You Don’t Own Your Citizenship

You Don't Own Your CitizenshipTo some people, their citizenship is a very significant part of their identity. Others see their citizenship as basically an accident of what latitude and longitude their mother was at the day she delivered a baby and what political powers of the day were claiming authority over those coordinates. In either case, most of us feel that our citizenship is ours and ours alone.

But if we really own our citizenship as we own other personal property, shouldn’t we have the right to sell or trade it? Bear with me. We live in a mobile society. Every year millions of people move from country to country for personal or professional reasons. So if a Canadian wants to live in New Zealand and a New Zealander wants to live in Canada, and they both own their own citizenship, why can’t they come to a contractual arrangement where they trade citizenship?

Uh-oh, a new idea to increase personal freedom. Better find immediate objections!

“Foreigners will take ‘our’ jobs.” No. One person leaves the country and another enters, there’s no new pressure on the labor market.

“Bad people will come into ‘our’ country.” Perhaps bad people will leave our country in similar numbers. The one remaining, openly encouraged, nearly universal bigotry in this world is toward – foreigners. Every country has politicians and interest groups who operate on the premise that the people in our country are generally good and the people coming in from foreign countries are generally bad. Therefore measures must be made to keep out any more foreigners. Like those damned Canadians.

“Citizenship is a privilege.” A privilege granted by whom? Your owner? Citizenship is a relic. It comes from the days when people were basically property of a king, pharaoh or other dictator who put them to work so he could tax them for his benefit. I’ve made my living online for over a decade. I do it from all over the world and I collaborate with other productive people all over the world. Why should anything get in the way of that peaceful, productive enterprise? Unless we’re someone’s chattel and he wants his pound of flesh from every transaction inside his fiefdom.

“We’ll lose our national identity.” The stasis argument. Everything should stay the way it is now and we need to coerce people in order to ensure that happens. But where are the ancient Greeks discussing philosophy all afternoon while their slaves did the work? Where are the conquering Romans of the empire? Where are the Englishmen in bowler hats colonizing Africa? National identities, as usually defined, are mostly self-flattering and often blind to deficiencies. Cultures evolve and all of them need to. Some desperately. When their evolution is stifled it injures all but the coercive power elite. One look at the current ambitions to return to a 9th century Muslim caliphate boldly illustrates the retrogressive effects of trying to enforce stasis.

The truth among free men is that if I want to live in Wellington and a Kiwi wants to live in Toronto we should be able to trade passports and citizenship if we agree to do so. (And the passport is also a relic, but I’ll fight one battle at a time in this post. Read it and you’ll see it clearly states it is owned by your government, not you.)

The harsh reality is you don’t own your citizenship. You don’t really own your identity. These are granted to you by a coercive state that retains the strings that operate you like an obedient puppet. Do something the state dislikes and you lose your right to travel under the arbitrary citizenship rules. And you can never sell or trade your citizenship to a willing buyer under terms agreeable to you because your identity is owned by a third party – not by you.

Now get back to work and send him the money you make.

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3 Responses to You Don’t Own Your Citizenship

  1. Andrew
    Twitter:
    April 2, 2013 at 11:37 AM #

    Good article. I’ve suggested in tongue-in-cheek fashion that large countries like the US let derelicts sell their citizenship to wealthy foreigners in exchange for cash and permanent residence on a newly colonized island in the ocean.

    Seriously, this notion that citizenship defines us is indeed a relic. I never understood why my being from Cleveland made the Indians the best baseball team. To roughly 97% of the country, they are not. Yet fans are ardent in their beliefs, just as so many people are in their belief that whatever plot of dirt they were born on is where they must pledge allegiance to all government policies whether they agree or not.

  2. Kayler April 11, 2013 at 4:05 PM #

    Hi Pete! I’m so excited to hear about the books you’re writing! I can hardly wait to read them!

    – Kayler

    • Peter Sisco April 11, 2013 at 5:57 PM #

      Hi Kayler! It’s so nice to re-connect with you. I think this will be an exciting year. A big step in a long journey.

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