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The Decline of American Citizenship Part II

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

In Part I, we looked at defining citizenship and the history of citizenship. Citizenship requires people to nurture and hold their citizenship in the highest esteem. In this Part, we will examine the struggle of citizenship and the challenges facing citizenship today.

The Modern Struggle

In the current times, the fight over liberty and equality is a demand for equity. For example, everybody should be equal on the back end and the government should deprive people of freedom and liberty so that all people are equal.  This is egalitarianism as we no longer discuss equality of opportunity because that doesn’t guarantee equality of results.  Alexis De Tocqueville famously said that in a constitutional government, it is innate to human nature, that most people would prefer all be equal and poorer rather than all better off, and to see some a lot better off — this due to their inclination towards jealousy and envy.

Another dilemma of this concept of citizenship is evolutionary.  For example,  if we are all equal and have an equal vote then why does the other guy have better stuff.  Plato who was a critic of democracy remarked that at some point, even the dogs and donkeys will want to be free and will want to vote. 

Aristotle later said that once a man votes equally with another man, then he feels entitled to be equal in all other aspects.

There is a sensibility within citizenship that remarks if there is equality in the vote then why does one make less money than another.  That sensibility is evident today and presents a dilemma to democracy.

While the traditional critiques of citizenship are important to remember, citizenship never promised to change human nature. For example, slavery has persisted throughout history. Slavery was with the emergence of civilization and there are places in North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East where slavery still exists. In the ancient world, slavery was difficult to eradicate because unlike in the modern world, slavery was not based upon the pseudo-science of race. Some Emperors were themselves, black, such as Terrance, the Great Comic Poet and Dramatist who was most likely a Moor or North African.  Citizenship was never the equivalent of race.  When in Ancient Greece and Rome, and the Southern Mediterranean, citizenship was going on, Northern Europe was primitive and tribal having no settled cities, no agriculture, or communal farming.

Today, the great bulwark of citizenship is the economic powerhouse of the United States and North America in general.

Challenges To Citizenship

Citizenship is being challenged in the same way Rome and Greece were challenged. There are always forces in the world that were antithetical to citizenship.

Tribalism: One of the challenges is social. Most people feel more comfortable around other people who look like themselves, i i.e., making superficial appearances essential to who we are, rather than incidental.  However,  in a Republic or Democracy that is multicultural or multiracial, citizenship fundamentally remarks that your first loyalty is to other citizens and they may not have the same appearance.  This is a rare idea to take citizenship in a republic or representative democracy then evolve citizenship to be inclusive of multi-racialism.  The United States, Brazil, and India attempt this multi-racialism , however, India is not very successful with this notion.

Sovereignty and Borders: Another challenge to citizenship is people no longer believe in borders. Rome fell due to marauders and migrating tribes that could not be stopped as they went across the Danube and Rhine rivers as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman and Greek ideas were that if there were a secure and defined border then within that area, people will become better known to each other. They will have a commonality of the language, customs, traditions and, everybody will know something about civic education. But the more you expand that idea outside the borders, the more diluted and the weaker citizenship becomes. And, the more people that come from outside into your borders, that are not citizens and know nothing about your customs, all they will look at is the affluence that constitutionality and citizenship give them. These outsiders will want the rights or bounties of citizenship but they will know nothing about the responsibilities of citizenship.

The Middle Class: A third challenge that is important to citizenship is the decline of the Middle Class. The thinkers of Ancient Rome and Greek realized the unique nature of the middle class was they did not rely on the government. The middle class was unlike the poor who sought entitlements and had envy and even jealousy of the wealthy.  Likewise, the middle class was unlike the wealthy who were always trying to squeeze the government for private concessions to enrich themselves.  The middle class was the great stability to a constitutional society but in modern times, has come under constant scrutiny and attack.

The Unelected and Unaccountable: The fourth challenge to citizenship is the unelected and unaccountable. This nuisance has been observed at the Palace of Versailles, Escarole, during the Spanish Empire, the Soviet Kremlin, during the Czarist efforts, in the establishment of a constitutional monarch and that is the unelected.   The longer a constitutional society persists, the more entitlement is given to the citizens which are beyond the right to vote and to make their laws. This entitlement, social programs, include ensuring the citizens are healthy, safe, and happy. When the government takes on a greater burden, there is a need to expand officers and agents and to pay them with public funds, ultimately increasing the bureaucracy and thus, creating a deep state of unelected and unaccountable technocrats controlling the citizen's life.  The United States has about 2 million people who are not elected but who work for the federal government and act as judge, jury, and executioner of the regulations. The United States bureaucracy creates more regulations every year by people who are unelected compared to the elected representatives at the local, state, and federal levels.

The Evolutionary: The fifth challenge to citizenship is the evolutionaries as well as the revolutionaries who always examine the original US Constitution.  They feel the US Constitution lacks fairness, egalitarian principles, and should be expanded and/modified to the point where the framework of the Constitution is meaningless and feckless resulting in chaos and anarchy.  Example: the desire to include two additional states, the desire to change the electoral college or to expand the United Supreme Court.

Globalization: The sixth challenge of citizenship is the movement away from nation-states towards a more global construct -- this construct is not new. Socrates said that he was not a citizen of Athens but instead a citizen of the world.  The great post-modern challenge to citizenship, which was apparent at the beginning, was the notion of cosmos, a cosmopolitan, or citizen of the world. The premise of this idea is that everybody is human and despite cultural differences, citizenship and constitutional government should be incorporated in a world government and world citizenship.

The elites treat globalization with an evangelical fever as though religion.  However, globalization is really regionalization into regional centers of economic influence such as the EU, ECOWAS, UNISUR, APEX, and NAFTA 2.0.  National identity, borders, currency, trade, and much more are dissolved into the larger regional construct.  The problem with globalization or regionalization is that once you start to incorporate people into a world government, they are no longer citizens and their countries are neither democratic nor republican.  An equal vote is given at the United Nations, the old League of Nations, or the International Criminal Court between citizens and a non-citizen, between a constitutional society and an autocracy.  And, thus, citizenship just does not fail at the international level but fails in America locally, as well. 


Citizenship is a very fragile concept, rare in history, and not common today. Citizenship has to be nourished and protected. Americans have to invest in their citizenship and take ownership. Unfortunately, citizenship is a fading notion as by most metrics, the middle class is eroding and getting weaker and weaker.  If citizenship wanes, who are we to become? Are future generations doomed to serfdom, subjects, or worse slavery?

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