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Citizenship Test

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Really? I thought it was a good way to protect us from one. Rich capitalists in my society don't take too kindly to corrupt politicians.

Last I looked, George Soros was spending a helluva lot of money supporting John Kerry. Under your scheme, his vote could outweigh my vote thousands or millions to one.

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Last I looked, George Soros was spending a helluva lot of money supporting John Kerry.  Under your scheme, his vote could outweigh my vote thousands or millions to one.

I don't care if George Soros gives every cent he has to John Kerry's campaign. That doesn't give him an election vote of any kind, "under my scheme."

To get a vote, Soros would need to contribute to the government. Not someone's campaign for office.

Besides, it is unfair to compare today's politicians to those who would run for office in a free society. A John Kerry would be laughed off the stage. We are talking about an ideal political system here. Such a thing cannot exist without first a radical change in our culture, including its attitude toward socialists and pragmatists.

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"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for another's sake, nor ask another to live for mine". --John Galt, Atlas Shrugged.

How about this for a citizenship test? :)

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In ancient Rome they had an interesting Timocratic system. The citizens were divided into five classes for elections, according to personal wealth, with each class having a different relative influence. People who did not posses any property were not allowed to vote, since they did not seem to have an inherent interest in preserving the Republic.

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I think you missed the point... I wasnt responding to the idea of 'voluntary taxation', but to the idea of the government charging fees for basic services such as the enforcement of contracts. If the government wants the authority to be the sole user of retaliatory force, it does not have the right to ask people to pay for it to retaliate.

The issue here is not that the gov't "wants to" have a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. The gov't *must* have that monopoly in any rational, civilized society. That power is *a necessity* for the rational protection of individual rights. Without it you have anarchy.

Since the gov't does provide the service and it needs to fund its activities, then it is justified to collecting fees to support it. What it cannot do is coerce you to pay those fees. However, if you don't wish to pay the fees, then you cannot expect the gov't to protect you. (It does not then follow however - as anarchists argue - that you are entitled to provide your own personal law enforcement and engage in retaliatory force on your own, outside of the law.)

Keep in mind that law enforcement in a rational society, where the sole function of the gov't is to protect individual rights, would not be very expensive. It would be far, far less than it is today. A huge percentage of law enforcement today is devoted to enforcing the drug laws and since, in a free society, all drugs would be legalized, those costs (and all the crime which results from them) would not exist. Also, all the roads would be private, so you wouldn't have traffic cops, etc.

Fred Weiss

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We've previously discussed my disgust for today's politics, and their root in the mob-rule nature of decision-making. The thread was Sick Republics but no one could come up with an alternative which won't jeapardise individual rights even more.

No one could come up with an alternative? Or you ignored those who basically just said that we should return to a true republic in the style of the Founding Fathers of America, i.e., a government whose function is to protect the individual rights of its citizens? But there are no quick fixes for political problems--it will be impossible to establish such a government until the culture rediscovers the meaning of and justification for individual rights. So that sort of culture is what we should be working for.

As for your ideas about citizenship tests--not necessarily a bad idea in regard to the privilege of voting. It is certainly not unreasonable to ask that citizens have a certain basic understanding of politics, before allowing them to have a voice in the political future of the nation. The problem is that it could be dangerous to allow the government to impose standards of who is allowed to vote. It would then be conceivable that they could use agreement with their own political agenda as the standard, effectively establishing one-party rule. This could happen even unintentionally, since our government today lacks the guidance of philosophical principles--our State department lists "the most fundamental right of American citizens" as the right to vote, and I imagine that our current citizenship tests have some pretty bad stuff like that on them. But more likely, it would be used as a tool for a purposeful takeover by the most shameless group, since most of today's politicians are power-lusters.

And you couldn't use some other, perhaps more objective, non-political standard such as IQ tests, because things like intelligence are irrelevent in this context and should not be a factor. I couldn't believe that someone on here suggested that people with an IQ below 95 might be cut off from the rights that you mention. That would not include a significant part of the population! And besides, insofar as we're talking about actual rights here, a right is an absolute, and all human beings have the same rights, regardless of their ability, intellectual or otherwise.

And of course, get rid of the idea that government should base things like driver's licenses on IQ tests and citizenship tests. It's bad enough that the government licenses these things at all--but at least now they decide whether or not you can be allowed to drive based on something somewhat relevent: a driving test.

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[Mod's note: Merged with previous thread on similar topic.]

Under an Objectivist government, who would qualify as a citizen?

Should any person simply living in the country qualify as a citizen or should there be a minimum amount of years a person has to live in the country in question before being granted citizenship.

Please state your reasons for your statement.

Edited by softwareNerd

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I don't see any basis for a distinction of "citizen" versus "non-citizen."

What about running for President?

How would we distinguish who had entered the country illegally to spy?

If no one is a citizen, then anyone is a citizen, and there are no levels of security for who can hold what job position. What sort of screening would we offer instead?

Also, if the government is pay voluntary, it seems only right that their duties are only required for those who pay into them. It seems to me like that might be a basis for citizenship, except that I can see several ways off the top that it would end up another way of exploiting people and using force.

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Under an Objectivist government, who would qualify as a citizen?

Should any person simply living in the country qualify as a citizen or should there be a minimum amount of years a person has to live in the country in question before being granted citizenship.

Please state your reasons for your statement.

The primary reason there is such a fierce debate about citizenship and illegal immigration in today's political climate is because of government handouts. If the sole purpose of government was the protection of individual rights, this would be a non-issue. If unjust government benefits didn't exist, people couldn't get upset about people coming into this country to get them.

Therefore, under a true capitalist government, anyone who had a desire to live in the country, met the background check to insure that they were not a threat (e.g. not a terrorist), and paid for the services the government provided could qualify as a citizen.

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What about running for President?

Under current laws, not all citizens can run for president. Only naturally born citizen can be president. This seems to be a good policy for the reasons you stated, but I am not sure that it makes much of a difference as long as the person’s intentions for running for president are pure. An example is Arnold Swartzenegger, can you think of any attributes he possesses that reasonably disqualify him from running for president?

Under a true capitalist government the person who was president wouldn’t matter that much. They would be more like a county sheriff than “the leader of the free world”. I speculate that this is why In Atlas Shrugged, there is no president, only a “head of state”. If the government functions the way it is supposed to, the people holding political offices aren’t that important because their role is relatively simple.

Way too much emphasis is put on politicians in our current political climate. These people are not royalty; they are elected officials who should serve a very limited purpose. Unfortunately they (and many of the people who elect them) think that scope of their duties and power is much broader than it should be.

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I would prefer a country where citizenship is "by invitation" only. A person could only become citizen if he is sponsored by, say, seven people who are already citizens.

Citizenship would be required for:

  • voting
  • serving on a jury
  • being a government official
  • becoming a high-ranking military officer
  • being a secret agent

The advantage of such an arrangement would be that if the original citizens at the time of the country's founding are rational people with the right ideas, and they make sure to only sponsor prospective citizens who are similarly rational, there is an improved chance that the government will stay in the hands of the right people.

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As I see it, a citizen is any resident of the country who pays taxes, and swore an oath to respect the rights of his fellow men. I think criminals, objectively defined, should not be allowed to be citizens.

Now, both citizens and residents are entitled to protection of the law, but only a citizen can work in any official position, vote, or be entitled to the protection of his rights overseas (for example, international businessmen).

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What about running for President?

Anyone should be able to run for President, however I believe that only a qualified minority, such as wealthy property owners, should have the right to vote.

How would we distinguish who had entered the country illegally to spy?

By identifying people as individuals, not as citizen/non-citizen.

If no one is a citizen, then anyone is a citizen, and there are no levels of security for who can hold what job position.

This is a non-sequitir. There are many ways used to perform background checks and have security classifications without the category of citizenship.

Also, if the government is pay voluntary, it seems only right that their duties are only required for those who pay into them.

This is the best argument you give, but it’s still insufficient. The majority of government services must by definition be applied to all individuals residing within a geographical area to the extent that the government functions at all as a monopoly on force. For example, foreigners visiting America today are still subject to U.S. laws, and properly so. Other services, perhaps provided only to those individuals who pay for them hardly necessitate such a classification such as “citizen,” since they would be invoked in things such as individual contracts.

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Now, both citizens and residents are entitled to protection of the law, but only a citizen can work in any official position, vote,

What basis is there for restricting public office? Say that you have a remote community without a qualified judge. Why should it not elect a judge who lives elsewhere, and either moves there or telecommutes?

or be entitled to the protection of his rights overseas (for example, international businessmen).

Why should citizens be entitled to protections overseas? Going to or doing business in a foreign country implies the acceptance of the consequences of breaking its laws, whatever they are. You have no right to force me to pay for the risks that you decide to take across the world.

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What about running for President?

Why would that be a legitimate basis for any restriction on holding government posts?

How would we distinguish who had entered the country illegally to spy?
Again irrelevant, because not all non-citizens are spies and some citizens are spies.

If no one is a citizen, then anyone is a citizen, and there are no levels of security for who can hold what job position. What sort of screening would we offer instead?

One based on relevant evidence -- some reason to think that the person is a spy. The NSA has a considerable amount of experience in this, so you'd have to consult them for details.

Also, if the government is pay voluntary, it seems only right that their duties are only required for those who pay into them.

It doesn't seem right to me that the government would refuse to perform its function just in case a person does not pay: even so, non-citizens are obligated to pay taxes, so linking government services to citizenship is again a non-sequitur.

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Anyone should be able to run for President, however I believe that only a qualified minority, such as wealthy property owners, should have the right to vote.

There are many ways used to perform background checks and have security classifications without the category of citizenship.

This is the best argument you give, but it’s still insufficient.  The majority of government services must by definition be applied to all individuals residing within a geographical area to the extent that the government functions at all as a monopoly on force.  For example, foreigners visiting America today are still subject to U.S. laws, and properly so. Other services, perhaps provided only to those individuals who pay for them hardly necessitate such a classification such as “citizen,” since they would be invoked in things such as individual contracts.

Thank you for the responses. It is a little clearer now. Why then do countries deem citizenship now? To appropriate their hard earned dollar I guess? (Bastards ;) )

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Anyone should be able to run for President, however I believe that only a qualified minority, such as wealthy property owners, should have the right to vote.

I can see a case for restricting voters to those who own land. Theorectically, they own all the territory that any laws that are passed would cover. But on what basis would you restrict voting to wealthy property owners?

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I can see a case for restricting voters to those who own land.

I can't see that case. I wonder, for example, if Rand owned land when she lived in NYC. Would you exempt people who live in certain large cities like New York, where (I think) the majority of residents don't own the land? Or the state of Hawaii where land ownership isn't the default? Or, old folks who sell the house to live in a more manageable apartment. I just don't see how owning land is a prerequisite to having a say in how you will be governed.

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I can see a case for restricting voters to those who own land.  Theorectically, they own all the territory that any laws that are passed would cover.  But on what basis would you restrict voting to wealthy property owners?

I mention land ownership only as a placeholder for whatever criteria is necessary to ensure rule by a “natural aristocracy.” I’m not sure what the actual criteria should be, and lately I’ve been wondering whether an objective criteria is even possible. But that’s a topic for another thread..

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I can't see that case. I wonder, for example, if Rand owned land when she lived in NYC. Would you exempt people who live in certain large cities like New York, where (I think) the majority of residents don't own the land? Or the state of Hawaii where land ownership isn't the default? Or, old folks who sell the house to live in a more manageable apartment. I just don't see how owning land is a prerequisite to having a say in how you will be governed.

I think you are right, David. The argument that I referred to goes as follows:

In a (proper) capitalist society where all property is privately owned, the geographic territory of the country is owned by those who own land. One could make the argument that these land owners should be the ones to elect those who will make the laws that apply to the individuals that occupy these lands, on the grounds that the owner of property has the right to determine the terms and conditions under which others (non-owners) may use and/or occupy his property. Shouldn't those who own a piece of land decide what rules will be in effect on that property?

Furthermore, since the government will be constitutionally prohibited from passing laws that violate anyone's rights, there is no need to worry that the land owners will vote into office individuals that will make laws that favor the land owners at the expense of the non-owners. The government will not have the power to create the vast array of rules and regulations that presently affect every individual, a power that, under statism, is manipulated by some at the expense of others.

The counter to this is what you brought up: how can it be proper for people to be governed without having a say in who makes the rules? Laws that apply to everyone should be passed by people elected by everyone.

I questioned GC because, though I can see some validity to the land-owner argument above, I see no validity in tying voting to a level of wealth.

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Under a true capitalist government the person who was president wouldn’t matter that much. They would be more like a county sheriff than “the leader of the free world”. I speculate that this is why In Atlas Shrugged, there is no president, only a “head of state”. If the government functions the way it is supposed to, the people holding political offices aren’t that important because their role is relatively simple.
That is manifestly not true, from the history of representative governments in Classical civilization. Elected officials of the highest power who left their office with a whimper could count on not having a good chance of re-election in the future.

Or think back to times closer to ours. We remember George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, and now even the Bush Doctrine. We remember what Abraham Lincoln did. We don't remember what Coolidge did (which is unfortunate because he was a wonderful man, from what I've read).

---

As for the issue of citizenship, I suppose I should mention something about it from the Ancient perspective. Citizenship was one of the most highly prized 'public' posessions an individual could have (by 'public' I mean things which are in the view of the entire community/state, as opposed to something like your house, which was a private posession and only you had the right to survey over it). The reason I call it a posession at all is because history records many men who would rather hold a citizenship in a particular Greek or Roman state, than continue owning their private posessions. On the other side of the issue, many men chose to abandon their citizenship, after very long deliberation, by taking their things and acquiring the citizenship in a neighboring city-state. It was a thing of utmost value, and any loss/acquisition of it was first preceded by a lot of thinking, not with carelessness as it is done today.

During the Hellenic Age of Greece (which Dr. Peikoff praises in his tribute to the Greek civilization), citizenship was guarded with extreme jealousy. People could move into a city-state and live there all their lives without acquiring citizenship, i.e. any formal recognition or legal equality with the citizens. Aristotle is one such famous example, who spent much of his life in Athens lecturing and writing, contributed enormously to the philosophical atmosphere in the city, and even started the Lyceum as his own school of philosophy in competition with Plato's Academy; despite these achievements he was still regarded as a non-Athenian, and thus when the city was hostile to him, he decided to promptly move out. When Athenians had a grudge against Socrates, at least the latter had the right for a trial; Aristotle probably thought the hostile elements in the city wouldn't feel the need to go that far in his own case.

Anyway I just started to write a long post, and realized that I could write a book on the concept of citizenship in Classical civilization. Let me say that historically, i.e. from our intellectual fathers the Greeks and the Romans, we learn of their utmost reverence and value of citizenship; men have lived and died for the right to be considered true citizens and participants in the Roman community, for example. The Founding Fathers attempted to instill the same kind of respect for citizenship in their fledgeling nation. It is only in recent times that all respect for the notion has been lost, and all understanding of the historical inheritance we have acquired in this concept from the Ancients.

Notably, the same kind of loss of respect for the concept of citizenship was present during the crumbling of the Roman Empire, when the the emperor just blankly made everyone a citizen, without distinction.

I suggest to people that, instead of writing on this subject without any historical perspective whatsoever, or even having a historical perspective going "as far back" as 200 years ago, those who are truly interested in the concept of citizenship to study Classical literature. It is one of the great concepts the Ancients have left to us.

That's all I can say on this subject because any further in-depth discussion would require knowledge of the Athenian or Roman constitutions and customs, something everyone knew just 100 years ago, but no one seems to want to learn about today.

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That is manifestly not true, from the history of representative governments in Classical civilization. Elected officials of the highest power who left their office with a whimper could count on not having a good chance of re-election in the future.

Or think back to times closer to ours. We remember George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, and now even the Bush Doctrine. We remember what Abraham Lincoln did. We don't remember what Coolidge did (which is unfortunate because he was a wonderful man, from what I've read).

Do we remember Washington or Jefferson specifically for being presidents or because they were truly great men?

Thomas Jefferson himself did not think being president was even one of his crowning achievements. His epitaph, written by himself, with his specific demand that "not a word more" be added to it says:

Here was buried

Thomas Jefferson

Author of the Declaration of American Independence

of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom

& Father of the University of Virginia

This is a stark contrast from the power hungry Keating-types that compete for political office today.

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Although i like the land idea, for limiting such things as voting and the what not, i can already see a few flaws.

What is to stop some forward thinking individual from selling a 1 foot by 1 foot square of land? Now whoever buys this land is a land owner. Now you multiply this up, and now being a land owner is meaningless. Not to mention the hassles it would mean for people trying to build near that cut up property 20, 30, 50 years later when those people are dead. Now what do you do to solve this? modify it so it is land owner of "X" size? Or perhaps a length of time owned times size = citizen?

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After years of using this test, the US is switching to a new citizenship test. Like before, the questions and answers are public. Of the 100 questions, an immigration officer will not ask more than 10. I think they stop after the first 6 correct answers.

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