Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Citizenship Test

Rate this topic


Gabriel
 Share

Recommended Posts

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.

A few days ago I was thinking that if I were ever to apply for citizenship in any country, I'd most likely be taking a citizenship test and I'd have to have been living 5+ years in that country.

This struck me as both a good measure, and a double standard. Children born on the teritory og one nation are instantly considered citizen of that country, without having them making any thing of contractual agreement with the state (in some cases, they are expected to get drafted, etc., without having agreeded to it)

I think that the citizenship test should be extended to ALL future citizens, so that everyone who gets a vote has basic knowledge of the structure and proper role of government, according to the constitution.

I see this test as having 3 separate, independent stages:

1) Starting at 14, following an IQ test and a basic quiz about citizen rights and duties, teens would be able to get a small degree of basic rights, such as being able to get a driving license, to get a passport of this country, etc., with parent still holding only legal VETO power.

Those who do not pass this test are treated by the state as children, in their parents custody, until they manage to pass the test. If they are severly mentally retarded, then they preserve their status quo.

2) Starting at 18, following an updated IQ test and medium-difficulty test about governments, individual rights and law, the person would get full citizenship, except voting, and obtail full legal independence from his parents.

3) Starting at 18, all persons which succesfully take a serious test on the constitution and which are declared sane of mind, and are not on welfare, would be able to vote in local and central/federal elections.

Basically, what this means is that only those people with an average or good understaing of the current constitution would get a vote, only if they are sane, and only if they are not on welfare.

Being on welfare, requesting and accepting is synonimous with accepting your failure at living and requiring the state's handout to survive. In this situation, one should not be able to control the state which feeds him (a conflict of interest, of a sort).

Of course, 99% of this scheme would be useless in a trully 100% laissez-faire capitalist state, but since no such state exist, I think that such as approch would severly limit political whoring to the masses and other populist endeavours, by limiting decision power only to those capable of understanding the issues at hand and the current laws.

I know that this might sound draconian, or it would invite abuse towards the 'lower citizenship ranks', but it's the only compromise I can think of, between dictatorship, technocracy, mob-rule and anarchy.

I'm not suggesting that only capitalists, republicans and objectivists would be allowed to vote, but that only the people who understand voting could do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 51
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Children born on the teritory og one nation are instantly considered citizen of that country, without having them making any thing of contractual agreement with the state (in some cases, they are expected to get drafted, etc., without having agreeded to it)

This is true in the US but not in all countries; in a number of African countries this has resulted in quite of number of people with no nationality since even though they were born in the country, their parents or grandparents were not. Syria recently used that kind of power to declare about 60,000 Kurds stateless.

1) Starting at 14, following an IQ test and a basic quiz about citizen rights and duties, teens would be able to get a small degree of basic rights, such as being able to get a driving license, to get a passport of this country, etc., with parent still holding only legal VETO power.

Those who do not pass this test are treated by the state as children, in their parents custody, until they manage to pass the test. If they are severly mentally retarded, then they preserve their status quo.

You might want to allow children younger than 14 to get a passport -- it's a real nuisance trying to take a child abroad if they don't have a passport.

Presumably you don't want to allow anyone with an IQ below, say, 95 to have a passport or driver's licenses. While IQ is pretty cut and dried, the content of "basic rights and duties" isn't so clear. For example, every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms, and every citizen has the right to all of the fruits of his labor, and I think it would be fair to deny a passport or driver's license to somebody who doesn't know that fact. While that seems like an obvious question to put on the exam, how about "A citizen has the obligation to sacrifice himself for the sake of the community"? My opinion is that children should know that the First Amendment does not give them the right to say anything anywhere, and I would take it to be one of the most important questions to go on this exam, but perhaps others don't think that that is so important, and that instead they should know it is unconstitutional to require excessive bail. You should say what are these rights and responsibilities of citizens whose knowledge you think should be a prerequisite to being a citizen.

There is more to citizenship than having a passport, the right to drive, and the right to vote. Non-citizens do not have the same rights and protections in the US as citizens, and ultimately the state has no obligation to protect the rights of non-citizens. Non-citizens do not automatically have the right to hold a job, as citizens do. If your proposal is that people born in the US are not citizens (and thus have no legal rights) until they have passed the test. Do you consider that to be an acceptable consequence?

Also, under your proposal, do parents become obligated for life if their child can't pass the IQ test? This might be an incentive to get parents to work with their kids, to make sure that they pass these tests. Still, there are basically stupid people out there, so unless this test isn't going to be meaningful, there will be a lot of people who just can't pass the test and would end up as wards of their parents, pretty much forever.

2) Starting at 18, following an updated IQ test and medium-difficulty test about governments, individual rights and law, the person would get full citizenship, except voting, and obtail full legal independence from his parents.

3) Starting at 18, all persons which succesfully take a serious test on the constitution and which are declared sane of mind, and are not on welfare, would be able to vote in local and central/federal elections.

Would that test include requiring them to know with amendment to the constitution states "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"?

There are a number of amendments to the constitution which say that you cannot deny a citizen the right to vote (sex, race, color, age above 18, previous servitude), but you can deny that vote to felons. Raising questions about citizenship really detracts from your proposal, and do you really want to make a federal case out of driver's licenses? Maybe this proposal ought to be restricted to just voting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, 99% of this scheme would be useless in a trully 100% laissez-faire capitalist state, but since no such state exist, I think that such as approch would severly limit political whoring to the masses and other populist endeavours

I agree about the first part--there are no such things as welfare or government-issued driver's licenses in a truly capitalist nation, so your proposal is meaningless in that context.

As for the second part, the fact that no perfectly capitalist nation exists doesn't mean that we should work on creating a non-capitalist nation with "limited whoring." We should work on creating a perfectly capitalist nation.

When I feel hungry, I do not think about how to limit my pains while I starve to death. I go to a restaurant.

it's the only compromise I can think of, between dictatorship, technocracy, mob-rule and anarchy.

Who cares about "a compromise between" four bad things? Again, my goal in life is not "a compromise between" my starvation, my headache, my arthritis, and my depression. My goal is to be healthy and wealthy!

(As a grammatical side note, the preposition "between" is only used when TWO sides are involved; if you are talking about more than two things, use "among.")

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IWho cares about "a compromise between" four bad things? Again, my goal in life is not "a compromise between" my starvation, my headache, my arthritis, and my depression. My goal is to be healthy and wealthy!

Words to live by. :)

This made my day on this forum. That, and Dave's

"You might want to allow children younger than 14 to get a passport -- it's a real nuisance trying to take a child abroad if they don't have a passport."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When a place gets crowded enough to require IDs, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it has made it possible to go elsewhere.

Robert A. Heinlein's character Lazarus Long

Crowding is not the cause of Statism of course, but I agree with the sentiment. Since space travel is not around yet, I’ll have to remain a proud American and advocate capitalism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) Starting at 14, following an IQ test and a basic quiz about citizen rights and duties, teens would be able to get a small degree of basic rights, such as being able to get a driving license, to get a passport of this country, etc., with parent still holding only legal VETO power.

I think this would give government even more power to violate our rights. In order to get a driver's license, we would need to take all sorts of other tests that have nothing to do with our ability to safely drive a vehicle.

A government's proper function is to recognize and protect our rights. It should not even be involved in the issuing of driver's licenses or passports. If you want, or have a need, to be recognized by the government, I think it would be a good idea to purchase an official ID card or something from the state, and maybe for that there could be a very basic test of some sort. But even that should be at your own discretion.

A proper government would be funded by voluntary contributions. It would not be allowed to tax anyone. A person might become a citizen through moral and financial support of the government. Anyone who contributes money to the government, and is obviously not hostile, would get to vote for the government's officials. You could even weight the votes, depending on how much money was contributed by the voter. After all, this would be a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Nobody can buy away your rights. And, in policing the country, the government would not discriminate based on your citizenship status. If you break a law, you get punished.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about Robert Heinlein’s _Starship Troopers_ idea that military service should be the only requirement for citizenship? Most soldiers today are losers of various sorts, but I don’t think that has to be the case.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Robert A. Heinlein's character Lazarus Long

Much as I agree with Heinlein at times, and as much as I personally prefer the suburbs, open space, and having room to move, I'll have to disagree with RAH on this one.

Ayn Rand wrote "Civilization is the process of setting man free from men," and the word "civilization" comes from the word "city." Sure enough, Ayn Rand, that champion of civilization, loved and chose to live in one of the most crowded places on earth: New York City.

New York is a vibrant social, intellectual, and economic center -- not an example of "social collapse." With that many people, they can take the greatest advantage of the division of labor. They have also almost perfected one of the things that sets men free from men -- the art of Minding Your Own Business.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about Robert Heinlein’s _Starship Troopers_ idea that military service should be the only requirement for citizenship? 

Everyone should have his rights protected by the government -- even non-citizens and visitors -- but not everyone should be entitled to vote or to have a say in how the government is run. Right now children, non-citizens, people who haven't registered, and some convicted felons can't vote although the government enforces their contracts and prosecutes crimes against them.

Perhaps the right to vote should be reserved for people who have contributed in some way to the functioning of government by paying a tax for government services or a poll tax for the privilege of voting, serving on a jury, working for or volunteering for the police or the military or the courts, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How so?

(I was never in the military, but many of my friends have.)

Enlisted personnel often join the military because they come from a poor or troubled background, or are unable to find or hold private jobs. Even families with military traditions are rarely very intellectual. In other words, these are not people I would want to have exclusive power over the government. On the other hand, there are many valid reasons for military service to be a qualification for citizenship, but you’ll just have to read _Starship Troopers_ for that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

New York is a vibrant social, intellectual, and economic center -- not an example of "social collapse."  With that many people, they can take the greatest advantage of the division of labor. They have also almost perfected one of the things that sets men free from men -- the art of Minding Your Own Business.

With all due respect to NYC, the city is has been experiencing “social collapse” for decades. Virtually all major urban areas in America have been solid commie territory for decades, and it certainly shows. I once eagerly looked forward to moving to NYC, but now I think that it’s greatness (which I don't deny) is the inertia of a past culture since replaced by entrenched statism and urban decay.

I am not again cities as such of course, but I do think skyscrapers are a 20th century phenomenon unlikely to remain economically viable in the 21st.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps the right to vote should be reserved for people who have contributed in some way to the functioning of government by paying a tax for government services or a poll tax for the privilege of voting, serving on a jury, working for or volunteering for the police or the military or the courts, etc.

I think the criteria for citizenship should be selected so that those most likely to bear the brunt of the decision are the ones to make it. In other words, soldiers are best qualified to decide to go to war, and businessmen are best qualified to pass laws regarding commerce.

Btw, I don’t think that Ayn Rand’s idea of businessmen supporting government via fees for contracts is practical because private arbitration courts would quickly outbid government ones. I suspect that courts would only be used for criminal cases. In fact, I am not aware of any practical means of voluntarly funding government, though I think the justice system could be partly supported by the prison labor camps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Btw, I don’t think that Ayn Rand’s idea of businessmen supporting government via fees for contracts is practical because private arbitration courts would quickly outbid government ones.

And what would be the legal backbone of private arbitration, if not the proper governmental courts themselves? The exclusive use of retaliatory force is the key physical element which underlies the court system in a proper government, i.e., the court has the physical means to back up its legal decisions. Any private operation, of necessity, must rely on the government's exclusive use of retaliatory force in order to back up any legal contract. It is no coincidence that private security companies act, even now, at most, as an adjunct to the police force.

In fact, I am not aware of any practical means of voluntarly funding government ...

You do not think that people are rational enough to voluntarily pay for the services they need in order to have their individual rights protected? Not to mention corporations which have enormous financial interests to protect. Do you not think that businessmen who run large companies would not be delighted to pay for services which protect the property and legal dealings of their companies? Remember, it is the government which has been granted the sole use of retaliatory force for the protection of individual rights, and so that government must be relied upon to protect those rights, both physically and legally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about Robert Heinlein’s _Starship Troopers_ idea that military service should be the only requirement for citizenship?

I've read Starship Troopers. I was more impressed with the space suits and weaponry than the politics. I think military service could be one way to earn a citizenship. But not the only way.

We have to answer a fundamental question: In a free society, what value would there be in becoming a citizen? I think the greatest value would be the right to vote in elections.

Elected officials would manage the effort to protect our rights. Thus, anyone who has a real interest in protecting rights should have a say in who these "managers" will be.

How do we determine who has a real interest? I submit that the best way to do this is to look around and see who is actually supporting the government, in terms of service or financial aid.

Maybe we want to weigh a soldier's vote more heavily than a vote from someone who gives only money. But, that would be something to determine later. Right now I think it is sufficient to say that anyone who, through service or money, actively supports the government should be granted a vote in elections.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps the right to vote should be reserved for people who have contributed in some way to the functioning of government by paying a tax for government services or a poll tax for the privilege of voting, serving on a jury, working for or volunteering for the police or the military or the courts, etc.

Do you think a lot of people would even bother voting under republican laissez faire? I mean today quite a lot of people choose not to vote because they believe that it makes very little difference who wins out of the major parties since they are all so similar, and under republican laissez faire all the candidates would be almost identical in terms of policies. I mean this in the sense that since the scope of government would (I assume) be vastly restricted by a rational constitution, its not like youre going to have a situation where one candidate is pro gun control, while another wants to insitutes soclalized healthcare and a third proposes raising income tax to 30%. There might be a minor difference in policy concerning things like foreign affairs and the fine details of the system, but I would think voting would be more a matter of personality than policy - ie people would vote for who they trusted most to maintain the status quo, rather than voting for someone who would institute changes they liked. While I obviously have no objection to this, I'm not convinced the majority of the country would consider it worth voting in this situation.

As to the initial question, it really depends what benefits are conferred by citizenship. If it were just voting priveliges I doubt I'd personally bother doing anything as time-consuming as military service. Given the above, I suspect people like me would be in the majority.

MisterSwig - weighting votes by how much money one gives the government seems like the best possible way for your society to degenerate into a corrupt ogliarchy. I'm not personally convinced that anythng democratic would be the best form for laissez faire to take, and doing something like that would probably make the problems even worse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And what would be the legal backbone of private arbitration, if not the proper governmental courts themselves? The exclusive use of retaliatory force is the key physical element which underlies the court system in a proper government

What would be the moral backbone of government courts which charge money for their service? The state's exclusive right to retaliatory force is derived from individual citizens agreeing to delegate their personal right to retaliation, for practical reasons. The government mandating that citizens surrender this right to retaliation and then asking them to _pay_ for it to actually take action appears to run contrary to this principle. On what moral grounds can you demand me to pay in order for my _right_ to retaliation to be exercised?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What would be the moral backbone of government courts which charge money for their service? The state's exclusive right to retaliatory force is derived from individual citizens agreeing to delegate their personal right to retaliation, for practical reasons. The government mandating that citizens surrender this right to retaliation and then asking them to _pay_ for it to actually take action appears to run contrary to this principle. On what moral grounds can you demand me to pay in order for my _right_ to retaliation to be exercised?

I can't follow your argument here: could you be more explicit? I followed you through the point where you said "and then asking them to _pay_". But then you say that this "appears to run contrary to this principle". I don't see how. Right after this you ask "On what moral grounds can you demand me to pay...". What you seem to be mising is that there is a world of difference between asking and demanding (except in French :confused: ). A request is not the use of force. There is not a thing wrong with the state requesting voluntary contributions. Stephen essentially made this point when he asked "You do not think that people are rational enough to voluntarily pay for the services they need in order to have their individual rights protected?".

Implicitly, you're refering to the so-called free-rider "problem" -- and it's not a problem. If mankind as a whole were entirely irrational, then maybe, but in that case the least of our worries would be that an occasional slacker seeks the unearned, judicially speaking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What would be the moral backbone of government courts which charge money for their service? The state's exclusive right to retaliatory force is derived from individual citizens agreeing to delegate their personal right to retaliation, for practical reasons. The government mandating that citizens surrender this right to retaliation and then asking them to _pay_ for it to actually take action appears to run contrary to this principle. On what moral grounds can you demand me to pay in order for my _right_ to retaliation to be exercised?

The sum total of the morality contained in reason, justice, honesty, and productiveness. The recognition that legal value must be created and that it is a necessity for a proper society. If you choose to live within that society then you are subject to those laws. If you do not like that, you are free to leave.

As far as I know, there is nothing essential or inherent in the nature of a proper government which would require that contracts be insured in order to be legal. What is essential and inherent is that the government must be financed somehow, and such financing must be voluntary. It is my considered opinion that most people are rational enough that they would voluntarily pay to support the services that protect the circumstances of their lives. Between such rational and voluntary private and corporate financing others who choose not to support the essential services, would just be carried along.

If that financing proves not to be sufficient, then other notions such as insured contracts need to be considered. There are many more alternatives, several of which have been discussed by Ayn Rand and by others over the years. I am quite content to leave the details of those arrangements to those who specialize in political philosophy. I feel free to do so only because I understand and accept the moral justification for the existence of a government in the first place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is not a thing wrong with the state requesting voluntary contributions. Stephen essentially made this point when he asked "You do not think that people are rational enough to voluntarily pay for the services they need in order to have their individual rights protected?".

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The sum total of the morality contained in reason, justice, honesty, and productiveness. The recognition that legal value must be created and that it is a necessity for a proper society. If you choose to live within that society then you are subject to those laws. If you do not like that, you are free to leave.
This is just a variant of the standard social contract argument, and can be used to justify almost anything. "If you dont like being taxed to fund socialized health care, you are free to leave".

As far as I know, there is nothing essential or inherent in the nature of a proper government which would require that contracts be insured in order to be legal.

If someone signs a contract with me and then later goes against the terms in an attempt to screw me over, I surely have the moral right to protect myself and retaliate if necessary. Since the government's claim to monopoly use of force overrules my right to retalitate, it follows that the government is hence charged with the task of retaliating on my behalf.. If it refuses to do so unless I pay it, I can think of no moral reason why I shouldn't instead choose to use some kind of private retaliation. People should not have to pay in order to exercise their rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is just a variant of the standard social contract argument, and can be used to justify almost anything. "If you dont like being taxed to fund socialized health care, you are free to leave".

Sorry. I was assuming you were aware of the Objectivist notion of a proper government. In essence, the only moral justification for government is the protection of individual rights, which means protection against the initiation of force, or fraud. In this regard, the three proper functions of a government are a military to protect against foreign invaders, a police force to protect against internal criminals, and a law court to protect contractural arrangements and adjudicate criminal activities and settle personal disputes according to objective law.

These principles severely limit the actions of a government, and of necessity the government is delegated by its citizens the sole right to use retaliatory force. For a much more thorough and detailed presentation, see Ayn Rand's "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

If someone signs a contract with me and then later goes against the terms in an attempt to screw me over, I surely have the moral right to protect myself and retaliate if necessary. Since the government's claim to monopoly use of force overrules my right to retalitate, it follows that the government is hence charged with the task of retaliating on my behalf.. If it refuses to do so unless I pay it, I can think of no moral reason why I shouldn't instead choose to use some kind of private retaliation.

You might want to consider breaking the law as being a moral reason.

People should not have to pay in order to exercise their rights.

But rights are not some out-of-context absolute. The very concept of rights arises only in a social context, defining the proper means of how men relate to each other, through their actions. We "pay" for those rights every time we limit our actions to those actions which are proper in regard to others. We "pay" for those rights when we choose to use reason rather than force. I see no reason why we should not "pay," as a matter of principle, for the services which we choose to exercise in order to protect our rights. If you do not "pay" for the military, the consequences are the possibility of losing your rights to a foreign power. If you do not "pay" for the police, the consequences are the possibility of losing your property or life to a criminal. If you do not "pay" for contractural insurance, the consequences are the possibility that your agreement will not be enforced. All of these payments are voluntary "pay," in one form or another, and the consequences which might possibly ensue from failure to "pay" are clear. You can decide.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MisterSwig - weighting votes by how much money one gives the government seems like the best possible way for your society to degenerate into a corrupt ogliarchy.

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

I think I didn't miss the point: I'm explicitly denying your assertion that the government has no right to request payment for services rendered. If you restate your objection in terms of forcing payment for its monopoly serveices, then you have a case (though not an open and shut case), but there is absolutely no inconsistency between the idea of a government monopoly on force and requesting payment for service. Do you have an argument that the government cannot even ask for payment?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

It's important to draw a distinction between criminal law and civil law. When it comes to crimes, the government MUST use retaliatory force in the name of all the citizens and prosecute those who initiate force or fraud. Not so with civil cases.

In civil cases, the person seeking redress, such as for breach of contract, has the option whether to bring suit or not. He may or may not care to prosecute the matter and he doesn't have to. When it comes to insuring his contract in advance to make sure he has access to the courts or paying court costs to prosecute his case, that should always be up to him.

So, what's the problem?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...