Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Against birthright citizenship for pandas

While I am strongly for American birthright citizenship for people, I disagree with Matthew Yglesias about birthright citizenship for pandas. Unlike people, there is only one country in the world where there is a wild breeding population of pandas, and that is in China. While Yglesias is correct that, because of the global exchange of panda semen, it may be possible to have a world-spanning stable breeding population of pandas in captivity, I think it is a bad idea to have no genetic exchange between wild pandas and captive pandas. If we do, we would be creating a permanent underclass of panda in captivity, with no hope that the panda's children will ever live free (not to mention the limiting the genetic diversity of both panda populations).

In that sense, my support of birthright citizenship for people and my opposition to birthright citizenship are both based on the idea that we should not have a permanent underclass that is passed down from generation to generation. Birthright citizenship for people stops that possibility as soon as a new generation is born. Requiring pandas to return to the place where wild pandas still live is the best way to keep a robust exchange between captive pandas and their free cousins. If pandas were like humans and lived outside of zoos all over the world, or if humans were like pandas and only lived free in one place in the world, I would give a different answer to each question. But as it stands, the only anti-permanent underclass position to take is birthright citizenship for people, but not for pandas.