Nationality: Multiple citizenship, way of the future
11 January 2012
In an increasingly globalized and racially mixed world, it's natural to have multiple identities. That's why states should loosen up naturalisation rights and grant the right to vote more easily, says The Economist.
Seen from the state’s point of view, multiple citizenship is at best untidy and at worst a menace. Officials would prefer you to be born, live, work, pay taxes, draw benefits and die in the same place, travel on one passport only, and bequeath only one nationality to your offspring. In wartime the state has a unique call on your loyalty – and perhaps your life. Citizenship is the glue keeping individual and state together. Tamper with it, and the relationship comes unstuck.
But life is more complicated than that. Loyalty to political entities need not be exclusive: indeed, it often overlaps. Many Jews hold Israeli passports in solidarity with the Jewish state (and as an insurance policy), alongside citizenship of their native country. Teutons may be proud to be simultaneously Bavarian, German and European. Irish citizens can vote in British elections. The old notion of one-man, one-state citizenship looks outdated: more than 200m people now live and work outside the countries in which they were born – but still wish to travel home, or marry or invest there.
The wrong response to this is political protectionism, with states forcing citizens to choose one nationality only, or hampering their right to multiple passports. This seems an odd approach, given that citizenship is so easily acquired. In some countries it is, in effect, on sale. In others, such as America, it may be an accident of birth, with no conscious choice involved.
Rather than making a fetish out of passports, a better approach would be to use residence (especially tax residence) as the main criterion for an individual’s rights and responsibilities. That encourages cohesion and commitment, because it stems from a conscious decision to live in a country and abide by its rules. The world is gradually moving in this direction. But many states (mostly poor and ill-run) resist the trend and some rich democracies like the Netherlands and Germany are trying to curb it (see article), offering a variety of excuses. Read full article in The Economist...