12 December 2017

Citizenship Shopping

'State Inc.' by Tsilly Dagan and Talia Fisher in (2018) Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy comments
 Conventional wisdom holds that citizenship is not a consumer good and that the goods that the state confers upon its constituents - e.g., economic and social rights, access to its publicly provided goods, political voice and identity - are not for sale. In fact the relationships between states and actual or potential citizens is ideally conceptualized as standing in stark contrast to a seller-buyer relationship. The ideal type of state-citizen relationship is based in an entirely political sphere disconnected from the market. In accordance with this ideal conceptualization of the state-citizen relationship, the state is depicted as the legal guardian of citizenship entrusted with authority to determine who its members are and to exercise its powers in a manner that is compatible with the underlying normative values shared by its political members. It has an obligation to reinforce and represent the politically pronounced collective will. Being a citizen, according to this view, translates into being a member of a political community, participating in its deliberative process and as such bearing rights vis a vis the state and being entitled to the benefits it confers.
This ideal depiction of the relationship between the state and its actual or potential citizens is not, however, fully aligned with current reality where we are witness to gradual erosion of various dimensions of state-citizen relationship and an infiltration of market logic into this interaction. States seemingly desert their role as trustees of citizenship and assume a market player position, recruiting human capital and investments by putting their real and political assets up for grabs. They engage in the sale and barter of various aspects of membership in their polities and at times even in the sale or barter of full-fledged citizenship. Individuals as well, shop for citizenship, residency, work and other permits as well as for additional goods that states provide.
We argue that in order to fully account for this process of market infiltration into the realm of citizenship both on a descriptive and a normative level, one needs to widen the perspective through which state-citizen interaction is viewed. The ideal depiction of a distinct separation between the political sphere and the market realm fails to take into account the fact that the state-citizen relationship does not stand in a vacuum. Rather, it is part of a greater market order plagued with democratic and political deficits. In this decentralized order states themselves inevitably participate and function as market players vis a vis other states. They compete for capital and human resources by offering their public goods and political participation for sale. This market thus conflates monetary and political currency, and puts a price tag on political membership. At the same time, individuals and corporations compete for state-provided membership, rights, and public goods.
Competition does not only change the strategic positions of states and citizens in pursuing their goals. It percolates into the interaction between states and their subjects (their current citizenry as well as potential constituents) altering traditional roles of both states and citizens; it changes the kinds and quantities of public goods and entitlements being offered, it alters modes of democratic participation, schemes of distribution as well as the meanings and values underlying the state-citizen interaction.
The purpose of this Article is twofold: first, on a descriptive level we wish to uncover existing manifestations of the market infiltration into the state-citizen interaction. We will discuss how globalization reshapes this interaction’s phenomenology as well as the strategic goals of both states and citizens. Second, on the normative plane we explore and evaluate the marketization and fragmentation of the state-citizen relationship in light of central normative criteria--efficiency, distributive justice, autonomy identity and political participation.
Part A will focus on the descriptive dimension and unravel real world practices where state-citizen relationships are being marketized in full or in part. These examples of selling citizenship a-la carte will demonstrate the infiltration of the market into the political sphere and how market forces shape both the identity of the polity, and the formation of the collective will.
Against the backdrop of these markets for citizenship induced by state competition, part B will turn to the normative discussion evaluating the desirability of markets for citizenship.