These attitudes seem like a serious obstacle to achieving the huge gains that economic analysis suggests might be achieved by a freer movement of people across national borders. How can these attitudes change?
One obvious solution is to try to move attitudes about national citizenship more toward the attitudes that people have about other kinds of associations, such as firms and neighborhoods, where movement is freer. While members of these groups often feel solidarity with one another, they consider it more socially acceptable to allow individual choices about entering and leaving and to let money influence such choices.
For example, firms often offer financial incentives to attract new employees and to induce early retirement or exit among existing employees. Also, small groups within firms are typically free to hire employees without needing to consult much with the rest of the firm. Regarding neighborhoods, homeowners are typically free to leave the community by selling their home to an outsider, who is thereby free to enter. In these cases, the shared sense of community is not considered a strong obstacle to letting individuals decide for themselves whether to come or go and to base those choices in part on financial considerations.
So, if this is the wise choice, how could people be convinced to view their citizenships more like the choice of neighborhood or employment? One approach would be to try to create a property right that offers citizens stronger financial incentives to make citizenship choices based on financial considerations. For neighborhoods, homeownership is such a property right; for firms, there’s often a quasi‐right to keep one’s job—a right that one sells when one gets paid to accept an early retirement or exit. Such rights put people into a more money‐oriented frame of mind about firm and neighborhood membership. So, for nations, consider: transferable citizenship.113
Imagine that each citizen could transfer his citizenship to a foreigner if that citizen found another place in the world that would take him. An American citizen, for example, could accept financial compensation for this transfer and could, of course, take other financial assets with him when he moved (i.e., he might sell, rent, or lease his citizenship). Even if he did not actually do this, having this explicit asset would substantially increase his formal wealth. He might borrow against this citizenship asset to go to school, buy a home, or start a business. And he could consider selling it to help finance retirement overseas.