could concentrate its energies on what it was instituted to do by America's founders, namely, secure our rights—protect us from criminal conduct. But no. It seems to be more and more farming out that job to private citizens and organizations, ones not trained in the proper methods of law enforcement.

But then the business of making employers collect taxes, social security and other monies the government extorts from us, has habituated too many of us into thinking that everyone is part of the government, everyone must act like a cop, like an enforcer of the laws. This reminds me of when back in communist Hungary we were all expected to report on everyone around us who didn't toe the government's line about innumerable matters. We were all snitches there. Maybe this is happening in America now, too.

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