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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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2012
Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" seems appropriate here:


Or video version:


Jun 27, 2012
Burn Scott the witch - he said vagina!

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2012
We have similar issues in germany, though not to such a degree.
An immigrant here can have the status "tolerated". This means, he's not here legally but right now it's too bothersome to figure out his home country and send him off. (Stupid rule but there you are.)
That status does indeed mean that you are committing an offence by standing quietly in a public space witout being in anyones way.

When someone says "foreigners commit more crimes", often these non-crimes are included in order to make it appear that foreigners would drag society down /if granted legal status/.

Therefore when thinking about denying immigrants citizenship, it would be ok to exclude crimes that legal citizens can't commit per definition, like "watching TV in the US while being foreign".
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2012
For me, Citizenship means there's an organisation that protects you and extracts money from you for that. Today, governments do that.

So, if you want to redefine citizenship, (as opposed to just joining a club), someone has to take on that job.

One of the reasons countries (and therefore "citizens" exist is that it's comparatively easy to enforce a body of law if you have a territory ("law of the land"). You have an army sit at your border and everyone who wants in in order to change things gets shot. The land doesn't move around or disappear (much), so, things that depend on land, can be around for a long time. Like rules.

I think the problem with your approach is, that, regardless of facebook or virtual presence, spatial relationships will not go away. If you run over your neightbours cat, it's advantageous when you and your neighbour share a common set of laws and judicial processes.
If you operate by facebook law and your neighbour by google law, this accident will become an "international" incident, with a risk of being solved by a war between the facebookies and the googlists.
Jun 27, 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."

IMHO it goes beyond that. I find, for some absurd reason, we're all convinced that we're born perfect and that what we think is right. We find it important to get others to believe/be the way we do/are. It's this notion that causes arguments, fights and wars. Religion? "My religion is the right one (because I was born in it), therefore you must follow mine or die". Patriotism? "My country is the greatest because I was born it in, you weren't so die". Racism? "My race is awesome..." you get the point. We're convinced of this and we just work hard at finding ways and reasons to prove to others why we're right. "Your religion is stupid, it teaches you to put a bucket on your head at all times. Mine doesn't, suck it". It goes down to stupid arguments on the internet about Apple vs Android. It's not enough for people to choose the phone that fits them, it's important to prove that they've made the right choice and the other side is wrong.

I guess it's in our genes. All the barbaric wars and everything. May be it's something else. People say we'll find something to fight about without thinking why that is. But this^ is why I think we always will unless we start teaching our children not to do this.

Sorry for the tangent, just wanted to put that out there.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2012
War is already moving beyond "Dirt based citizenship" and being fought about religion and ideology more often.
Jun 26, 2012
I think of myself as a culture of one - and we have a very strict immigration policy.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2012
Citizenship-by-dirt is a wonderful phrase... I'm tempted to go by the domain and write a immigration parody site. This country's laws are messed up.
Jun 26, 2012
"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."

I'm confused how a person who is anywhere illegally can be thought to also "respect the laws". Or is the idea that they respect our right to have laws (read "opinions") on the topic of immigration but disagree with them. If that's the case I can imagine the generic illegal immigrant thought process going something like this:

"People of the United States, we really respect your desire for strangers to ask and receive your permission before entering your home, but we can't be bothered with your antiquated ideas of personal space. We hope you understand if we barge in and raid your fridge whenever we want and send that last piece of your grandma's apple pie you were saving back to our family across town."

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.
Jun 26, 2012
It seems to me that it could be possible to start a new country without even having Territory. What you would need is a group of people large enough and rich enough to be taken seriously, a constitution defining the laws of that country, signed by that group of founders which would include a declaration of independance. Then a formal recognition from an established nation (preferably the one most of the citizens wish to reside in).

You would need an office of foreign relations to issue passports, and also issue a plan on how laws would be enforced. If there are no human rights violations in any of this, then you be recognised by the UN. It would be up to the foreign relations office to ensure that every other nation recognizes your sovereignty and your passports.

So it would be possible, but why would anyone do that, when you can be a transnational corporation operating under pirate law?
Jun 26, 2012
I don't think everyone is wired to care about imaginary lines in the dirt, as that seems kind of silly to me, sort of like kids in the back seat arguing that their sibling is on 'their' side.

However, the key issue in both citizenship and geography is that of ownership. The citizens of a country collectively 'own' that country, its government, and all of the natural resources within that country. We feel very defensive when we feel like other people are trying to take something that we own, so we set rules on who can obtain ownership. Being born in a place seems very natural, as does passing on citizenship to our children. Countries will have different rules based on how xenophobic they are, or how exclusive they would like citizenship to be.

And as for wars, I don't think it's ever about the imaginary lines, but rather about the resources that are drawn in those lines. Wars are fought because people see something that someone else has, and decides that they should have it instead, either that or they feel threatened by another country and decide to put an end to that.

That being said, countries with a broad citizenship never fight wars of the first kind, because any gains would have to be spread out among everyone, and everyone agrees stealing is wrong, especially when they have to share. Wars of the second kind, however, will be fought by countries over pride and/or fear. In fact I'd say that almost every major war since the first World War has been or this kind (There are exceptions). Modern countries only fight over ideology.

I think this is because people realize that killing another person over a physical object like land is murder, no matter how you spin it. But killing another person over an idea, or a religion, or for freedom, or for racial purity, or even for peace and democracy is somehow noble and good.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2012
Who will control or be responsible for natural resources and personal safety?
These are very physical things which, historically, have been the primary purpose of governments.

We already are seeing a tragedy of the common on a global scale, but within national boundaries, countries try to manage their own resources. I once read that the best way to save African elephants would be to give ownership of them to tribes; then they'd have a vested interest in managing their populations and preventing wasteful slaughter.

Other issues:
Most of the world lives closer to a subsistence lifestyle that you know and I know (despite our disparate incomes, we're both in the 1% worldwide).
Most populations are far more homogeneous than ours. Many value the shared culture with those around them. This is somewhat biological and unlikely to change soon.
Humans also have the need for [face-to-face] personal interaction and socializing; these dominate who they call friends.

These could change over centuries, but not the issue of responsibility for personal safety and natural resources.
Jun 26, 2012
It's a nice thought.

Citizenship as a historical entity is largely a factor of where you live, i.e. what laws and taxes you are subject to. People didn't move around all that much back in the day, so where you were born is generally where you stay.

Travel is much easier these days, so birthplace and geographic location isn't so much an issue. You want to come to the USA, getting there is no problem. And we do have a system in place to accept foreign people as citizens. The problem isn't one of willingness to have more citizens of the USA, but of logistics. The USA is such a good place to live and much of the rest of the world is such a bad place to live that a very large number of people would rather live here. But we've been out of room for expansion for over a century.

The ideal situation, the pie in the sky solution that can never happen, would be to export the USA to all those places full of people that would rather live here. If we can't annex those places directly, we would set up for them a government and economic system identical to ours, and then declare free trade to make it easy for rich American corporations to invest in building factories and infrastructure there. The problem is those places have existing governments that would rather stay in power and maintain their own laws and taxes rather then turn their people over to ours.
Jun 26, 2012
How does 'social network growth' keep religious followers from fighting their Holy Wars, at one time to determine boundaries, but now often fought without boundary?
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2012

This is why one should spend some time with little children once in a while. The interent doesn't surprise them as much as it seems to fascinate you. It's something thats just there.

Also, the lack of humor in your blogs is in stark contrast to the one liners in your strips. Perhaps you have trained yourself to think inside frames. Get out of it. I am sure you can write humor longer than three lines at a time.


I have often wondered why people try to jump two steps back everytime science takes a leap forward.

Boundaries are created out of a sense of ownership. There is nothing more human than private property.

The unmapped planet belonged to primates and neandertheals. Why do you want to go back?

Why compromise the values that have withstood so much struggle for the sake of pleasing collectivist parasites?

There is nothing immoral about citizenship.

Or perhaps you haven't met anyone who doesn't want to live in the US.

Jun 26, 2012
In your world, the person with the ability to physically take over amazon.com's or facebook's servers would be the most powerful person in the world. People will blow each other to smithereens for the rights to a domain name. Some virtual group creates too much electronic cash? Nuke the cities the corporate officers live in. People will always find new reasons to kill each other en mass; in a virtual world, I'm sure trolls with be invovled with a lot of it.

War never changes.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2012
Imagine there's no countries.
It isn't hard to do.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2012
Islamic fundamentalists are never going to coexist peacefully, in *any* community, with those they consider to be infidels. There was a reason that Pakistan and India were partitioned. Hindus have no trouble integrating into Western Europe, adapting to modern civilization, etc. It's just the Muslims that are problematic. They are never going to be part an international social network, not in a million years.
Jun 26, 2012
You'll never be president if you insist on using words like "vagina" in public discourse! Disgusting! (*facepalm*)
Jun 26, 2012
You sound like an ideological wealthy person living in a country where even the very poor are impossibly rich by global standards.

The depths of poverty throughout the world are ridiculous, and our artificial borders, arbitrary citizenship, strong immigration controls, extreme financial abuse of weaker countries, allow the USA (and some other rich, industrialized countries) to have a large range of people with opportunities for education and creativity.

Without some kind of arbitrary wealth boundaries, all wealth would wind up concentrated in the hands of families that own businesses, and there would be minimal education for everyone else, no real opportunity, and consequently little technology and little significant art.

Keep in mind that the average person on the planet makes $7000 per year (PPP, not actual dollars). the Median is closer to $5000. With that kind of money, food and clothing and shelter are your only priority.
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