Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Administrative Citizenship.

CalamariForThought blogs of
Cars and Citizenship.
Good questions raised about the meaning of citizenship in our increasing globalised world...

The easy answer which I am going to propose is to use treat this antiquated concept of citizenship as a purely administrative descriptor. Reframing the 'citizenship' question using an inanimate object as a car as the subject actually serves to simplify the issue.

We can safely ignore the philosophical and the emotional side of the situation since automobiles are generally accepted to neither possess emotions nor volition. So we leave out the untidy problem of subjective quality and choice - and focus on the administrative aspects.

We have then the following possible guidelines to assess citizenship/residency:

* the place-of-origin test
We ignore the origins of constituent components and focus on the final assembly location. A car with parts coming from all over the world but eventually assembled in Thailand is "made in Thailand". Ditto for a baby human having a citizenship-by-birth defined by location of birth.

* the residency test
This is the most convenient test used by tax authorities in many developed countries. In the simplest form, you are considered a tax resident if you spend a majority (typically more than half) of your time in the country.

* the consumption test
Where do you primarily purchase and consume the fuel for your car? The human equivalent would be to consider where you choose to spend the bulk of your disposable income. In our global world, it is perfectly possible to earn your money in one country and spend most of it in another country (and in another currency).

* the obligations test
To which countries are you beholden to in terms of legal obligations? Not merely the day-to-day legal requirements to maintain an operating society. Beyond the legal requirements common to most civilized societies to respect fellow human lives (e.g. murder is illegal), respecting property rights (e.g. looting is illegal), and what most of society agrees as the minimum 'morality' (e.g. public rape is is illegal). In addition to the basic rules that all visitors are required to abide by, citizens are also obliged to vote, to possible get drafted to serve military service, to pay certain taxes, etc which visitors are exempt from.

* the benefits test
The flip side of the obligations test. Normally a country would extend to citizens benefits, subsidies or gifts not accorded to transient visitors. Examples may include medical care, housing, and/or participation in government of the society.


If this seems to unfeelingly reduce the concept of citizenship to an economic contract-like agreement between the rulers and the serfs, consider the fact that I am not the first to frame the issue in this manner.

. . . Suddenly he pointed his stump at me. "You. What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?"

"The difference," I answered carefully, "lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not."

-- Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

In Heinlein's world, military service is voluntary. However only those who have served have the right to vote and elect their leaders. In addition, those who have served get economic and social incentives to raise a family, to go to college to further themselves, etc.

Oh yeah.. and the gory battle scenes in the movies were quite stunning as well...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about assessing it thru a bi-directional social membership test?

First and foremost, there must be an element of social identity which is clearly identified by the locals and the immigrants. This would span the realms of language, culture and habits.

It is bi-directional in the sense that both the locals must assimulate the immigrant culture and the immigrant must adopt the local culture. This is where globalism wrought it greatest damage. The gradual and irreversible loss of identity.

Clearly, most first generation immgrants fail this bi-directional social membership test. It explains why most countries treat their first generation new citizens like naturalized aliens with full citizens benefits, but constantly kept out of the inner circle.

Citizenship _is_ a social membership much liken to a social club. Within each country is a body of individuals to whom you must stand and face the world with, either economically thru your consumption and production or politically thru your vote. The key is whether you are appearing in the club as a member or a guest.

October 30, 2004 3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previous post by jrt_kk

October 30, 2004 3:56 AM  

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