Imagine not having to file an income tax form every year, or sending out change-of-address notices or renewing your driver’s license, because all the information concerning these personal matters is part of a nationwide data bank.
That world exists – it’s called Finland. Every single citizen has a "citizenship ID card" and a personal identification number, and all his personal and public data is recorded in thousands of databases all networked by the helpful bureaucrats in Helsinki.
The Finnish government has computerized every bit of information and government services and put the data into its giant database and made it available online. This mass of private and public information includes every automobile, business and piece of property in Finland.
According to ecompany.com’s informative magazine feature Startup, most Finns don’t have to file income taxes because their employers send the personal ID codes of their employees together with all their payroll records to the government. Startup notes that this little gimmick helps maximize Big Brother’s income.
"Drawing on databases showing everything from demographic details to pension income, student grants and payouts from insurance companies, as well as holding of assets like property, cars and stocks, Ministry of Finance computers calculate the appropriate withholding taxes and transmit the data back to employers," Startup notes.
Every spring, some 3 million Finns get a "tax proposal" from Big Brother, presenting them with the amount they owe the government.
How do Finns react to this fishbowl existence?
"It’s very efficient," Timo Koljonen told Startup.
"They know my situation better than I do because sometimes I forget things. The government knows everything. It’s a little scary, but we’re used to it."
One of the many downsides is Finland’s policy of "the more you make, the more you pay." And that doesn’t just mean income taxes. It covers traffic tickets as well.
Just ask dot.com bigwig Jaakko Rytsola, a multimillionaire. He got a ticket for making an improper lane change. The cop who stopped him called cyberbrother’s computer, got the offender’s income from the previous year, and toted up Rytsola’s fine – are you ready for this? – a modest $45,000 U.S.
After all, the Finns calculate, that’s a mere 12 days' income for Rytsola, so why shouldn’t he pay according to his income?
Finns put up with all of this because they hear the siren song that their privacy-invasive cyberbrother system saves them lots of time in dealing with the bureaucracy. After all, they say, the ability to deal online with the bureaucracy has cut personal visits to government agencies from 7 million a year to a mere 500,000.
Eliminating bureaucratic red tape instead of computerizing it and sacrificing their privacy in the bargain does not appear to have occurred to them.
"Virtually everything you need to do with government you can get on the Internet," Koljonen explained.
"Any government form, you just call up the Web page, fill it out on your computer, and submit it online."
If tiny Finland – a mere 5 million citizens – can come up with this, can America be far behind?
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