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It seems so old-fashioned that citizenship is primarily determined by the physical location of your mother at the moment of your birth. I suppose it's a practical way to keep everyone sorted out, but in today's modern world does it still make sense to favor birth location over all other factors when it comes to citizenship?

Thanks to technology, my body no longer defines where I "am." At any given moment I can be Skyping with Australia, texting to Canada, browsing a British web site, and planning my next vacation in Mexico. A company recently offered to let me operate their telepresence robot and attend meetings in their building without leaving my house. As I type this, people in sixty countries are reading what I wrote in Dilbert. My existence is smeared across a lot of time zones. But I'm legally an American because my mother's vagina was located in upstate New York at the time of my birth several decades ago. That feels oddly primitive.

In California I meet a lot of folks who aspire to be American citizens. Most of them are here legally, and I assume some are not. But they all seem to have a common spirit, if I can use that unscientific word. First and foremost, they want to be here. They work hard, respect the laws, pay taxes, and put great effort into speaking English. And they consider themselves Americans even if the law doesn't. If American citizenship had a character test, they'd pass easily.

As a practical matter, you can't let people become citizens just because they want to. That would be chaos. But I'm wondering if the future will bring a better concept of human organization than dirt-based citizenship. Personally, I don't care if you live in Elbonia and plan to keep your physical body there forever; if you want to be on my team, just bring something to the party in terms of character, ideas, or marketable skills. I'm happy to have you. We'll be like a club without borders.

Someday I can imagine social networks growing in size and power until citizenship becomes an unnecessary concept. When citizenship-by-dirt becomes a relic of the past, so too will wars over boundaries. My social network doesn't need to conquer your social network because we already live in every country.

Over time, private entities can take over the historical functions of traditional governments. We won't need armies, snail mail post offices, printed currency, or even physical schools. The Internet will make every current function of governments obsolete.

You might argue that people are people and we'll find dumb-ass reasons to fight no matter how we define the groups to which we belong. But I'm not so sure. I think evolution has wired us to believe geography is something you kill over and everything else is something you argue about. Take citizenship-by-dirt out of the equation in a few hundred years and war will be obsolete.

 
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Jul 1, 2012
In most countries citizenship is determined by the citizenship of the mother, not the location of the birth.
 
 
Jun 30, 2012
Congratulations you have just invented the Masons.
 
 
Jun 29, 2012
The problem with your idea is that you do not state what American citizenship means.

Social Security is basically insurance - you pay in when you work, you get back when you retire. Where you live makes no difference.

But government protection is very different. Imagine if people in Syria suddenly decide they want to be U.S. citizens and now we need to protect them from the Syrian government.

Having the term American may not be dirt based, but are the benefits of being an American dirt based?
 
 
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Jun 29, 2012
I think it was John Lennon who said something along those lines, in a poem called Imagine. Well, I got nothing against dreamers.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
Sure. Ethnicity. Actually, geography is mostly just an approximation of ethnicity anyway, which is what the first political units were based on, and the successful political units are still ethnicity-based, for the most part.
http://ex-army.blogspot.com/
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
I see this happening to civilized nations with better internet access faster than in a Chinese slum. If Chinese citizens want to throw in with America, they'll need to make enough money to get an education and a laptop.

So poorer nations that DON'T have convenient access to the internet will still be tied to the land, and will still fight over borders and such.

This may expose my ignorance a little, but who do multi-national corporations pay taxes too? The nation of their creation? The place with the most firms? A little to everywhere they have firms? Maybe America can benefit from China (as opposed to the other way around).
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
I see this happening to civilized nations with better internet access faster than in a Chinese slum. If Chinese citizens want to throw in with America, they'll need to make enough money to get an education and a laptop.

So poorer nations that DON'T have convenient access to the internet will still be tied to the land, and will still fight over borders and such.

This may expose my ignorance a little, but who do multi-national corporations pay taxes too? The nation of their creation? The place with the most firms? A little to everywhere they have firms? Maybe America can benefit from China (as opposed to the other way around).
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
The idea of a future with citizenship of "phyles" or "tribes" rather than countries is included in Neal Stephenson's superb "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diamond_Age">The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer</a>" (1995).
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
"You might argue that people are people and we'll find dumb-ass reasons to fight no matter how we define the groups to which we belong. But I'm not so sure. I think evolution has wired us to believe geography is something you kill over and everything else is something you argue about"

You don't really believe that do you?

More people have died in conflicts over race and religion than anything else.

Humans are tribal; we are hard wired to protect our tribes.

Your own tribe will be whatever you find most important. Deeply religious people will feel more kinship with foreigners of the same religion than they do with their neighbours who don't belive.
A racist doesn’t care where you were born as long as your skin is right.

Obviously there are individuals with no strong affiliations who consider themselves outside of the tribal system, but collectively even these people are viewed as a tribe by the other tribes.

So until us humans evolve enough to truly leave racism and religion behind there will always be wars.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 28, 2012
Scott,

Here is a para-wise response to your post; just to emphasize that the way you expressed your idea was neither humorous nor decent:

[It seems so old-fashioned that citizenship is primarily determined by the physical location of your mother at the moment of your birth. I suppose it's a practical way to keep everyone sorted out, but in today's modern world does it still make sense to favor birth location over all other factors when it comes to citizenship?]

Old fashioned? Would you ask Red Indians, the native Americans, what they feel about illegal immigrants? No. No. You don't want to hurt their feelings, do you?

Besides, the second sentence is a complete con. Do you prefer to forget that it was "today's modern world" that made the birth location a qualifier for citizenship? Your "altruistic" gene is failing to decide where history ends and the present begins.

[My existence is smeared across a lot of time zones. But I'm legally an American because my mother's vagina was located in upstate New York at the time of my birth several decades ago. That feels oddly primitive.]

Primitive? Would you rather have birthed in a cattle shed where your mother cuts the umbilical cord with a piece of stone? Scott, feel "blessed" that you are born in an educated society. "Blessed" because it doesn't sound as if you deserve it. A child who cannot see beyond a mothers vagina 'is' primitive, with or without the internet.

[In California I meet a lot of folks who aspire to be American citizens... ...They work hard, respect the laws, pay taxes, and put great effort into speaking English. And they consider themselves Americans even if the law doesn't. If American citizenship had a character test, they'd pass easily.]

Are you implying that American citizenship should require a 'character'? Long ago, when the Spanish and Brits offloaded their cargo of prisoners on the shores of New York, they had a put a similar idea into action. They freed their parent lands of criminals. What sort of character has made the US? In your opinion, what sort of character would qualify a person for US citizenship?

[As a practical matter, you can't let people become citizens just because they want to. That would be chaos... ... We'll be like a club without borders.]

And this is from someone who knows about the California Gold Rush, where occupying other people's land and appropriating their treasures was a sign of manliness.

[Someday I can imagine social networks growing in size and power until citizenship becomes an unnecessary concept. When citizenship-by-dirt becomes a relic of the past, so too will wars over boundaries. My social network doesn't need to conquer your social network because we already live in every country.]

Citizenship-by-dirt is what Moses thought he had taught his sheep. And the sheep didn't care even then. Why would they care about the opposite now? Feed them grass or marijuana they'll follow you to the end of the world. Social networks are not about demographics - they are about sharing beliefs.

[Over time, private !$%*!$%* can take over the historical functions of traditional governments... ...The Internet will make every current function of governments obsolete. You might argue that people are people... ...take citizenship-by-dirt out of the equation in a few hundred years and war will be obsolete.]

Citizenship causes wars? Since when? The US has sponsored civil wars across so many continents. Are they about citizenship?

===

I was only being polite when I said earlier that your sense of humor needs to cross horizons.

To say it bluntly, you need to be your own audience before you submit your writing for a world wide reading. If the content doesn't match your own beliefs, then try humor.

.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
Dang! The word filter got me again! Sorry!!! The blanked out word is one I've used before:

e n t i t i e s.

Sorry again.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
Well, you started off great, and then devolved into inanity, as is often your wont. To address your points:

1. Citizenship should not just be based on place of birth.

OK, I can buy that. If you look at what it takes for a non-citizen to become a US citizen, it's pretty challenging. Unless there's an amnesty, as there was under President Reagan. Which I consider one of his biggest mistakes, besides his tax increases, but I digress.

My favorite speculative fiction author of all time was the late Robert Heinlein. In 1959, he published a book called "Starship Troopers." In his imaginary universe, no one could become a citizen (and therefore earn the right to vote and to hold public office) until you had served in the military. People on active duty in the military could not be citizens until they left the military.

So the concept of earning citizenship is not a foreign idea. I think people who had to earn their citizenship would appreciate it more than, say, oh, for example, some guy whose mother's vagina was in New York at the time of his birth. So yes, in a rare moment of agreement, dirt-based citizenship is not necessarily a good idea. For much different reasons than I think you are saying.

2. Lots of folks want to become American citizens.

True. But you don't really go into why they want that. If citizenship by dirt is an old-fashioned concept, then wanting citizenship on a patch of dirt called the US would be as well, at least to those people. But it isn't. This goes back to earning rather than being given something.

3. Some illegal aliens have great character. They consider themselves citizens even if the law doesn't. (Implied but not stated: shouldn't we consider them as such also?)

I consider myself to be better looking than Brad Pitt, but women don't agree, even though I'm a person with good character. So am I as good looking as he, or not?

Wanting something, even if you're a really good person, doesn't mean you should or do have it. Duh.

4. Someday social networks will grow to the size where citizenship becomes "an unnecessary concept."

OK, here's where you go completely off the rails. You're equating two non-equatable (if that isn't a word, it should be) things: the number of people who can communicate with each other, and their right to live under the law anywhere they want on Earth. Anyone besides me have a problem with that?

Guess what, Scott. We can already communicate with almost anyone on Earth who has any form of telephone or computer. Why should the fact we can talk with each other mean that we should also be able to live in their country? Your logic is totally bereft on this one.

5. Private !$%*!$%* can ultimately take over much of the historical functions of government.

Not in your world. I can't remember you ever positing a solution, or even an action toward doing something, that didn't involve government. I doubt that's what you really meant, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.

I believe (and I could very well be wrong) that this portion of your post was akin to the Marxian withering of the state when true communism becomes a reality. Didn't happen in Russia. Didn't happen in Cuba. Didn't happen in Venezuela. Doubt if it will happen anywhere.

To me, private !$%*!$%* should take over most of the historical functions of government - or at least send them down as far as possible to state and local governments, rather than have a huge, monolithic, one-size-fits-all federal dictatorship such as we have now in Washington.

I believe the federal government should begin offloading as much of its bureaucracy as it can, and begin to return to the functions allowed to it under the Constitution. I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant, but as it stands, it's a great idea. In the proper context.

6. We won't need armies if the Internet just gets big enough.

Again, your logic escapes me. The primary duty of a government is to protect its citizenry. Armies will wither when the need for them withers, not the other way around. Your comeback will probably be, "When we're all one big dirt ball with no borders, there will be no need for armies. Just a really really really big police force."

So what's the difference? You're still defending something based on some body of law, be it based on English Common Law, Sharia, or some other system. So first you have to get everyone in the world to agree on which law we'll live under, and how we'll distribute resources, and what economic system we'll use, and etc. etc. etc. Work those things out, and you might have a chance. But until then, I'll keep my border, thanks. And enforce its boundaries.

US citizenship, and the citizenship in any free country, is more than just the ability to live on a certain patch of dirt. It's a legacy. It's a link to the past, and to honor and respect those who fought to give us the ability to live in a free country. It's recognition of the things that make us different, and of the things we have in common, and the things that make us want to be better. It's a concept and a sharing of that which makes us one people. Much, if not more, than a physical location.

And that's a lot more important than just having a really fast Internet connection.

 
 
Jun 27, 2012
@mays2020:"There are two distinct issues in this debate that currently are not being addressed in the correct order. First, that laws exist and are being broken. Second, whether those laws could be better. Until these concepts are understood as being mutually exclusive, we won't get anywhere closer to resolving the immigration issue."

I don't think Scott's blog is about solving the immigration issue. He is dwelling on the concept on citizenship and how it has been tied to geographic locations as of now. Given that our existence transcends that in this digital age, that definition seems primitive.

To be an a-hole: nnneeeeeeow! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE3ehB9jpts
 
 
Jun 27, 2012
Drowlord said "Each iPhone and iPad involve literally 100-200 hours of labor performed by people making less than $1 / hour."

It's been almost 20 years since I worked as a Manufacturing Engineer for Motorola, but even then 90 percent of phones were assembled by automated equipment. The labor was primarily in loading parts for the chip shooters, and performing inspectionand test functions. This was true both in our US and China plants. If iPhone and iPad assembly lines are using 100-200 hours of labor (which I find hard to believe), that wouldn't be replaced by $15 and hour labor, but robotic labor, as it has been in the US. The price would only marginally increase.
 
 
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Jun 27, 2012
Jibbley, thanks a lot for that pale blue dot thing!
It's been a long time since I last put up a poster but this one's great.
 
 
Jun 27, 2012
Each iPhone and iPad involve literally 100-200 hours of labor performed by people making less than $1 / hour. If they were made by people earning $15 / hour, these devices would be ridiculously expensive. Because they'd be prohibitively expensive, very few people (if any) would own them. With so few people owning them, there would be no incentive to create apps. Without apps, the devices border on useless.

Rinse and repeat for most of our technology, today.

Nobody in their right mind would choose to live in a $1/hour geographical location and live a $1/hour lifestyle, if they were free to live in a $15/hour geographical location. Which means there would be no technology of an iPad nature.

I don't think people grasp how extremely unfair our technology and lifestyle are. It's only possible with arbitrary geographical borders and extreme wealth disparity. We don't eat $1 chocolate bars without slaves on the Ivory Coast working 16-hour days at cocoa farms for free.

Labor and resources are largely a zero sum game, and if everyone got an equal share of the benefits, Mazlow's hierarchy of needs suggest nobody will be spending their share of labor and resources on iPods... but on food.
 
 
Jun 27, 2012
As I see it, here the bottom line issue with immigration. If a the standard of living and opportunities were equal in all countries, there would probably be very little immigration because most people would choose to stay where their friends and families were. But of course they're not equal, so people migrate in hopes of finding something better - more food, clean water, paved roads, good schools, etc. They're foraging for resources their home countries lack. I don't blame them - I'd do it too.

And I don't care if the people living next door were born in New York, Caracas or Zimbabwe. But I would care if the US suddenly opened their borders and every place within 500 miles of the Mexican border was filled with tent cities set up by the influx of immigrants. Schools, roads, healthcare, power and water resources would be overtaxed, and job opportunities would quickly become non-existant. The overrun areas would become blighted, so many of the original residents and new comers would move to the next desirable area on the list, repeating the cycle.

So to me, immigration restrictions are primarily about resource management. How many people - and with what mix of skills - can be absorbed by an area while maintaining the resources? What does each individual "cost" their new home versus what do they contribute? Those are the key questions.

Ultimately, the answer to the immigation "problem" is to find ways to lift the quality of life in all parts of the world. Then the primary driver for immigration will be a change of scenery and there would be no reason not to open the gates.
 
 
Jun 27, 2012
There are two main ways to assign citizenship: by location, i.e. give it to people who were born there, the way we do in the USA; or by blood, i.e. children of citizens are citizens. Many countries use a combination of the two.

It seems to me that the notion of citizenship by blood (or by some other criteria, like religion) could survive even if location becomes irrelevant.

As usual, though, Scott is displaying his great faith in never-ending technological progress, and failing to grasp that it will peak at some point. I don't think the internet will make nations obsolete, in part because the internet is a flash in the pan.
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2012
Scott, have you ever considered that maybe the hardworking, honest and law-abiding people from other countries, that you like so much, come to America to get away from the dirty, uncultured and corrupt people of their own country.
And now you want to let them all in without discrimination!
If you insist I can send you some Indians to spit red colour beetle juice on the walls of your house or play loud tribal music every night outside your window.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2012
I totally agree that citizenship feels like an outdated concept. I myself am born in the USA, by a Japanese mother and German father, but live in Denmark.
Like many have pointed out, citizenship has got to serve a purpose of resource management. We can't ditch the concept of citizenship until we as a species figure out how to share and manage the worlds resources so that there's enough for everybody.

One of the things that fascinate me in this regard is 3D Printing technology. Not so much because of how it works, but because of how its going to lower the barriers to entry in manufacturing and change how we access goods, just like how digitalization of e.g music has changed how we access entertainment. Back in the days, we owned the music we buy. Today, the sharing mentality is much more prevalent, and large companies that thrived within the old paradigm are struggling with this transitional phase. Maybe the concept of citizenship can already be said to be in some digitalization phase.
 
 
 
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