Advice to Denmark: Create the Honorary Danish Citizen

07Dec14

Denmark keeps coming out near the top on studies of the best nations on Earth. It is among the happiest, safest, most peaceful, best employed, least corrupt, and most equal countries. It is the kind of place where most people would like to live.

But they can’t. There is no room. Denmark is too small. All Denmark has been able to offer the people of the world is its condolences, and hopes that somehow, someday, they and their leaders will get their act together.

Then again, perhaps there is something else that Denmark could do. Perhaps it could begin to build an extraterritorial constituency, a body of non-Danes who believe in and support its mission, and who would like to see Danish values adopted worldwide, especially in their own countries.

It would be for Denmark to decide what those values are, and how their acceptance should be gauged. Perhaps an honorary Danish citizen would have to pledge agreement that smaller territories are easier to govern well; perhaps s/he would have to take at least one semester of Danish language study in a high school or college, or the designated equivalent in an online course. Whatever the requirements, the message would be: I believe in Denmark.

For Denmark, the potential benefits are obvious. Imagine a billion people, around the world, demonstrating a degree of support for this country of less than 5.6 million. Imagine an influence on the world stage completely out of proportion to your international weight.

There would be benefits for the honorary citizens as well. At a certain critical mass, they would have a rallying point and a concrete illustration supporting their views of good governance — a basis, that is, for demanding changes in their own home governments.

On a more whimsical but not completely nonsensical level, Denmark could promise to consider immigration applications from these honorary citizens first, if it should ever acquire more land. That won’t happen in the foreseeable future, but there’s always Mars. In the nearer term, there is Greenland. Denmark no longer extends quite the same degree of control over it, but perhaps Denmark could put in a good word for us with the Greenlandic authorities. There will be a need for that, when Greenland’s ice sheet melts: by then, many of Denmark’s honorary citizens worldwide will be refugees from lands that have been submerged.

We live in the era of the e-thing, the virtual fact, the concretized intangible. Estonia’s recently launched e-residency program only begins to illustrate the possibilities of citizenship and national belonging in this new age. If there are to be any places that do offer e-citizenship, Denmark should surely be one of them.

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