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This is how I can imagine the bargain you make as a citizen with your government.

If you want inclusion in the benefits of a state, you forfeit some of your personal freedom by agreeing to be limited by laws which are seen as necessary (necessary evils, or, necessary goods), for the collective functioning of society. If the government considers it a practical necessity to have records of your existence, a number of identifying factors, and some personal information about you, in order to exert law and order, then you'll have to accept that.

Still, there might be a difference between identifying information needed to enroll in some system - it would be impossible to have a swim membership if there was not some way of knowing whose membership it was - and a security state's desire to know as much as they want about you, because they can, and it serves their interest, of information, intelligence, and control (for good or for ill).

With regards to the latter, what are my rights with regards to the government's ability to know inherently who I am - not necessarily in the context of some particular subsystem I participate in, but a more intrinsic legal replica of me, in my totality, as a single existing person or civic entity.

For example: I may need to identify myself with my income if the government is going to tax it, but do I not have choice in the method of identification? For example, blockchains are able to systematise identity numerically and anonymously. But that isn't the only possibility. My fingerprints (we are told) are unique. My DNA is unique. Much about my consciousness, knowledge, or memories is unique. And so on. Should I have the right to choose how, when, and why I identify myself, instead of being forced to exist not only demographically, in the way the government defines subjects with eye colour, height, race, religion, address, age, gender, etc, but more broadly, for the power to be in my hand to define my legal existence? For example, why should I not be able to have two legal identities, if I wish to, and for the government to never know that they are linked to the same person?

Although these are hypothetical questions, the actual specific question is, am I able to request the government delete all records of me; does that require I forfeit citizenship; do any countries give citizens more freedom or flexibility in how they make themselves identifiable, when it is necessary to do so; and should I have the legal right to have multiple disconnected identities, because the government should not fundamentally be able to clone, and entrap, my selfhood as a bundle of inherent characteristics in their legalnoperations, but that I always have the right to choose how I present myself to the government, and they have no inherent right to, or ownership, over my inherent identity?

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    can you shorten this down, a lot?
    – dandavis
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 22:50
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    If the government "deletes all records of you", wouldn't you end up looking a lot like an illegal immigrant? What problem is this trying to solve? Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 23:26
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    This is clearly some sovereign citizen "theory."
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 3:04
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    Depending on jurisdiction, concepts like the right to privacy or the right of informational self-determination give frameworks that can be applied to the relation of citizens to their country. Mind you, in legal practice, they are often used predominantly in relation to private entities, while for governments it is much easier to just order by law that some data collection is "neccessary".
    – ccprog
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 15:03
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    "If you want inclusion in the benefits of a state" Generally it isn't a choice or a bargain made on a person by person basis. It is a collective bargain made between "the people" generally, and the state.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 16:23

3 Answers 3

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why should I not be able to have two legal identities, if I wish to, and for the government to never know that they are linked to the same person?

In a nut shell, because if you break the law under one of your identities, it should not be possible for you to get away with it by leveraging the other.

Furthermore, the very definition of "identity" requires strictly one-to-one relationship of a person to an identity. By suggesting that it could be one-to-many, you are substituting the definition.

the government should not fundamentally be able to clone, and entrap, my selfhood as a bundle of inherent characteristics

There is no way to identify a person other than by referencing a bundle of inherent characteristics. That is not cloning or entrapping, it is simply being able to tell who is who.

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  • Podcast w Bruce Schneier about crypto currencies. He says the "feature" of lack of 3rd party/centralized oversight would be considered a "bug" by most people. Few benefit from a system where, if you lose your password you lose your $ because there is no fallback trust mechanism. A bank doesn't, or at least shouldn't, hand out your $ to the first person walking up to the teller claiming they're you. You forgetting your pin doesn't mean your $ is lost. Harsh words from BS calling them crypto bros Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 18:23
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No.

The government, as defined in the Constitution, has the Constitutional right to make "necessary and proper" laws to enable it to carry out it's other constitutional rights (such as to raise taxes). It is necessary and proper for the government to keep records, and to record your identity in the way it chooses, which excludes things like "Multiple identities" (which would be abused to reduce the amount of tax a natural individual paid)

Every other functional country works the same. The only place where you might be able to maintain multiple identities or identify "as you choose" is countries without a government, or in regions which are not controlled by a Government. I'm quite sure that Brazil doesn't have records of all the native rainforest peoples. I'm sure that the USA hasn't managed to get SS numbers for every "off-the-gridder" in Alaska.

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    There are quite a few Americans who are statutorily exempt from Social Security, with the largest cohesive group probably being the Amish. Even so, they still (probably) have birth certificates and other identifying documents, but those are issued by the state government. They probably wouldn't have any federally-issued papers unless they needed to travel internationally.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 2:51
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At least from the governments perspective the premise in your first sentence is wrong. There is no agreement to a bargain between the citizen and the government which sounds like either side could renegotiate or even withdraw from it.

The government has control over some territory and therefore you as a human being are bound by the rules the government imposes on you. You are not asked whether you like it or not. Of course the government may grant you certain rights and let you choose some things. Or not. Not your choice to make. So the whole point of argueing that you would like to have certain rights is moot.

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  • I guess the point is that the OP is one of those who elects the government (where elections work, of course), so in a sense there is a bargain where many voters share the same view.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 21:15
  • @Greendrake the problem with that line of reasoning is that people who didn't elect the government, whether because they chose not to vote or because they chose to vote for the opposition or for any other reason -- are also subject to the government's policies.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 20:30

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