Citizenships should be tradeable
by Axel Boldt
Abstract: People from different countries should be allowed to
citizenships if they so choose. This would substantially increase
individual liberty, create a market of citizenships resulting in
improved global efficiency, and might lead to a
more just distribution of resources.
Two people from different countries who agree to exchange their
citizenships should be allowed to do so. If such an exchange is
accompanied by a payment, then that's fine too. Like in every business
transaction, both parties win.
Allowing citizenship exchanges would substantially enlarge personal
freedoms around the world. Obviously, no one is forced to exchange
their citizenship -- in a free country, no one should be prevented
from doing so either. Existing avenues of immigration/emigration
remain in place, so no one loses.
"Globalization" is normally defined as the opening of economies to
foreign sellers and producers. There is an obvious imbalance here:
capital may freely move across international borders, but
labor is supposed to stay put. My proposal would fix this to a degree:
the resulting market in citizenships, like any market, would increase
Who in their right mind would want to exchange a first world
citizenship with another one? Some examples:
- Many people will want to exchange with another first-world
citizen, for personal or job-related reasons.
- People who don't fare well in a rich country may opt to auction
off their citizenship to the highest bidder, with the intent of beginning
a new life elsewhere with a nice start capital.
- Retirees may want to live out their life in a nice warm and cheap
country like Costa Rica or Thailand. Some of these people may not be
interested in money and instead select
an especially talented and promising replacement to exchange
- Some idealists may want to exchange citizenships for fairness
reasons, feeling bad about the undeserved perks received courtesy of a
lucky birth. Others might be motivated by a disagreement with their
Some people are born into a life of opportunity, freedom and security;
others are born into a life of poverty, hard work and misery. The
difference is the passport, easily the most valuable thing you own as
a citizen of the first world. This unjust distribution of resources
may be somewhat alleviated by my proposal:
- Retirees from rich countries who decide to sell their
citizenship and acquire one from a sunny but poor country will spend
their retirement money there, will bring along their know-how, and
will demand a state-of-the-art health care system; some may enter the
- People from poor
countries who manage to acquire a citizenship from a rich country will
be young and extremely motivated to succeed which helps the rich country's
economy; they will most likely go on to transfer funds to relatives in
their country of origin.
One might argue that a citizenship should not be a tradeable good since it is
a political rather than an economic concept; thus governments should
decide who deserves the consequent benefits. I have two counter
Some technical details best left to bureaucrats:
- Citizenships are fundamentally an economic concept, since the vast
majority of their benefits are of an
economic nature. This includes obviously the ability to work in a developed
region, but also benefits such as: if you have an accident and become
a paraplegic, you'll get social security for the rest of your life; if
someone murders your daughter, the police will track down and punish
the killer, at no charge to you.
- Already under current law, there are several situations where
private citizens and not governments decide whom to make a citizen,
such as adoptions and marriages of foreigners.
- A person who acquires
their passport by exchange waives the right (that ordinary citizens
have) to bring over their family; somebody who wants to bring a family
of four needs to arrange for four citizenship exchanges.
exchanges could not be used to escape subsequent prosecution
by the country of origin.
- To discourage non-serious deals and speculation, one could require
that a person may only exchange a citizenship if they have lived in
the country for five years; this would also take care of the problem
of dual citizenships.
- The system can be formalized rather easily: a country that
wants to participate in the citizenship exchange program simply makes
a law that recognizes citizenship exchanges from all countries that
have a reciprocal law.
Last Change: 18-June-2006 .
Written by Axel Boldt email@example.com
article is in the public domain.