Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Aftermath of the "Giving up Citizenship" Post

As you can see, there was a bit of traffic spike from my More Americans Giving Up Citizenship Than Reported post.

Mind you, that was at the start of the traffic spike. It's still going on (thank you Google for having an infrastructure which can handle this!) and it's generated an extra 15,000 page views so far and while it's slowing, it's not stopping.

The comment thread was, well, interesting. It demonstrated a few fascinating things.

First, I am not a data analyst. Much of my job is grabbing data, doing unholy things to it and sending it along. I tend to do this with extremely large systems, such as my work with the BBC's central metadata repository, but I don't do the sort of concrete analysis of what the data means. Instead, I twist the data to a more useful representation so that real data analysts can take a crack at it. That's sort of what I did on that blog post.

First, let's look at the summary data for that post:

Summary/Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Total Expats 1655 3995 5318 5912 6188 6788 5174 2793 5530
Effective Renunciations 735 638 759 830 910 910 1010 998 961
Reported Renunciations 425 537 631 762 278 470 231 742 1,534

You may notice that while there is a sharp rise in reported renunciations since 2008 (and 2011 was 1,781!), there really wasn't a significant rise in effective renunciations. Further, I mentioned, as did others in the responses, that there are a variety of exceptions to the "no dual nationality" rules which may or may not be significant. Of course, I pointed out that effective renunciations only applied to Europe, but reported renunciations were world-wide, making it very hard to compare them, especially since it's not possible to evaluate the quality of the data. My best guess? I think we're probably losing around four to six thousand Americans per year, but I wouldn't bet money on that.

 Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Finally, to really get to the heart of the matter, you'd have to have a pretty serious study of the data and I imagine it would be expensive. I'm willing to bet that this will never happen. Nationality law is simply too complex and I can't imagine anyone stumping up the money to do that, but even a superficial study would be great.

'Nuff of that. Let's consider the comments. The one comment which exemplified much of what happened was left by an anonymous commenter:
Keep this in mind. There is no right to bear arms in these countries. This is MY country. I will not give it up. For those that have lost their balls(or never had any) go. We don't need sunshime patriots.
There are a variety of interesting issues with that, starting with "no right to bear arms in these countries". Here's a lovely bit about the extensive gun ownership right here in France. Or you can check the per capita gun ownership around the world and you'll see that many European countries score near the top (though nowhere near the US level). Heck, in Switzerland, gun ownership isn't just a right, it's a requirement.

These types of ill-informed comments were the norm even when I lived back in the US: people would boldly assert "facts" that even a couple of seconds of digging would prove were false.

There was also an amusing claim that the EU is "morphing into a super soviet-like monstrosity". I don't get that at all. We have:
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of travel
  • Freedom to vote
  • No Soviet-style centrally planned economy
And to top it off, Europe is very, very capitalist. True, European style capitalism is often tempered by voter approved government programs to curb market failures. For example, France is often considered to have the best health care in the world, but the French health care system isn't that different from the US system.

How we can be both a very free and open society and a "soviet-like monstrosity" is beyond me.

And then there was the "New World Fourth Reich Fascist Globalist Banking Autocratic Order is a GLOBAL totalitarian eugenics tyranny" comment. I'm not even going to touch that one.

Very few of the people making outrageous claims could even bother to cite evidence for these claims, but it reminds me of when I was a little boy and told my friends that everybody in Russia was a slave. I was just repeating what I heard and that's a lot of what I read in the comments.

I guess this goes to show that many people don't bother to try and dig into the data and, when they do, they don't bother to analyze it (aside from my wife, who mentioned some caveats I needed to include and my friend Ann who pointed out some data quality issues).