6.7.3 Individual Rights and Responsibilities

Countries make political decisions about allocating individual rights and responsibilities to citizens, permanent residents, and visitors

Wealthy countries are reassessing how to respond to new arrivals who intend to stay for a long period, if not permanently.  Wars, climate change and demographics are driving population movements – as described earlier (3.4.3).  Looked at from a global perspective, migration is not only inevitable but can be beneficial because there are Links Between Migration, Globalisation and Sustainable Development:

“Increased migration is one of the most visible and significant aspects of globalisation: growing numbers of people move within countries and across borders, looking for better employment opportunities and better lifestyles. Although migration is usually seen as problematic, it contributes to sustainable development. For households in poor areas, remittances improve security and, with the support of appropriate policies, can contribute to local economic growth. In industrial countries with ageing populations, migrant workers are an increasingly important part of the labour force and support national welfare systems. National and international policies need to reflect the contribution of migration to sustainable development, and to explicitly protect the rights of migrants which are all too often ignored in attempts to curb their movement.”

Some people want migration to be as smooth as possible, whereas others want to resist it.  Immigration is a politically polarising issue, especially for people who arrive without having formally requested permission.  America’s 2024 election campaign, for example, has seen some toxic language:

“Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, said on Saturday that undocumented immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country,” repeating language that has previously drawn criticism as xenophobic and echoing of Nazi rhetoric.”

Immigrants might become permanent residents of the country they arrive in.  They are not the same as temporary visitors such as tourists, and arguably they should have more rights because of their greater potential contribution to the country’s economy.

The following sub-sections examine the rights and responsibilities of each status of individual:

Some individual rights and responsibilities apply to everyone, including temporary visitors (  Everyone benefits from public infrastructure and from most public services.  And everyone is protected by the law.  In return, they must all pay sales taxes, they must obey the law, and they should be courteous to everybody else.

Permanent residents – ‘denizens’ – have additional rights and responsibilities, which may be discretionary (  They contribute a lot to society, paying more taxes than visitors.  There is a good case for giving them a route to full citizenship.

Citizens have more individual rights and responsibilities than denizens or visitors (  They can participate in politics, and they may feel a sense of belonging to the country and wanting it to get better.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/673b.htm.