Peter Thiel’s New Zealand citizenship: Billionaires get citizenship abroad so they can run from the problems they create — Quartz

Thiel’s safety hatch citizenship, assessed by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, the author of The Cosmopolites (another take on the themes of Chrystia Freeland’s book, Plutocrats):

We don’t know the exact details of Thiel’s naturalization yet, but it’s hard to imagine that his exorbitant wealth didn’t help. New Zealand offers residence permits to rich investors—the hacker Kim Dotcom, who’s facing extradition to the United States, bought his way there by investing millions of dollars—and grants citizenship in special circumstances to people who don’t meet the five-year residence requirements.

In these discretionary cases, New Zealand’s immigration minister has to personally approve the petition and deem it “in the public interest because of exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature.” (Thiel does not appear to have won any prizes for his humanitarian efforts.)

Thiel’s opinions will affect some 300 million Americans, most of whom who do not have a backup passport—or indeed, even the funds for a plane ticket abroad.  More and more countries are adopting special citizenship laws to let in extraordinarily rich or talented people, whether it’s athletes, experts, or entrepreneurs. As I note in my book, The Cosmopolites, for your average billionaire, having a Plan B country has become practically de rigueur. Citizenship-by-investment is estimated to be a $2 billion a year business. A half-dozen countries, from tiny specks in the Caribbean like Antigua to EU member states like Malta, openly sell their passport to wealthy individuals so long as they are not known criminals. Even the US effectively sells green cards through its EB-5 investor program.

It’s one thing for a wealthy private citizen to buy herself options to make traveling, living, and working abroad easier. Hypocrisy among Trump’s inner circle—and indeed, in all contemporary American politics—is hardly breaking news. And the irony of a Trump confidante revealing himself to be a rootless globalist is admittedly delectable. It’s also not all that surprising: Trump’s pick for trade secretary, Robert Lighthizer, has attended the Davos World Economic Forum 15 times.

The fact that Thiel can easily run away from the very rules and regulations he’ll be helping Trump shape, however, is not funny in the least. Thiel is in a position of immense power as Trump’s advisor. His opinions will affect some 300 million Americans, most of whom who do not have a backup passport—or indeed, even the funds for a plane ticket abroad. The ease with which Thiel can opt out of American society speaks to the very concerns that conservatives themselves have voiced about the denationalized “Davos man” for decades. When Samuel Huntington worried in 2004 that America’s elites were “seceding,” he could have easily been talking about Thiel—or any number of Trump’s cabinet appointees, for that matter.

 It is the current system of passports and nations and states, along with moralistic attitudes about patriotism, that enables the rich to opt out. On the surface, there seem to be immense contradictions between the nationalist, populist, protectionist rhetoric that Trump spouts and the acquisitive globalism of a Peter Thiel type. But these twin ideologies coalesce in a mutually supportive way. Trump said in a December speech that there is no world currency, no world flag, and no world passport. That’s true. But the continued primacy of the nation-state is precisely why the practice of “sovereignty hacking” or “jurisdiction shopping,” as exemplified by citizenship-by-investment programs and offshore tax registries, has become so prevalent among those who can afford it. Picking and choosing residencies, citizenships, and tax regimes helps the wealthy exist as though the world had no borders at all, which means they can throw their support behind nationalist policies that will close off options to everyone else. It is the current system of passports and nations and states, along with moralistic attitudes about patriotism, that enables the rich to opt out.

Thiel knows this world very, very well. In fact, Thiel apparently found the concept of hacking sovereignty so compelling that in 2008, he gave his personal and financial support to the Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that promotes the creation of artificial floating nations in international waters. The political philosophy behind seasteading can be summed up as follows:

  1. Governments are bad

  2. Governments have a monopoly on sovereignty

  3. Governments would be less bad if they had to compete on the open market with each other for capital, companies, citizens, and ideas

  4. No one can compete with governments because governments control the world’s land

  5. The only spaces that aren’t controlled by existing governments are in international waters

  6. Creating lots of new countries in international waters will increase competition and make all governments better

Source: Peter Thiel’s New Zealand citizenship: Billionaires get citizenship abroad so they can run from the problems they create — Quartz

‘The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen,’ by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian – The New York Times

Richard Bellamy’s review of The Cosmopolites and his valid  commentary regarding the nature of citizenship:

The Canadian philosopher Joseph Carens has characterized national citizenship as “the modern equivalent of feudal class privilege.’’ That seems all too accurate a description of the citizenship of the absolute monarchies of the U.A.E., where only 15 percent of the population enjoy the privileges of citizens. These benefits are paid for largely by the unearned windfall of oil and gas revenues and they involve almost no civic duties or political rights. The multiple citizenships of the U.H.N.W.I. are similarly free of responsibility and lacking in political commitment — that is their point. They are commercial transactions conducted for profit. Neither of these types of citizenship corresponds to the hard-won forms of citizenship found within democratic states.

Herein lies the weakness of Abrahamian’s analysis. The political and social rights of genuine, state-based citizenship derive from the contribution members make to sustaining the public life of the community, be it through participation in the economy as workers and consumers, caring for children and the elderly or simply recognizing and abiding by its laws. All who contribute in these ways should be entitled to citizenship. By contrast, global citizens belong nowhere and anywhere. Yet both the injustice of denying citizenship to the bidoon and those like them and the unfairness of granting it as a commercial transaction to the super-rich stem from the same cause — a failure to link the rights of citizens to those civic duties that arise from active membership in a political community.

Source: ‘The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen,’ by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian – The New York Times

”Global citizenship is essentially a branding exercise” and passport shopping is big business – Quartz

Interesting and relevant interview with the author of The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen (Columbia Global Reports, Nov. 2015), Atossa Araxia Abrahamian. Worth reading in its entirety in its discussion of citizens of convenience as well as those without citizenship rights. Two of her responses:

QZ: But in between this global jet-set demographic, either the very rich or the very politically connected, and people at the other end of the spectrum—Syrian refugees, the bidoon, which you’ve written about in The Cosmopolites, people who are just trying to get documented so they can participate in a society and survive—is there a middle ground? Would an ordinary person want multiple passports?
AAA: Totally. I’m sure you have friends, and I have tons of friends who are now trying really hard to find an Italian grandparent or a German grandparent to get that extra passport. And it’s a great thing to have, it gives you so many opportunities and makes life so much less of a bureaucratic pain in the ass.
Some people are deeply offended by nationality of convenience, but it’s not insidious. You’re just trying to live and work in another country. What’s wrong with that?

QZ: There are also security reasons for obtaining multiple passports, right?

AAA: Yes, if you’re from a place that’s kind of politically unstable. Take for example, if you’re Egyptian or Libyan, a place in the world that’s a little volatile, politically, and you’re rich, and you can afford to have an escape route, it seems pretty wise. You don’t necessarily need another passport to do it, but if it’s an issue of “we need to leave now,” it’s a pretty great thing to have.

QZ: So, you can be a global citizen and still have love for one country in particular. You can be a nationalist and an internationalist?

AAA: The Stoics and the ancient Greeks imagined cosmopolitanism as concentric circles of belonging. You have yourself and your family, your town, your kingdom. You can extrapolate to a circle that’s a nation, and maybe the EU, or if you’re Pan-Africanist, you have an Africa circle, and then the whole world.

 I think that, for me, the biggest political question is, okay, if we’re global citizens, how do we manage redistribution. Where do we pay taxes? For what, to whom, to what end? I think nobody’s really figured that out yet. Piketty talks about a global wealth tax, but it’s unclear how that’s actually going to happen.

One way to do it might be taxing financial transactions—but I don’t even know! That’s way above my paygrade. But I think that’s the central issue as markets become more global and people become more global, you still need some mechanism of redistribution. Libertarians love global citizenship because you’re off the hook for it, right? If you’re not rooted, you’re like, “Well, I don’t have to pay taxes.” That was the whole reason for Gerard Depardieu not wanting to pay taxes in France was, “I’m a global citizen.”

So, I think that’s the essential question for me. Right now, we do need countries and democracies to implement this. Because no one else is doing it. No one’s come up with anything better.

Source: ”Global citizenship is essentially a branding exercise” and passport shopping is big business – Quartz