Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'll trade you my "British" for a "Russian" and Five Million Dollars

Arnold Kling highlights an absolutely fascinating article over at TCS Daily about the idea of selling citizenship.

Dwight Lee writes,

The suggested policy is straightforward. Simply give Americans the right to sell their citizenships to non-Americans, with the sellers having to leave the country and the buyers allowed to move in with all the rights and opportunities of any other U.S. citizen.

Lee suggests that the very poor would be the ones who sell their citizenship rights. However, this may not be the case. The people who would sell citizenship rights would be people who get the least value for those rights at the margin. This might be someone who is getting ready to marry someone from another country or to retire to another country.

UPDATE: "PGL" recasts Lee's argument in tariff-vs.-quota terms.

Putting price tags on human beings [might] sound objectionable to some, but some economists find the restrictions of the mobility of people even more objectionable.

I'd add a more conservative argument in the idea's favour: New entrants put a higher value on citizenship so it seems plausible this will lead to a more patriotic, loyal populace. As the earning potential attached to a citizenship is determined by shortages of skills this is a market solution to creating a points like system to ensure the immigration of those with needed skills.

Despite all this I'm still deeply troubled by the idea of making citizenship an alienable right. I'm not sure why the idea troubles me though which is what makes it so fascinating.

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