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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Who Should Decide Citizenship?

In Switzerland, citizenship applications for people residing in small villages or townships tend to be judged not by the federal authorities but by local communities. If you are, say, an immigrant who lives in a small village, the inhabitants of the village can choose not to grant you citizenship if they feel that you are not being respectful of local customs and traditions. Even if you fulfill all formal requirements for citizenship, your application will still be denied if your neighbors don’t want you. 

This happened, for instance, to a woman called Nancy Holten who has been refused citizenship twice because she angered her community of Gipf-Oberfrick with attacks on cherished local traditions. Holten is one of those loud weirdos who tend to drive everybody round the bend with their eccentricities. Should she be denied citizenship, though?

What say you, readers? Who’s in the right, Holten or the angry villagers?

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26 thoughts on “Who Should Decide Citizenship?

  1. Dreidel on said:

    Short obvious answer: The only authority that can set the standards for citizenship in a nation-state is that nation-state’s national government, period.

    Community local standards — who’s considered socially acceptable and who’s ostracized — are a totally different matter.

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    • Here is a question, though. The nation-state can’t give much any more. And what it can give diminishes every day. Shouldn’t it reward people who do the unthinkable and actually stay put and reward them with a chance to choose their neighbors?

      I’m not taking a position here – I shouldn’t be taking positions on the subject of anti-fur vegans who persecute cow bells – but I find this interesting in view of the changing nature of citizenship.

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      • Dreidel on said:

        People and communities already choose who they’ll socialize with. For the most part, you can select the character of your neighborhood by where you can afford to live — in a trailor park or a $400,000 house. At the local level, you can vote for local zoning laws. (Remember that Obama’s HUD tried to smash the quality of local neighborhoods by forcing well-off communities to sell cheap housing in ther midst?)

        If you want to affect your country’s immigration/citizenship policies, vote for the national party whose leaders support your views.

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  2. If a community want to regulate himself immigration, they should secede.

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    • Dreidel on said:

      “If a community want to regulate himself immigration, they should secede.”

      Secession of any section of a nation-state should be allowed ONLY with the permission of the nation-state’s national government, of course — with the nation-state considering its own national interests above the concerns of the entity desiring secession.

      A current example is the misguided desire of some Scots to separate Scotland from the heartland of the United Kingdom on the island of Great Britain. Ripping such a geographically vital section out of the physical center of the United Kingdom would be economically and militarily a disaster for both the UK and the rump state of Scotland — and the British Parliament, which holds utlimate authority over the lesser government of Sotland, should refuse to allow the issue to even come to a second vote.

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      • raddledoldtart on said:

        Oi, Dreidel, why exactly do you believe Scottish independence would be economically disastrous for the “rump state”? And do you honestly believe it would be more disastrous for Scots, than staying with hard Brexit UK? Any views on Northern Ireland while you’re at it?

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        • “why exactly do you believe Scottish independence would be economically disastrous for the “rump state”? ”

          How will Scotland replace money transfers from England? Will it rasie taxes or cut services?

          What if Scotland didn’t qualify for the EU? What if accepting the failed Euro were a pre-condition for acceptance?

          What if being in Schengen was a precondition and border crossings with England have to be monitored? (I don’t think England would take kindly to Calais moving to Gretna (and Scottish people might not like that much either).

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          • raddledoldtart on said:

            How will England replace money transfers from Scotland more like? Scotland does qualify for the EU, but if conditions change… then we can always vote on it, eh? (Cos our politicians aren’t the ones pasting giant lies on doubledecker buses)

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            • Like I wrote recently about the failure of liberal politics, the desire to break up into increasingly tiny identity groups makes political action impossible. The ideal to which this process aspires is to break up the world into groups of one.

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        • Brexit and the endless Scottish referendums are events of the same (and equally self-defeating) nature. Breaking the nation-state up in ever-smallish pieces won’t revive it. Globally generated problems – which are the problems that are central to all of us – can’t be solved on the level of increasingly minuscule shards of formerly larger formations.

          Pursuing independentist fantasies is an understandable reaction to the erosion of the nation-state. But it’s akin to investing all your money into buying boots for an amputated leg instead of paying for a prosthesis. New developments deserve fresh approaches, not an attempt to go back to the past.

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          • “Brexit and the endless Scottish referendums are events of the same (and equally self-defeating) nature. ”

            I’m not sure. The UK was never an enthusiastic member of the EU and it’s hard to point to post 2000 events that would change that. Yeah it was great for Poland to export over a half-million unemployed people to the UK but it’s less clear why working class English who were getting squeezed out of the job market were supposed to be enthusiastic.

            Many or most Americans don’t necessarily realize it or care but Scotland’s been grumbling about independence forever and in the current case it would be to become part of the EU (which is more a configuration than splitting down into smaller units).

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            • “Many or most Americans don’t necessarily realize it or care but Scotland’s been grumbling about independence forever and in the current case it would be to become part of the EU”

              • That’s what the Catalonians keep saying, although there is no evidence anybody in the EU wants them. And why should they? More problems, more expense, and for what? To humor outdated fantasies?

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              • “That’s what the Catalonians keep saying, although there is no evidence anybody in the EU wants them”

                Well Spain isn’t going anywhere so Catalan indpendence seems really pointless to outsiders (and has a lot of other problems as well and I don’t think would do nearly as well in a secret ballot as it does in street protests).

                The main reason the EU tries to discourage them is to discourage half a dozen other breakaway projects like Flanders or Padania.

                Brexit gives some kind of rationale for Scottish Independence though it’s not clear that the EU would want them and it’s not clear that the remaining UK would allow Scotland to join Schengen for obvious reasons (a good chance to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall!)

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      • AnonScot on said:

        Dear Dreidel, do you live in Scotland?

        If not, you have no idea what the political or economic situation is here is and if we would be better of by ourselves than in a hard Tory Brexit or not.

        You have also clearly missed the last 30 years of European history where many other small states successfully became indepentent.

        Best regards from windy Edinburgh.

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        • I have lived my life in vain if after everything I have written about the nation-state people are still not seeing that this is an enormous transformation and that 30-year-old recipes won’t work.

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          • “this is an enormous transformation and that 30-year-old recipes won’t work”

            Maybe this is a new recipe. Think of somewhere like Slovakia as a Community State, a liveable and relatable unit of politics but still nestled within larger European structures such as the EU and NATO and Schengen

            I think the better incarnations of the market state will have to delegate lots of authority to local levels (because management is intensive and static – two things followers of the cult of capital hate their god being caught up in). Community States give people a tangible stake – something often missing in Nation States and so far completely absent in proto-market states.

            Maybe these smaller locii of citizenship in partly overlapping multiple regional structures will be better off than larger more monolithic structures like the US….

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        • “You have also clearly missed the last 30 years of European history where many other small states successfully became indepentent.”

          Define success. Czech and Slovakia are doing okay but Jugoslavia is a mixed bag. Croatia and Slovenia are doing okay but none of the rest of former Jugoslavia is better off.

          The former USSR is also a mixed bag. Leaving aside the Baltics (which had independence before being fed into the Soviet maw) they are a very mixed bag but it’s hard to find one that’s better off both economically and socially…

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          • Soviet Republics didn’t become independent of a larger state. The larger state ceased to exist. It’s a completely different situation. The same with Czechs and Slovaks or former parts of Yugoslavia. They didn’t seek independence. They fell apart. And the reason why they fell apart is not a caprice but a very real and very huge change in the economy of the region.

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            • Czech and Slovak indpendence happened against the will of the majority of both countries at the time. It was politicians who wanted it. The Czech government wanted to be free of the poorer Slovaks and the Slovak big guy wanted to become a neo-Soviet strongman.

              Slovaks flirted with Belarus style politics for a few years but then decisively turned their backs on it and have tremendous progress. The Czechs haven’t made as much progress but relations between the two parts still seem friendly enough.

              Slovenia and Croatia had been planning indpendence moves for years while the rest of Jugoslavia was more collapse through inertia than calculated moves for independence.

              And there were indpendence movements in some Soviet Republics (though the collapse of the USSR proved to be more important in the final analysis).

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            • A Slovenian on said:

              I never comment here, but I have to say something now as you are discussing my country: you are wrong about Yugoslavia, it did not just cease to exist, there was an active independence movement there throughout 1980s. Slovenia had an independence referendum on 26 Dec 1990, where almost 95% voted for independence from Yugoslavia, which was then proclaimed by the national parliament on 25 June 1991. This was followed up by a 10 days war, where the Yugoslavian army attacked Slovenia, but the war was luckily soon stopped by the international community. So that is not simply falling apart, that is an active long-term initiative and success to become indepedent.

              As for progress in this region, the northern republics (Slovenia and Croatia) were always more economically and techonologically developed and were actively supporting southern republics with most of our taxes being used to subsidize Serbian economy, for example. That was one of the main drivers of Slovenian independence, to get out of this situation and use our finances for ourselves and our own progress. The other one was the threat of the Serbia wanting to be “great again” (Recognise the terminology? From 1990s Milosevic, right into the mouths of Brexiteers and Trump in 2017…) and the fear that it would take over the rest of Yugoslavia with military force (as indeed it later tried to do with other not-so-lucky republics, in Slovenia we luckily only had 10 days of war).

              So this was IMO a very different situation than in other federation collapses (USSR, Czech Rep/Slovakia).

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              • Ukraine also had a referendum in 1990 where 92% voted for independence. This doesn’t cancel the fact that neither the USSR nor Yugoslavia exist today.

                And the narrative of “Why are we feeding these moochers” exists absolutely everywhere in the world. Discussing it seriously in 2017 when the economy has gone global a while ago seems a bit bizarre.

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  3. Getting to the main question here of the annoying Dutch lady in Switzerland, she’s not stateless in my understanding, but unable to obtain citizenship in the country she has lived most of her life in because she’s a massive pain in the neck (and kind of proud about it which makes it worse).

    I have mixed feelings about the Swiss example. On the one hand I like the idea of ground level democracy (and those that have obtained Swiss citizenship through that manner are very proud of it).

    On the other hand the part of my that likes non-conformists and misfits and troublemakers doesn’t like the power that situation gives the Miss Grundy’s of the world.

    Thinking of a hybrid I like the idea of the local control (with an appeals process for those who can make a case for their acceptance).

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    • “I have mixed feelings about the Swiss example. On the one hand I like the idea of ground level democracy (and those that have obtained Swiss citizenship through that manner are very proud of it).”

      • Same here. But it would be easier for me to be on the woman’s side if she defended less obnoxious causes. 🙂

      What I like is telling the national authorities to buzz off until they can address the issues generated by the changing economy. Because they can’t do shit about that and instead futz with citizenships and other formalities. Let the people figure this out while the federal government works on ways of stopping liquid capital.

      Of course, this would only work in a country like Switzerland: tiny and with enough places where everybody has lived in the same place forever. Otherwise, you’d end up with a ridiculous situation where yesterday’s arrivals lord it over today’s arrival in defense of traditions neither knows or understands.

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  4. Stringer bell on said:

    The one very practical problem with the Swiss model is that it refers to a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The assumption buried in it is that people live and die in the same place. We should all be so lucky.

    So why should my neighbors decide upon my citizenship when next year I could be living in a different part of Switzerland where maybe I’d have neighbors who are more accepting of vegans?

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    • “The one very practical problem with the Swiss model is that it refers to a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The assumption buried in it is that people live and die in the same place. We should all be so lucky.”

      • Absolutely. As I said, this can only work for places where everybody has been in the same place for generations. This is a model that is dying out, which is why I see no harm in humoring it while it still is there.

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  5. JProf on said:

    Who should decide citizenship? Our answer to this question will always impact someone else negatively–someone who wants citizenship but is denied it by the group or body that we choose to make the decision. So this could be an argument “Against Citizenship.” But being against citizenship doesn’t work in the real world, so probably it should be the national governments of countries who grant citizenship.

    In my ideal world, the concept of citizenship probably wouldn’t exist. Borders wouldn’t, either, because I don’t believe that someone else should be able to dictate where I can and can’t live.

    But I live in the real world, so these are just my utopian fantasies.

    Like

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