Tag Archives: citizenship

Citizenship for sale?

The Dutch government has announced that foreigners who invest more than 1.25 million Euro in the Dutch economy, can obtain a residence permit. The Netherlands aren’t the first country to implement such rule. Some countries even offer citizenship rather than mere “residence permits” to wealthy investors.

Usually these countries allow investing as one of several conditions for naturalization. There are currently no countries which limit naturalization only to wealthy investors. But unfortunately this might change in the future.

According to The Nation a group of libertarians wants to buy Belle Isle from the City of Detroit for the price of one billion USD. The article is dated January 28, 2013, months before Detroit filled for bankruptcy, but nevertheless if there’s one city in the world which is in need of one billion dollars, it would be Detroit.

And this is where the good news ends. According to the article, the project’s initiator, Rodney Lockwood, desires to transform Belle Island into a city-state with 35,000 citizens. Only this citizens has to pay a 300,000 dollar citizenship fee, and this is a necessary condition. Curiously, this fee is not intended to raise the one billion dollar to buy the island (a quick calculation shows that 35,000 people paying 300,000 USD each, would generate 10.5 billion USD).

Besides the citizenship fee, Lockwood also has two further conditions: approval by a “citizenship board” (sounds more like an exclusive club than as a city), and the ability to use English. We highly recommend to read the article for yourself for more of these amazing details.

Fortunately, it’s very unlikely that the US federal government this small island to become de facto independent. But the next generation of Lockwoods might turn to Space settlements. It’s not hard to imagine how they will buy or lease a space habitat, and to sell citizenship to wealthy people.

Citizenship implies privileges, such as the right to vote and stand in elections, which non-citizens does not have. Besides political rights, many states offer their citizens special protection such as social security, or as in case of Germany, they do not extradite their citizens to other countries. If citizenship, and political rights in particular, is limited to the happy few, than such state becomes a de jure oligarchy.

In a space colony, where only a few persons can afford to pay citizenship fees, most inhabitants will be mere (permanent) residents, even if their family lives in the colony for generations. These non-residents could be expelled from the country, if “their” government should see fit, while they cannot appeal such decision.

The idea of a country, where only a minority of its residents are citizens might sound strange, but isn’t. In Dubai, only 17% of the population are UAE citizens. The status of permanent residents, whose families are living in a space colony for generations, resembles that of the metics in classical Athens. In ancient Athens, citizenship was very restrictive and only in extraordinary circumstances a foreigner could become an Athenian citizen.

With paying huge fees as the only way to become a naturalized citizen of a space colony, it will not be strange that those citizens will prefer a jus sanguinis rather a jus soli based nationality law. Under the former system only those born to citizen parents become citizens at birth, while the latter system confers citizenship to all people born within its territory.

It’s clear that such huge citizenship fees are incompatible with classical republican ideals. We of Republic of Lagrangia, believe that anyone who subscribes to the principles of a secular, liberal and humanist society and is willing to contribute to such society according to his or her own capacities, should be able to become citizens of the Republic we want to found in outer space.

See also

Space settlements and citizenship

Space settlements and citizenship

In the model we propose, people who are immigrating to a space settlement will do this by their own choice. Further those residents who wish so, are allowed to leave the settlement at any time, either to return to Earth or to move to another settlement.Though some authors have suggested to impose a minimum period of residence by contract, we believe that save for some exceptional circumstances, such contractual clauses should be avoided.

As such it follows that the residence of a space colony is voluntary (I restrict myself here to the case of adults). However, if the residence of a space settlement is voluntary, then the citizenship of such settlement should also be voluntary. Citizens have more rights than residents, mainly rights such as suffrage, but have also additional duties such as conscription. Of course, different space settlements will have different sets of rights and duties, according to principles on which their societies are based.

Any person who is seriously committed to the idea of democracy, should recognize the right of any person to choose in which society he or she wants to live. A socialist, for instance, should be able to migrate to a socialist society, whilst a libertarian should have the right to move to a libertarian one. This idea is known as foot voting. If democrats give us the right to choose between socialist and libertarian parties, they should give us a similar right to choose between socialist and libertarian societies.

This might sounds the bloody obvious, but in reality it is not. Many countries such as France, the Netherlands and Singapore, do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship unless they acquire the citizenship of another country. Some countries, such as Argentina and Morocco, go even further and deny their citizens the right to give up their citizenship at all. If you are born as a citizen of such country you are out of luck, you will remain a citizen until your death. At least these countries do allow their citizens to leave the country, but some countries such as North Korea do anything to keep their citizens prisoners of their own country.

People who do not agree with the principles of their own countries should not be forced to stay. And since many country still impose all kind of obligations, such as conscription or taxation, on their citizens, people should not be forced to keep their citizenship if they do not subscribe to the principles of their country.

The reason why many countries have made it hard to renounce citizenship voluntarily, is the convention on the reduction of statelessness. This treaty is meant to combat the ills resulting from involuntary statelessness. The last century has seen a lot of instances of governments arbitrarily revoking citizenship of their subjects, it’s this abuse which has caused many people to see statelessness as a thing to be avoided. But the general principles of the convention are:

  • Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. (Wikipedia)

Therefore if a person should desire to become a stateless person, a state should not prevent such action. The only thing prohibited to states, is to arbitrarily deprive their citizens from their nationality against their will. Only by due process of law, a state is allowed to involuntary deprive a citizen of his citizenship.

Republicanism is based on the idea that citizenship should be voluntary, which is a logical extension of the core principles of democracy. Persons are not the property of their prospective governments, therefore states are not entitled to impose citizenship on their subjects against their will. In practice this would mean that if a citizen should desire to give up his nationality, he or she should be allowed to do so.

See also:

Federalism and Space colonization