Federal and state officials have plenty of reasons to give every American an ID number.
It would make their work more effective, whether it's nabbing illegal immigrants or issuing a driver's license.
But a national identity tag based on Social Security numbers could also assist crooks, snoops, marketeers, errant law officers, and many others - especially in the Age of the Internet.
With increasing abuse of private information - including "identity theft" - it can no longer be argued that those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear from a national ID.
And such a lever of government control would be highly intrusive for a nation whose global strength lies in being a champion of freedom.
A person's identity isn't in a number or a file, and the more bureaucrats treat Americans as digits, the more inhuman government becomes.
But all these reasons didn't stop the US Census from conducting a test during its 2000 survey to see if Americans would voluntarily give their Social Security numbers (see story on page 2). The Census wants to use the number to better keep tabs on people and check other agencies for data. It's already Orwellian enough that the government requires children to have a SS number well before working age.
The House may soon take up a bill to prohibit the use of the Social Security number as a general identifier.
Such a law would be a good defense against privacy invaders.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society