Community, Citizenship, and the Search for National Identity

As a test of this proposition, I want to explore the issue of alienage restrictions. Under what circumstances is it justifiable to draw lines based on whether a person is a citizen? Lines drawn on the basis of citizenship are a useful test of how seriously we take the idea of the nation as a relevant community and, more tangentially, of how seriously we take the idea of community itself. To the extent that we are skeptical of such lines, our concerns are to that extent individual-oriented, primarily focused on the adverse consequences of excluding some people from benefits or privileges available to others. But to the extent that we are preoccupied with these individualistic ideals, we may discover that we weaken a sense of community and dilute the social glue that holds us together. Perhaps as an empirical matter this is untrue. There are no meters to measure the current extent or intensity of community attachment. But I want at least to offer some speculations about such matters, recognizing that the issue is not whether the empirical speculations are true, but whether it is even permissible to speculate about these questions. A good test of whether we remain shackled to individualism even as we talk about communitarianism is in the extent to which we will seriously contemplate communitarian goals that require some sacrifice of individualistic principles.