10 March, 2008
Damn. The last place I could readily exchange pounds for Euros anonymously has been dragged into line. Now I'm obliged to show a driving licence or passport whenever I want to swap my money for a slightly different format of my money.
The official excuse is that it's to combat money laundering, but I have three major objections:
- Presumption of guilt. Prove I'm a money-launderer, then refuse to serve me. No proof? Then give me my Euros. As is supposed to be standard in UK law, the accuser bears the burden of proving guilt – it's not for the defendant to prove innocence.
- Who serves who? It's far easier for the government to take preemptive action against everyone than to identify criminals first, but that gets the relationship between the state and the individual back-to-front. The state exists to serve the individual; the individual's actions shouldn't be restricted for mere administrative convenience.
- Wouldn't work. If there's a serious money-laundering problem, wouldn't that involve fake identity documents as a matter of routine? Would counter staff recognise a forged driving licence?
I'm no conspiracy theorist (honest), but I genuinely believe the 'money laundering' excuse is tangential at most, and the identity check is a symptom of social control – once people accept this and several other, individually trivial, impositions as routine they will more readily accept further intrusions into privacy.
I mentioned this issue to my colleagues a moment ago, and heard of another example. In order to become a member of Lancaster Public Library, one has to show two forms of identity – not passport or driving licence, but both – and a recent letter from one's bank. Dangerous stuff, access to information; we wouldn't want just anyone to have it.