Citizenship

Citizenship is the legal relationship between citizens and their government and country. Citizens owe their government loyalty, support, and service. The government owes the citizens the protection of constitutionally guaranteed rights to life, liberty, property, and equal justice under law.

The rights of citizenship are set forth in the constitution of a democratic government, which may distinguish between the rights of citizens and noncitizens within the country. For example, in the United States, only citizens have the right to vote, serve on juries, and be elected to certain offices of the government, and only a natural-born citizen can become President. All other constitutional rights are guaranteed to citizens and noncitizens alike.

Citizenship in a democracy entails serious responsibilities. For example, good citizens in a democracy exhibit civic engagement, which means they are ready, willing, and able to use their constitutionally protected political rights to advance the common good. Citizens are expected to be loyal and patriotic, to assume responsibility for the defense of their country against internal and external threats or attacks. Citizenship also entails certain duties, such as paying taxes, serving on juries when summoned, joining the country’s armed forces if drafted, and obeying the laws.

In the world today, citizenship is the fundamental condition that connects individuals to the protective institutions of a democratic government and provides the means through which they can participate politically and civically in their governance. The rights, responsibilities, and duties of citizenship in a democracy have practical meaning today only within a particular kind of political order, a constitutional democracy. Only within the authority of a democratically governed country are there dependable institutional means to enforce constitutional guarantees of rights.

SEE ALSO Citizen; Civil Society; Government, Constitutional and Limited; State