Ayelet Shachar, The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality, Harvard University Press, 2009

The Birthright Lottery

The vast majority of the global population is assigned citizenship by the sheer arbitrariness of where or to whom they were born. Such reliance on the station of birth is discredited in almost all other fields of public life; but entitlement by birthright still dominates our laws and our imagination when it comes to allotting membership in a state. This adherence bequeaths to some a lifetime of opportunity, and condemns others to an existence with little or no hope.

Professor Shachar's timely book offers a bold new perspective for making sense and thinking critically about the problematic persistence of birthright citizenship laws; Shachar argues that these laws cast the transfer membership entitlement as a complex form of inherited property. This shift in perspective underscores the significance of inherited membership as a distributor - or denier - of opportunity on a global scale. It also highlights the acute problem of an unburdened intergenerational transmission of privilege. Shachar responds to these challenges, arguing that it is time to move beyond our outdated notions of blood-and-soil in sculpting the body politic. She also recommends a global redistributive levy on the perpetual transmission of membership - with the aim of ameliorating its most glaring opportunity inequalities. 

Uniquely located at the intersection of law, economics, and political philosophy, The Birthright Lottery deploys a strikingly creative framework for understanding citizenship as inherited property. Shachar crafts new legal concepts and innovative institutional designs to promote global justice and democratic legitimacy, in a move to mitigate the steep and dramatic disparities that attach to birthright citizenship in today's world.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Puzzle of Birthright Citizenship

Part I: Birthright Citizenship and Global Inequality

1. Re-conceptualizing Membership: Citizenship as Inherited Property

2. Abolishing vs. Resurrecting Borders: Moving Beyond the Binary Options

3. A New Basis for Global Redistribution: The Birthright Privilege Levy

Part II: From Global to Local: Over-Inclusion, Under-Inclusion, and Democratic Legitimacy

4. Blood and Soil: Birthright Citizenship in the Domestic Arena

5. Popular Defenses of Birthright Citizenship and Their Limitations

6. Curtailing Inheritance: Towards a Jus Nexi Membership Allocation Principle