April 2011 Vol. 109 No. 6 THE REVIEW

The Citizenship Shibboleth: Is The American Dream Everyone Else's Nightmare?

Emily Marr

The American Dream is a trope with global reach. Although the “city upon a hill” may have lost some of its luster in recent years, the idea that America is a country where citizens can rise above “the fortuitous circumstances of birth or positon” largely continues to resonate. Professor Ayelet Shachar’s provocative new book, however, suggests otherwise.

In The Birthright Lottery, Shachar condemns birthright citizenship laws as a feudal anachronism analogous to an inherited-property regime. For her, birthright citizenship in a prosperous nation confers a morally arbitrary windfall that determines life opportunities. Shachar further argues that in a world of material inequalities, the winners of the “birthright lottery” live large at the losers’ expense, often with deadly results.

Shachar’s arguments, if embraced, profoundly undermine both the feasibility and the desirability of the American Dream. If birthright citizenship is akin to entailed property, it is impossible to meaningfully exercise the agency embodied in the American Dream. And if birthright citizenship really is a zero-sum game, anybody living the American Dream is necessarily responsible for somebody else’s nightmare.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

A Solution to Michigan's Child Shackling Problem

Detained children routinely appear before Michigan's juvenile courts shackled with handcuffs, leg irons,...

Judicial Diversity After Shelby County v. Holder

In 2014, voters in ten of the fifteen states previously covered by the Voting Rights Act ("VRA") preclearance...

Fall Submission Season

MLR’s Articles Office will open its fall submission season on Monday, August 18!  The Articles...

The Ninth Circuit's Treatment of Sexual Orientation: Defining “Rational Basis Review with Bite”

On February 10, Nevada's Democratic attorney general decided to stop defending the state's constitutional...

Inhibiting Intrastate Inequalities: A Congressional Approach to Ensuring Equal Opportunity to Finance Public Education

The United States has exhibited a strong commitment to public education throughout its history. The local...
MAILING LIST
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List