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Stupid People, and Other Arguments for Limited Government

The Constitution: protecting the people in times of government by morons.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

December 16, 2009 - 12:09 am

I met some people recently who claimed that all U.S. birth certificates issued since the 1970s have language at the bottom holding the person so named personally responsible for a share of the U.S. national debt. Because of this language, so the claim goes, our government can sell anyone with such a birth certificate to pay that debt.

One of those telling me this claimed that her granddaughter’s Idaho birth certificate included this debt obligation language at the bottom. I found this rather difficult to believe, especially since the state of California seems to have neglected to put that language on the birth certificates of my two children, born in the 1980s. (Perhaps they gave me “special” birth certificates, because they knew that I would notice!)

So I went Googling for images of these debt liability birth certificates — and darn, I’m having a heck of a time finding them.

I do find a lot of claims like this, which uses a blow-up of the bottom of some document (only implied to be a birth certificate) that shows that the document was printed on paper from the American Banknote Company — and from there, goes off on a rant about how this makes the birth certificates into “warehouse receipts” through the Uniform Commercial Code. Another website making this debt obligation claim seems to think that ALL CAPS is somehow “different” from a mixed case version of your name.

Maybe you will have better luck finding them than I have had. I don’t find it hard to believe that some states may have American Banknote Company print birth certificate forms, since there has been a real problem in the past (and probably present) with criminals using forged birth certificates to construct or steal an identity. Still, where are the images of these birth certificates with the debt obligation language?

There are some other truly astonishing conspiracy theories out there allied with this.

For example, there is the “federal children” claim, which argues that congressional passage of the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act (1921) created birth certificate registration where previously there was none:

Before 1921 the records of births and names of children were entered into family Bibles, as were the records of marriages and deaths. These records were readily accepted by both the family and the law as “official” records. Since 1921 the American people have been registering the births and names of their children with the government of the state in which they are born, even though there is no federal law requiring it. The state tells you that registering your child’s birth through the birth certificate serves as proof that he/she was born in the United States, thereby making him/her a United States Citizen.

The problem with this is that while family Bible birth and marriage records were generally acceptable if nothing else was available, many states had birth and death certificate laws far earlier than 1921.

New Jersey, for example, passed a birth and death certificate law in 1799. Here’s an 1884 New York State report referring to the mandatory birth and death certificate requirement. Here’s an 1893 report from the North Carolina government that refers to the mandatory birth and death certificate requirements. At least as early as 1866, Massachusetts required parents to register births, and apparently as early as 1639.

There are days I somewhat understand why the hard left holds the masses in such contempt, because stuff like this is so widely believed and accepted with no evidence. The left, however, seems to forget how many of their fellow elites believe:

  1. We never went to the moon.
  2. The World Trade Center collapse was an inside job.
  3. John Kennedy was really going to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam, and that’s why the CIA assassinated him. (At the same time, they ignore the more plausible explanation that Lee Harvey Oswald, a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and a Communist who actually renounced U.S. citizenship to move to the Soviet Union, might have assassinated Kennedy in retaliation for Kennedy’s approval of CIA assassination plots against Fidel Castro.)

Wild, bizarre, unbelievable conspiracy theories are a huge problem in every society. This isn’t a new problem, either. It is one of the stronger arguments for limited governmental power. If most of the population buys into bizarre, strange, or even profoundly dangerous foolishness, there is a limit to the amount of damage that the majority can cause if the government’s power is limited.

Hitler and his followers, without a government to impose their ideas, might have murdered tens of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals over a period of a couple of decades. Some of the victims would have fought back well enough to dampen the enthusiasm that some members of the Sturmabteilung had for murder. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, if in charge of a government of limited power, simply could not have enslaved tens of millions of people, worked to death millions, and starved to death millions more.

It simply would not have had the power to do it privately. The strongest argument for a government of limited powers is that you should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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