Voting With Your Feet

My New Article on "Foot Voting, Decentralization, and Development"

This forthcoming article discusses how we can massively expand economic opportunity by making it easier for people to "vote with their feet," both domestically and through international migration.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

My forthcoming article "Foot Voting, Decentralization, and Development" (part of a Minnesota Law Review symposium on Decentralization and Development) is now available for free download on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

We can enhance development by making it easier for people to "vote with their feet" between jurisdictions. Few, if any, policy reforms can achieve such enormous increases in economic growth and opportunity. Foot voting is, in several crucial respects, a better mechanism of political decision-making than ballot-box voting. Foot voters generally have better incentives to acquire relevant knowledge and use it more wisely—than ballot box voters do. Empowering foot voters enhances development by enabling citizens to move to areas with greater job opportunities, and incentivizing regional and local governments to adopt pro-development policies in order to compete for residents and businesses. Even greater gains can be achieved by expanding opportunities for foot voting across international boundaries, through immigration. Constitutional structures can be designed in ways that maximize the benefits of foot voting and minimize potential costs.

The article explains how expanding opportunities for foot voting can greatly enhance development both in the narrow "economic" sense of the term, and in the broad sense of increasing human capability and freedom, as described by scholars like Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. It also discusses how we can increase foot voting opportunities, while simultaneously minimizing potential downsides, such as burdens on the welfare system. As Harvard Prof. Lawrence Summers and former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers put it in a recent speech, "I do not think there is a more important development issue than getting questions of migration right." I hope this article makes a small contribution to that end.

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  1. The key to just about everything is flexibility, and diversity is a big part of that. Species which have gone through bottlenecks lose that diversity and flexibility and it takes a long time to get it back. The same applies to societies and to individuals.

    Where governments go wrong is that their core business is enforcing their monopoly on violence, blocking diversity and flexibility. Take immigration as an excellent example. The only way to enforce immigration control is with ID cards, and with that comes an incredible intrusive bureaucracy, backed up with ever more regulations. Once you’ve started down that ID path, there is no limiting its expansion except by doing away with it altogether. Social Security Numbers were advertised as never being used that way; now they are. Drivers licenses were supposed to be just that; now they are ID cards subject to Federal mandates, and are taken away for completely unrelated “crimes”.

    Just as Progressive do-gooders never think of the consequences of, say, over-protecting endangered species, so do Nationalists gloss over the consequences of strict border control.

    1. I’m not so sure about the bottleneck arguments. Places like the classical age of ancient Greece saw very little migration, both between city-states, and between Greek civilization and the rest of the world. And when Greece did mix with the rest of the world, they were spreading outward, not bringing diversity from the rest of the world into Greece. Nevertheless, this bottle-necked time during Greek history was it’s golden age and the foundation of our society today. And before someone starts going on about Easter island or some such, there are counter examples for everything.

  2. Incidentally, those nasty ID cards are required of all in the EU dream state. Of course, we know that their purpose is to suppress voting by people of color in white Europe.

  3. Funny how those who claim they are going to ‘foot vote’ and move to Canada if ‘X’ happens never do. If only.

  4. Nice article. Thank you for sharing and encourage.

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