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Riposte: Economic Analysis of Dual Citizenship:

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The proponents for dual citizenship insist that traditional Liberians will gain economic benefit if such a law existed. Thus, this analysis adopts Ronald Coase’s theorem, which remains a foundational premise to explore LAW as an institutional framework for understanding the principle of economic efficiency. This analysis does not presuppose expert knowledge in economics neither does it claim prior familiarity with the law. This is simply an attempt to engage a profound subject that troubles Liberia’s national social-transformation project.

Riposte: Economic Analysis of Dual Citizenship: A social harm or Social Good?

The Coase theorem, by Ronald Coase, describes the question of economic efficiency and the allocation of resources, particularly examining the presence of external factors that produces economic outcomes. Coase posits that bargaining will lead to an efficient economic outcome regardless of the initial distribution of resources, if external trades are possible without transaction costs. In essence, there must be a level playing field for economic socialization; otherwise, poorly defined economic distribution channels can prevent Coasian bargaining from achieving equality of rights. Coase theorem, although was “concerned with a technical problem of economic analysis, arose out of the study of the Political Economy.” This is the same kind of political economic issue that I am attempting to address, in the context of the Liberian dual citizenship debate.

The intersection of law and economics offers both analytic and normative concepts for investigating and understanding economic efficiency. The analysis of economic conditions demonstrates that the law does not so much restrict itself to the more fundamental ethical  question of JUSTICE (who is right andwhat is right or who is wrong and what is wrong) but the law also focuses on the efficient distribution of resources; that is everybody should get enough and not just a select few (read the Enlightenment scholars). Enhancing this thought, the normative concept provides a communal framework for the law, the proposition that the law should promote the general efficiency of the people and not just a select few or special interest. Together, the two views object to the moral utilitarianism of economic analysis, which advances interpersonal comparison of social utility, as a criterion for deciding right conduct. How do we relate this to the dual citizen debate?

Dual citizen’s proponents rank economic contribution to Liberia and economic support to Liberia as a critical assertion for dual citizenship legislation. Therefore, in view of the Coasian bargaining, we can similarly rely on the excellent work of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, from whose work the 80/20 rule of management evolved. Pareto focused his studies on the economy, the conditions of resource distribution and its efficiency. Pareto economy attempts to balance the distribution of resources equally without making some people better off while others remain in abject poverty. It is about providing economic opportunity for everyone in society. To proceed further, let provide context to understand some basic concepts as used in this analysis:

a. Pareto improvement: is an economic condition in which resources are equally distributed without making one person better off and the other person worst off.
b. Pareto optimal: a point of economic equilibrium whereby all people in society have opportunity to achieve maximum social utility. (Same as Pareto efficient).
c. Pareto superior: when the economy condition are skew towards certain individuals in society who have access to wealth and power at the disadvantage of others.
d. Pareto criteria: the economic conditions that compels one kind of individuals to be better off in society and the other kind of individuals to be worst off in society.

For this analysis, dual citizenship is represented as D and traditional Liberian is represented as T. Traditional Liberians are those who do not posses or demand “Dual citizenship.” Thus, the D’s argument declares a kind of Pareto criteria that suggest the following:

1st Argument: One group of Liberians, D, is Pareto superior to another group, T, if  and only if T has less economic opportunity then D, and that T are worst off and live in poor economic conditions than D.

The first argument posits a kind of intuitive binomial probability that assumes: the relative welfare of D depends on a special privilege status to survive in Liberia. That D cannot live in Liberia unless D is given dual citizenship, which will afford D to get political power. Seriously, when one examines this whole dual citizenship debate, it is simply about political power that the proponents are seeking: political jobs. Because, according to them, they are more educated, economically able, and better qualified to rule the nation. Otherwise, what is the purpose of this argument?  Non Liberian citizens under our laws have the right to work and own property in Liberia, except political portfolio. Thus, their second argument:

2nd Argument: T is superior to D if and only if no special privilege is given to T and at least D is rewarded with special privilege.

The second argument obviates a problem concerning the utilitarianism of interpersonal comparability; it ignores the efficiency of distribution and posits a foxhole mentality that results to a Pareto criteria state, in which making one group of Liberians better off leads to the other group of Liberians being worst off. But most interestingly, D’s Pareto criteria veer into a sequence that eventually produces a Pareto superior state in which D achieve their 1st argument. That is D is given political portfolio because D claims to be more educated and economically better off: a very false argument. Thus, D’s Pareto optimal is a kind of reasoning that attempt to cast aspersion on T as an obstacle to the progress of the nation: falsely concluding T is not educated, T is poor, and T lacks economic means to improve the nation. Therefore, T does not deserve top political portfolios as Liberian citizens, no special privilege for T; only D should get special privilege because D would be holding dual citizenship. We have not addressed the issue of which kind of dual citizenship: whether Western of African. We will leave that for elsewhere.

Pareto criteria, although a complex proposition to understand, deals with the efficiency of economic transaction and the efficiency of legal decisions: rules and/or policies on economic conditions. Thus, to argue for dual citizenship in the context of economic analysis validates a bonded rationality of Pareto criteria, to move from one state to another without maximizing the efficiency of net utility for all Liberians. After all, traditional Liberians could also make the same argument that Liberia will gain better economic benefit from their education, less economic burden to pay back student loans, mortgage in America, car note in America etc. T can argue
successfully, that denying D dual citizenship will reduce capital flight and keep the Liberian economy stimulated. Money will not transfer aboard while the nation struggles with development. More so, T can argue successfully that the massive looting and raping of public resources: rampant corruption will be reduce from the compelling needs for D to meet external or Diaspora’s financial obligations. 

For example, if there was only one social path for economic progress in Liberia, government jobs; and 20 positions are available; two groups of Liberians D and T prefer the government jobs. Let consider the distribution of resources between D and T.

Scenario I: T has 20 government jobs; D has 0 government jobs.
Scenario II: T has 0 government jobs; D has 20 government jobs.

Both scenarios demonstrate the shift from T to D or vice-versa, and advantage the well-being of one kind of Liberians by diminishing the well-being of the other. The change-mechanism secures a Pareto criteria outcome, which leads to a Pareto superior effect, either making T worst off for the Pareto improvement of D or vice versa. The scenarios do not provide opportunity for all Liberians to benefit from public resources; in our specific case of dual citizenship, it is the traditional Liberians who will suffer. Dual citizenship proponents should develop a more innovative and Pareto optimal reasoning than their weak and lazy argument that they are economically better off, more educated and better qualified to contribute to Liberia development needs.

Now here is the question: Is Dual Citizenship a monkey work baboon draw argument?  (Watch out for Part II: Examining the Education Claim for Dual Citizenship)

The author is a social and political commentator

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