Stupid People, and Other Arguments for Limited Government

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.