Tag Archives: Detroit

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