Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Controversial Idea

UGA Economist Dwight Lee has an idea that he claims would help the immigration controversy in the United States, and the homeless/panhandling problem: allow US citizens to sell their citizenship to non-Americans. The American selling their citizenship would have to leave the country, and the buyer would be a US citizen.

Here is part of his explanation:

First consider the fact that America's homeless and panhandlers (who are often different people—some homeless don't panhandle and some panhandlers aren't homeless) are actually quite wealthy. Almost all own an asset—their United States citizenship—that is worth several hundred thousand dollars. The problem is that they are denied the right to sell that asset.

Citizenship in the United States is a highly valuable asset because it gives its owner enormous productive potential. American citizens are able to take advantage of the
opportunities to combine their ambition, ingenuity and labor with an unparalleled capital base and other hard-working and talented people to create wealth. The homeless and panhandlers in America have clearly failed to use their citizenships as productively as many non-U.S citizens could, and would, if they became citizens.

What do you think of this idea? Do you think it would work at its stated purpose (with restrictions on selling citizenship to terrorists, etc.)?


Anonymous said...

Although it seems like a novel idea for the homeless and panhandlers to be able to sell their citizenship to willing buyers in order to improve their situation and the U.S.'s productivity, I'm not sure I buy the idea. I'm not sure that it would work as planned. Imagine who would be able to afford the astronomical pricetag that would likely accompany citizenship. Now imagine who would be able to afford that. I'm guessing anyone able to scrape up a few hundred thousand dollars to spend on the right to live in a new country probably doesn't really need all that much more opportunity than they currently have availible. My question is, would a market like that really be sustainable? The price would have to be pretty high to get a homeless guy to vacate the country, but the amount of buyers for which this high price would not only be feasible but also lower than their perceived benefit would appear to be rather small.


Anonymous said...

At first glance, the proposal of allowing the homeless and panhandlers to sell their citizinship seems to provide a valid answer to the problems of immigration and homelessness in America. However, i think that put into practice, this sisytem would present more problems than it would fix. Just as Jordan pointed out, most foreigners who would be willing to spend the money on a US citizenship would most likely be fairly well off as far as money and opportunity are concerned. The professor adresses this concern by providing an option for those interested in purchasing a US Citizenship to borrow money in order to afford the costly purchase. But my question is where would this money come from? It reminds me of college students taking out loans, for which the drawbacks outweigh the benefits in a majority of situations. Moreover, the homeless and panhandling population can be characterized as fairly lazy and would not likely show a great deal of motivation in another country, let alone put forth the effort needed to sell a US citizenship.


Anonymous said...

Even though I agree in with Jordan in the aspect that those who would be able to afford it wouldnt necessarily be the same people who would find such great use in buying another person's citizenship. Surely the number of people that would be interested is high but the actual amount of people willing an able to pay would be much smaller. However, its amazing how desperate some people can be and what measures they would take to improve their lives. I don't think it would be a bad idea to have even a trial run on. If the idea does go completely wrong then it's simply cut off.