Comments on

Demographic Delta

Original entry posted: Wed Jan 18 22:06:46 2006

pseudonymous @ Wed Jan 18 17:06:46 2006 EST

"Why do we need citizenship anyway?"

I knew there was an anarchist in the atheist!

Ni Dieu, Ni Maitre!

cafeman @ Thu Jan 19 06:28:46 2006 EST

To maintain a given standard of living and disparity of income. If you open borders, labour will gradually flow to whatever place offers the best standard of living. If the standard of living differs significantly between the wealthy and poor nation, citizens from the poor nation will be willing to compromise on their standard of living more than the citizens from the wealthy nation (as the poorer citizens will still experience a standard of living increase).

From a welfare perspective, open borders are excellent. From a free / efficient market perspective, same thing. From a politican's perspective, your electorate just got retrenched.

Thomas @ Thu Jan 19 07:37:32 2006 EST

Speaking solely of the US, you understand, I find it hard to believe that we could end up with greater disparities in income than already exist in many places. And the gap has been growing for a few years now.

I had to look up what "retrenched" meant in this context, sorry. Now that I know, I'm not really sure that it applies. It assumes, for one thing, that immigration will create a loss in productivity for domestic workers, and that's not a given (see the Angry Bear). I agree it's a political issue and not one that I expect to win anytime soon. I just think it's hard to look at it from a rational perspective and conclude that the solution to illegal immigration is to lock the country down even more.

And I still don't understand why we need to have "citizens" instead of, say, resident taxpayers. Seems a bit vestigial to me.

Johnny Pi @ Thu Jan 19 09:29:13 2006 EST

Please, no, tell me I'm not gonna have to deal with those Minutemen assholes. I live in an Annandale neighborhood that provides a lot of those undocumented workers. It'll be just great when so many employers get scared off that the day-laborers can't afford rent, which can't be good for anybody. Don't any of those vigilantes have jobs? I guess they'd just accuse an immigrant of stealing their spot.

pseudonymous @ Thu Jan 19 09:49:43 2006 EST

"Citizen" does mean a little more than "resident taxpayer." Since that's all it's largely come to mean, naturally it seems a bit vestigial. Citizenship is meant to provide for the common welfare by binding people in a given geographic area in a set of mutual obligations. As a citizen, you are expected to, among other things, obey the laws, pay your taxes, serve on juries, and, if called upon, defend the liberties you and those you care about enjoy by force if necessary. Participation (or potential participation) in this set of responsibilities confers upon you a common identity shared by all participants - binding you together when differences might tear you and the common life upon which you depend apart.

Since I think common humanity ought to do that, I wonder why we have a need for borders and citizens, and the answer I see is division of labor. We can't be everything to everyone, so we've seen fit to divide the world up into rather arbitrary pieces.

Everyone on this side? You're responsible for each other. Everyone on this side? Forget about the people on the other side; you can't take care of everybody. Take care of each other. Okay? Ready? Break!

Voila. A border.

The problems as you and other commenters have pointed out are that (1) this division of labor is not always efficient, and that (2) the division of labor is less often about who will protect whom than it is about who gets to oppress and exploit whom.

Thomas @ Thu Jan 19 09:58:33 2006 EST

To be fair to the concept of citizenry (and to break this 5 comment trend I've had going lately), I discussed this with a couple of people, including one immigrant who is near and dear to my heart. The point has been raised that citizenship has symbolic value for immigrants, in that it grants them a link to their new home. It legitimizes them.

pseudonymous @ Thu Jan 19 10:38:09 2006 EST

That's just the problem I have - the legitimacy conferred upon citizens - as if the opinions, thoughts, feelings, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and lives of non-citizens have no meaning or, at least, not as much meaning as a citizen. As if the fact that an immigrant is your friend, your co-worker, your neighbor, and a fellow human being isn't enough to grant them the precious moral consideration afforded to people who just happened to be born on one side of a river rather than another.

Thomas @ Thu Jan 19 10:54:07 2006 EST

I agree, but it's one motive that reasonable people might have for retaining "citizenship," and should be addressed. It hits particularly close for people who have had to go through the time-consuming process of gaining US citizenship. We're basically arguing to take that accomplishment away from them, and we need to explain why they should agree with us--i.e., what they'll be gaining. I think we can (or have) done that, but I felt like if I was going to ask the question, a rational opposing viewpoint deserved to be represented here.

pseudonymous @ Thu Jan 19 14:48:46 2006 EST

"We're basically arguing to take that accomplishment away from them."

While I empathize with the feelings of people who've gone through the difficult task of gaining US citizenship, I have to ask: why is it such a difficult task?

After all, the person who had the good fortune of being born here didn't have to go through the rigamarole. Indeed, some take it for granted - until they meet up with an outsider. Suddenly, something they did nothing to get becomes something someone else must earn. Some people are asked to do something other people don't have to do based on arbitrary circumstances, and we're proud? I'd be angry. Sure, I'm a citizen and now I'm legitimate and worthy of moral consideration, but I also just legitimized the citizenship of people who didn't do half the things I did to become a citizen because I had to ask those people to grant it to me. Either citizenship is something we all must earn, or it is to be granted freely by birth, in which case citizenship is meaningless and common humanity suffices.

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