GLOBALCIT Review Symposium on Ana Tanasoca, The Ethics of Multiple Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, 2018



Ana Tanasoca, University of Canberra


Multiple citizenship has been hailed as a symbol of globalisation and as marking a shift from a traditional conception of citizenship to a postnational one. Many see it as a progressive type of membership, perhaps one that cosmopolitans should endorse. After all, it makes state boundaries more porous, it makes rights more available to migrants thereby having the power to remedy global inequalities, some would say. Sure, in the beginning, some worried that multiple citizenship devalues citizenship as a status, but those worries have been put to rest. Indeed, since the number of multiple citizens has increased over the years, multiple citizenship indicates that citizenship still yields considerable value of its holder, unlocking significant benefits.

Two things stand out when looking at multiple citizenship as a research topic. First, the absence of any critical analysis of multiple citizenship, most discussions being overtly positive, failing to inquire into multiple citizenship’s shortcomings or even express any doubts about it. Second, most discussions focus on its legal aspects and systematic moral analyses are scarce—which may explain to some extent the overly positive reception that multiple citizenship enjoys among scholars.

The Ethics of Multiple Citizenship was written with these two things in mind. First, it aims to balance the scales in the debate over multiple citizenship by providing an ethical analysis that stands back from the legalistic details to look at the bigger (ethical) picture. As such, the book is unapologetically written by a normative political theorist having as its primary audience other normative political theorists, in the hope of breaking the monopoly some fields (law and sociology in particular) have over this topic. Second, the book develops a critique of multiple citizenship from a cosmopolitan standpoint. Again, the role of this critique is to enhance and diversify the scholarly debates on multiple citizenship. My view is that we should think harder and put multiple citizenship into ethical perspective—after that, we might still have an all-things-considered positive outlook on it. What matters, however, is that that positive conclusion be an ‘all-things-considered’ rather than ‘some-things-considered’ one.

The gist of the book is that multiple citizenship is not as progressive or postnational as one might think. It reinforces state boundaries and identities by keeping intact the Gordian knot between rights and citizenship. The fact that multiple citizenship is on the rise, and people see it as valuable, points to the fact that citizenship still is a considerable source of rights which, unfortunately, cannot be accessed otherwise.

The problem of accessing these rights through multiple citizenship is that the grounds of acquisition for a second, or third citizenship – birthright, naturalisation and investment – are each morally problematic in some way (as discussed through chapters 2, 3 and 4). I then turn to the implications multiple citizenship may have at the domestic and global levels: the way it can affect global inequality through the operation of double taxation agreements, and the way in might undermine the legitimacy of collective decisions. Hence to the question of ‘just how morally legitimate, “postnational” and open to the globally worse off are the ways of accessing a second or third citizenship?’, my reply is that it is not as legitimate, postnational, or open as we might hope.

In light of these shortcomings, I propose various ways of reforming multiple citizenship as well as double taxation regimes. I also argue in favour of a more systematic unbundling of the rights which are currently packaged together as ‘citizenship’. A flexible allocation of rights and duties of citizenship, rather than a multiplication of citizenships, would be better able to track people’s entitlements to certain rights as well as their responsibilities, as their personal circumstances change. Another issue with multiple citizenship is that in keeping all those particular rights packaged together, it forces those rights to be allocated all at once, for good, and according to the same criteria (birthright, naturalisation requirements or investment).

Unbundling citizenship and allocating categories of rights separately would allow each category of rights to be allocated according to a different criterion. Perhaps people’s right to freely and unconditionally enter, stay, or work in a country should be severed from citizenship. Perhaps some people should have full voting rights in virtue of residing and working a country for a certain amount of time. Perhaps one’s voting rights in a country should be subject to continuous renewal rather than being inherited and preserved for good. Perhaps all newborns and children should enjoy some rights (e.g., the right to stay and travel with their parents) irrespective of their citizenship and where they find themselves.

In the book I do not take a firm view as to what grounds should justify the allocation of each right. I do however suppose that the criteria should vary for each right, and that some people’s moral entitlements might kick in even if those people might not qualify for naturalisation or birthright citizenship. Importantly, this means those entitlements should be honoured by the state without imposing further conditionality. Unbundling and allocating rights separately from citizenship is more easily squared with respect for people’s freedom of movement and personal choices. While the book defends birthright citizenship (but not birthright multiple citizenship), it argues for a diversification of citizenship and rights regimes, that would allow citizenship as a package of right to survive alongside a more flexible allocation of unbundled rights outside of the citizenship framework.

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I start by acknowledging that citizenship is no longer an exclusive relationship. Nowadays, an increasing number of people are citizens of two or more states. Multiple citizenship can emerge via birthright—when it is determined by birth circumstances alone—or via naturalisation, from the decision to move to a new country and to take out citizenship there. An additional citizenship may also be ‘purchased’, through schemes fast-tracking citizenship applications from foreigners making large investments in the state. Every one of these three ways of acquiring a second citizenship is morally problematic in its own way. Furthermore, multiple citizenship may also have problematic consequences for the coherence of collective decisions, the constitution of the demos, and global inequality. Many of these problematic features of multiple citizenship could be avoided by unbundling the rights attached to citizenship and allocating them separately.

Chapter 2 discusses birthright multiple citizenship. Ius sanguinis, on its own or in combination with ius soli, can create a legal entitlement to multiple citizenship. Some states have imposed restrictions on birthright multiple citizenship. In this chapter I discuss whether such restrictions are legitimate, and whether birth circumstances alone—blood ties to another citizen or birth on the state’s territory—should entitle individuals to multiple nationality. I point out that such arguments in favour of multiple citizenship—grounded in the special relationship between children and their parents or in the parents’ ‘right’ to transmit citizenship to their children and the children’s ‘right’ to inherit this citizenship—are misguided and reflect a grave misunderstanding of the nature and function of citizenship. I conclude by introducing a policy proposal—a system of citizenship renewal—that would reform birthright (multiple) citizenship.

Chapter 3 discusses multiple citizenship by naturalisation. In this chapter I analyse the legitimacy of one naturalisation requirement that makes a crucial difference to the existence of dual citizenship: the requirement to renounce one’s citizenship upon naturalising. I discuss various ways of interpreting the requirement and conclude that this requirement is morally problematic. But this does not mean that dual citizenship via naturalisation is unobjectionable. Drawing on the literature on choice architecture and nudging, I develop a novel objection to dual citizenship via naturalisation. I argue that it could be seen as morally problematic in such cases is that dual citizenship arises by default, rather than through an explicit individual choice. I suggest various reforms of naturalisation procedures that emphasize the importance of actively choosing one’s citizenship.

Some states nowadays grant citizenship upon investment. And even states that standardly require renunciation of a previous citizenship upon naturalisation waive this requirement in the case of citizenship-by-investment, thereby allowing investors, but not other individuals, to become dual citizens. Investor citizenship allows people virtually to ‘purchase’ a second citizenship. But citizenship was not the first status to be put on sale. In chapter 4, I discuss the legitimacy of multiple citizenship-by-investment drawing on the analogy between the sale of citizenship and that of honours. I point out that objections similar to those raised against the sale of honours could be raised against dual citizenship-by-investment.

The second part of the book discusses what problematic consequences multiple citizenship may have at the domestic and global levels. Chapter 5 discusses the ways in which multiple citizenship could affect the legitimacy of collective decision-making. One precondition for making coherent collective decisions via majority rule is the existence of a common framework of reference that can guide decision-makers’ individual choices. I point out how and under what circumstances dual citizenship could undermine collective rationality inside a community by exposing its citizens to competing frames of reference guiding the decisions of another community. Drawing on the psychology of perception, I then express some reservations regarding dual citizens’ capacity to systematically and reliably reformulate their preferences and reframe their judgements in line with each one of their two different communities’ frames of reference.

Chapter 6 moves on to discuss multiple citizenship in the context of the problem of constituting the demos (commonly known as ‘the boundary problem’). Various principles have been advanced by political philosophers as solutions to this problem: the affected interests principle, the legally subjected principle, and the unaffected interests principle. Migration poses a challenge for all three principles. The question is whether or not multiple citizenship brings demos boundaries more closely in line with those that are ideally prescribed by any given one of these principles. I point out why it cannot do so and what alternative would do a better job in this respect. I argue that the problem lies in the inextricable tie between citizenship status and political rights. Severing this tie—unbundling citizenship rights and allocating political rights separately—could make demos boundaries congruent with those ideally prescribed by any given one of the boundary principles discussed.

Chapter 7 examines the consequences of multiple citizenship for global distributive justice. Does multiple citizenship promote global equality? I argue that multiple citizenship may in fact accentuate global inequalities in virtue of two things. One is the present allocation of multiple citizenship, which advantages the global rich. The second is the international norms regulating double taxation, which favour the (typically more prosperous) states of residence over the (typically less prosperous) states of origin, allowing the former states to tax even income generated in the latter. With regard to the first factor, citizenship can act like a gate-keeper of good or bad life opportunities, locking people in what are advantageous or disadvantageous environments. And multiple citizenship may serve to magnify those objectionable advantages. With regard to the second factor, global inequality may be exacerbated by multiple citizenship combined with an international double taxation regime favouring states of residence. I discuss two solutions for addressing the global inequalities aggravated by multiple citizenship. The first is a tax on multiple citizenship. The second is the introduction of a prioritarian clause in the OECD Model Tax Convention that would give priority to the most economically disadvantaged state having a potential tax claim on the same revenue at least for some, if not all, categories of income.

Finally, in the concluding chapter I offer a restatement of the major claims found in the literature on this topic discussed in Chapter 1. I argue that at least some of those claims are misguided, by reference to the arguments explored in the substantive chapters. The conclusion expands the discussion of one policy proposal mentioned in Chapter 6 as an alternative to multiple citizenship: the unbundling of citizenship rights. I argue that many of the shortcomings of multiple citizenship discussed in the earlier chapters could be tackled through an unbundling. I fine-tune this proposal, by identifying various versions of it and discussing implementation strategies for each. I argue in favour of one in particular: a partial unbundling that would be applied only to a second (or third or more) citizenship. Such an unbundling would allow people’s legal rights to more easily track their moral rights. The reforms of multiple citizenship discussed in the previous chapters would transform multiple citizenship from a ‘citizenship of convenience’[1] into a ‘citizenship of choice’. The goal of unbundling citizenship rights, together with those other reforms, is to make citizenship and the allocation of rights more responsive to people’s moral entitlements, to people’s choices, and to changes in their circumstances.