The Buzz

Enslaved by Citizenship?

If you’re curious about Michele Bachmann’s recent foray into Swiss citizenship or outraged over Eduardo Saverin’s decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship and run off to Singapore with his Facebook winnings, Jacqueline Stevens has a way to slake such curiosity and assuage such outrage: Abolish the United States.

Stevens, a political science professor at Northwestern University, hates nationalism so much that she wants to rid the world of nations. As she puts it, writing in The New York Times: “We need governments, but we don’t need nations.”

The good professor thinks it’s ridiculous for countries to convey citizenship on the basis of territorial birth. Why not let people just wander the globe looking for the best place to live, and then everyone can be the citizen of whatever country in which he or she happens to alight? She explains, “People should be free to move across borders; they should be citizens of the states where they happen to reside—period.”

I like that “period.” It denotes the finality of her argument and its presumed impregnability from silly nationalists such as myself.

But if I may, Professor, how do you figure that this approach would, as you say, “help end inequality among countries, by letting people move for greater opportunity”?

In fact, as anyone with half a brain knows, such a global practice, even if practicable, wouldn’t end inequality among countries at all. It would instead create chaos and poverty, as rich countries would be brought down by an inundation of teeming—and unabsorbable—masses desperate to better their station while poor countries would deteriorate into ghost countries.

But why am I even trying to counter such cotton-candy propositions and outlandish anti-Americanism? Perhaps because of this passage:

“Impossible? Utopian? That was the response to those who proposed the elimination of slavery.” So Stevens conflates Americans who wish to preserve their nation’s sovereignty and borders with those who defended Southern slavery in the 1850s. It’s difficult to imagine a level of mental abstraction that would conjure up such an analogy.

Her suggestion is impossible, and, yes, utopian. And it’s a howler