A Citizenship Market
32 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018
Date Written: August 29, 2018
Imagine a global marketplace in which private citizens could freely swap their citizenship. Participants might agree on a pure one-for-one trade or a swap with a cash payment on one side of the deal. What might the implications of such a citizenship market be? This Article explores the possibilities in terms of individual rights and economic efficiency.
The United States already comes close to selling citizenship—by prioritizing investors who bring capital with them and by pursuing reforms to quantify would-be migrants’ potential economic contributions. Other governments go further, issuing a passport in return for a cash payment. Yet these government-directed systems can make no meaningful claims of maximizing human rights or economic efficiency.
By contrast, a free market for citizenship would recognize that individuals ought to be able to define their own place in the world rather than have their place in the world prescribed for them by the state or allocated to them by accident of birth. In this way, a citizenship market could be seen as advancing individual rights. Moreover, from a law-and-economic standpoint, a free-market regime for individual trading would have straightforward economic efficiency gains: People would strike mutually advantageous deals such that citizenship would be put in the hands of those who could make the most productive use of it.
There are well-placed objections to a citizenship market, and this Article imagines and considers many. In wrestling with the idea of a citizenship market, this Article aims to contribute to thinking about immigration law, law-and-economics scholarship, and the multidisciplinary open-borders literature.
Keywords: immigration, citizenship, law, economics, market,
JEL Classification: K1, K37
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation