March 27, 2007
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Your Papers, Please

I was trying to pay Hilton hotel for someone else. The hotel sent me a credit form to fill out and fax back, asking for my contact information, signature, and a photocopy of my credit card.

Then the Assistant Front Office Manager, Juan Monroig, called my office and insisted that it was necessary to also fax them a copy of a government-issued picture ID. He said it was Hilton Policy, though he could not satisfactorily explain why it was policy or how the policy benefited Hilton.

The US Constitution guarantees lots of things — including, as I recall, that you have to accept US currency in settlement of any debts. But, in practice, lots of places don’t accept cash, or make it very difficult to use cash. Long distance transactions, in particular, depend (as they have depended since the 14th century) on bank credit.

Now, if one of the largest banks in the world says, "This fellow's credit is good", that's not enough: if the government won't issue me an ID, I can't pay without flying to Chicago. And, of course, without an ID the government won't let me fly, or drive. So I have to walk to Chicago, carrying a few thousand dollars, to settle someone's hotel bill?

Right.

Where are the conservatives? (I guess they're too busy blocking stem cell research)