Summer 2016 (30.2) Essay

The Democratic Roots of Expatriation

Patti Tamara Lenard assesses the justifications given for the right to revoke citizenship in democratic states and concludes that this practice is inconsistent with a commitment to democratic equality. She provides three normative reasons for the mismatch between democratic principles and revocation laws: that the practice of revocation discriminates between different citizens within each state; that it provides differential penalties for the same crime; and that it does not provide transparent justification or due process for this harsh punishment. Although I too am repulsed by this practice, I do not think it is necessarily undemocratic. Moreover, such analysis overlooks one legitimate motivation behind expatriation: the aim to regulate national allegiance. The new revocation initiatives act as a powerful symbolic tool in reinforcing a world order based on sovereign nation-states.

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