Shopping for Governance

I used to like Gerard Depardieu’s performances until he said he would become Russian -just to avoid paying taxes in France, and went on to praise Russia’s democratic character[1]. He could at least have saved the last bit.  There is however something revolutionary in his decision: the idea, that one could choose (as opposed to endure) the government one submits to.

If that was the way the world would work, you would chose your nationality (or citizenship) on the basis of the rules applicable to you, the rights you have and how respected they would be, the taxes you pay and what is done with them, the abilities and delivery of those ready to protect you in times of trouble, the quality of the judges who would administer justice in the conflicts you get in, the speediness to process your pension papers, the ease of creating a business, the fun allowed to you. You would then make your own compromises, hardly one single government will be able to offer it all (or you simply don’t like it): perhaps you would be happy enough being a citizen of a low taxing country that wouldn’t care about your health; or you would be happy to have lots of entrepreneurial freedom and be left alone to enforce your own contracts, but you do want equal education for all people around you.

IMG_3183Imagine now how that world may look like: governments would compete for citizens (so they get taxes, people, power, influence and all that). Governments would work for you. Would you chose in those circumstances a country that is likely to steal your money (a.k.a corrupt)? Would you choose a country that would spy on you? Would you choose a country that would likely fail to deliver what you expected? Would you choose a government you are scared of?

The few countries offering citizenship that are popping out at the moment focus on money exchanges, offers of beach or tax heavens (apparently Malta doesn’t even expect you to live there)[2]. Moving away from this is not only necessary but would be the only way into a broader spectrum that may make things interesting.

This world would have impressive governance advantages: problems of law enforcement and lack of legal implementation would be minimal (few could afford it). I bet issues of corruption would also come down to its minimum expression; making government transparent would come more natural; and very likely, the public interest would finally have some value.  Migration, immigrant, emigrant would be words with a different meaning. The places we live in would be closer to the ones we want them to be and less to the ones politicians want to live in.

Stateless Snowden had less choices than Depardieu and finding himself cornered had to pick among those few daring to offer him asylum and grant protection of his right (to live), but he was freer than many of us. He is already living in that world of choices.

This new world would have to be set up ready to offer choices to all irrespective of their income – thus Depardieu’s option is not quite the ideal; or with a bit more choice than at Snowden’s hand. So there are still a few tweaks to consider. Also we have rights but also obligations indeed and the system is not meant to avoid them. Rather the crazy idea is to figure out a system where you are much more likely to fulfill them. Not the contrary.

It is crazy but not unthinkable, in fact it is happening in isolated and not yet exemplary cases, but it is happening. The puzzle to me is, why do we keep voting for a government we wouldn’t chose? Now, on the possibility of choice: is this finally the end of the nation-state as we know them? What do you think?


[1] Here a few references in the news to this (last accessed November 18 2013): One perspective from  The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/03/putin-grants-gerard-depardieu-citizenship ; a report by the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20921208 and the WSJ http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323482504578225011503083202

[2] See for example this interesting report from the Süddeutschezeitung http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/staatsbuergerschaft-gegen-geld-das-geschaeft-mit-dem-pass-1.1817530

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One Response to Shopping for Governance

  1. claudia mendez says:

    Pues juana…. yo compraría (ARRENDARIA, VENPERMUTARIA. Etc) una islita y usted seria la presidente y yo seria muy felíz y me importaría un jopo que dijeran que me fui por conveniencia…..por que es cierto. Y pagaria, claro. Yo me pregunto si un tipo como Depardieu no lo haria por tirarse a Hollande. No se, pero deben existir otros paraísos fiscales….Rusia ( con una mafia espantosa, y todo lo demas que uno se imagina desde aca) pudo ser una buena opcion para llamar la atencion sobre la situación? No se,… elucubro. JUANA FOR PRESIDENT. MACONDO isle. SOME PLACE IN THE PACIFIC . 😛 :)….
    Pd: cuando sea presidente de alemania me da la ciudadanía?

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