Birth Certificates and the Law
“When in the Course of human events” a child is born is it morally proper for the child’s parents to obtain a State-issued birth certificate? Do State birth certificates violate “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”? If “all men are created equal,” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” does the issuance and possession of a government birth certificate allow some children to take advantage of government-granted privileges (which would not otherwise be permitted to them)? In short, does a government birth certificate make some people “more equal” than others? This question obviously leads us to ask: what are the ramifications of not having a birth certificate in a statist world?
While working on my anthology, NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEMS: ESSAYS IN OPPOSITION, my wife and I discussed these questions because birth certificates are one of the primary ways in which the State counts and controls its citizens. As the laws are written in most states, it is the obligation of the parents, the attending physician, or the midwife, to “register” the birth of a child with State authorities. Their failure or refusal to do so will possibly make them subject to some sort of criminal penalty for “failure to register a birth.” However, so far as I know, there is no crime in “not having a birth certificate.” In other words, there is no law that operates upon fhe person who is born to have a birth certificate. The penal sanctions are upon those who witness the birth, not upon the newborn.
In stateless societies birth certificates would generally be a private or religious matter. Parents might choose to make a private or church record of the births of their children, or they may chose to make none at all. Only since the rise of the nation-state in the later Middle Ages has it occurred to anyone that there might be a reason to have governments document human births. In many areas of the world, for many centuries before the official beginning of the United States there was never any requirement that births be registered with the political authorities. Under such circumstances, it was never a crime not to report or register a birth. When it did become a crime, one might have asked: Who has been harmed by not reporting a birth or obtaining a birth certificate for one’s newborn? Failure to report a birth can thus be seen as a violation of a “political” statute, but it is clearly not a “real” crime. It is certainly not a crime against God’s law or Nature’s Law not to have a birth certificate, and that being the case, it certainly cannot be a real crime to fail to report the birth to the political authorities.
What happens when the parents of a newborn apply for a birth certificate? What is the moral propriety of a parent or guardian obtaining a state-issued birth certificate for a minor? Does getting a birth certificate violate any of God’s laws or Nature’s laws? My answer would be: “Yes.” Which ones, you might ask? For starters, try Commandment One: “Thou shalt have no other Gods.” What is your country’s government trying to do when it requires that every birth be registered? It is playing God, demanding that each citizen bow before the State. Possession of a birth certificate is a prerequisite to receiving any sort of privilege from the State: whether it be a driver’s license, marriage license, contractor’s license, etc. (I might add that none of these licenses are inherently necessary to the activities which they authorize. One can competently drive, marry, and build without a license from the State.)
In short, the birth certificate is the basis for the state’s monopolization of identification. It is literally “a license to live,” issued by the government. The birth certificate is an attack on every person’s right to exist anywhere in the universe. Without a government birth certificate, one encounters difficulty in leaving and returning to one’s country of origin. A person without a birth certificate will ultimately be seized by government authorities for violating their laws concerning personal identification. A parent by complying with State laws governing birth certificates is trying to play God with his infant’s life, by putting the child on the altar of the State. The birth certificate labels the infant as a member of a national group whose members are subject to paying taxes and to the military draft
Are we “owned” by the State or is each individual a self-owner? Isn’t everyone “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”? Or do children need to be registered with the government of their native country in order to “legally” exist and receive whatever privileges and benefits that government condescends to grant them? Isn’t the birth certificate really a badge of slavery?
Parents by your actions, you make this choice for your children.
Copyright Voluntaryists Second Quarter 2005
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