The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
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.