MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

Mostly law professors, blogging on whatever we please since 2002 · Hosted by The Washington Post, 2014-2017 · Hosted by Reason 2017 · Sometimes contrarian · Often libertarian · Always independent

Foot Voting and the Future of Liberty

My book chapter on this subject from the "Cambridge Handbook of Classical Liberal Thought" is now available on SSRN.

My chapter on "Foot Voting and the Future of Liberty" from the recently published Cambridge Handbook of Classical Liberal Thought (edited by M. Todd Henderson) is now available for free on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

One of the major goals of libertarianism – and liberalism generally – is expanding political freedom: the opportunity to exercise meaningful choice over the government policies we live under. The main opportunity for political choice in modern liberal democracies is ballot box voting. Despite some genuine virtues, it has serious flaws as a mechanism for enhancing political freedom. The average citizen has almost no chance of affecting the outcome of an electoral process. In part as a result, he or she also has strong incentives to make ill-informed and illogical decisions. We can do better on both fronts when we "vote with our feet."

Part I of this chapter briefly outlines three types of foot voting: voting with your feet between jurisdictions in a federal system, foot voting in the private sector, and international migration. All three involve meaningful exercises of political choice. In Part II, I explain how foot voting is superior to ballot box voting as a mechanism of political freedom. It allows for more meaningful and better-informed choice. It is also superior from the standpoint of several leading accounts of political freedom: Consent, negative liberty, positive liberty, and nondomination.

Part III considers objections to foot voting based on theories of self-determination, under which current residents of a given territory have a right to exclude newcomers in order to protect the political freedom of the former. Such theories come in both group-oriented and individualistic variants. Group theories posit that certain groups have a right to exclude newcomers based on their ethnic, racial, or religious characteristics. Individualistic theories claim that current residents can exclude newcomers for much the same reasons that private property owners or members of a private club have a right to exclude. I argue that both types of claims have severe flaws. Part IV discusses some institutional reforms that can help expand foot voting opportunities, while mitigating potential downsides. Finally, the Conclusion briefly suggests some ways in which expanded foot voting can help brighten future prospects for promoting libertarian values.

The Handbook also includes contributions by two other Volokh Conspiracy writers: Jonathan Adler on environmental protection and David Bernstein on "The Boundaries of Antidiscrimination Law."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    " Part IV discusses some institutional reforms that can help expand foot voting opportunities, "

    Hopefully, a discussion of protecting federalism. The real threat to foot voting is the modern trend toward centralizing decision making at the national, or even international, level.

  • JeffreyL||

    Re-introduce the concept of federalism at scale. That is the solution to the voting with your feet.

  • bernard11||

    foot voting is superior to ballot box voting as a mechanism of political freedom.

    It is surprising to me that, in this summary at least, Ilya does not even mention the enormous potential costs, financial and other, to individuals of foot voting. Indeed, for some it is probably impossible.

    Even if someone seriously considers moving because they think the policies of some other state are preferable, they have to weigh those costs against the often very small marginal benefits of the potential destination. And they have to do this with what is probably very limited information, and also bearing in mind that the destination will also have policies you don't like.

    Furthermore, if you really dislike local policies so much you are thinking of moving you have options beyond just voting. You can try to organize politically to change policy, lobby legislators, whatever.

  • NToJ||

    "Indeed, for some it is probably impossible."

    Yes, but for these same people, voting isn't a mechanism of political freedom at all, either. So foot voting only has to be a mechanism for political freedom for one person for it to be a superior mechanism to the ballot box.

    "...they have to weigh those costs against the often very small marginal benefits of the potential destination."

    Again, you're comparing the marginal benefits of the move (which someone will only do after great cost, telling us something about how valuable it is to them) against the marginal benefits of voting, which are actually negative.

    "Furthermore, if you really dislike local policies so much you are thinking of moving you have options beyond just voting."

    If the costs of moving from Sacramento to Austin are prohibitive, why wouldn't the costs of organizing a statewide political movement be similarly prohibitive?

  • bernard11||

    Yes, but for these same people, voting isn't a mechanism of political freedom at all, either.

    I don't understand your point. Possibly I shouldn't have said "impossible" since I was thinking of people whose career, family, and other obligations, as well as financial situation make a move extremely impractical, if perhaps not literally impossible. Sure, you can sell your business, have your wife quit her job, leave your aging parents, abandon long-time friends, and move if you want to.

    Again, you're comparing the marginal benefits of the move (which someone will only do after great cost, telling us something about how valuable it is to them) against the marginal benefits of voting, which are actually negative.

    Whether the cost of voting is negative is a matter of individual opinion.

    If the costs of moving from Sacramento to Austin are prohibitive, why wouldn't the costs of organizing a statewide political movement be similarly prohibitive?

    You don't have to organize a statewide movement. You can organize a local movement, or join with others, or work to support candidates you like. The point is that there is a whole spectrum of political activities you can engage in over and above voting. To make it a binary choice between moving and doing nothing is a fallacy.

  • NToJ||

    1) If we are comparing moving (high cost) to voting (low cost), we also need to compare the marginal benefits of both. Moving has a benefit; the mover is directly selecting the policies they want. Voting isn't like this; if you want your local government to do something, your vote does not change the way the local government behaves.

    2) I am willing to be persuaded that the cost of voting is not negative but you need to show your work. With math. What's the benefit of me voting in even a local election? And how does that measure against the cost (of getting in a car, potentially getting in an accident, losing time, etc.)?

    3) If you want to enjoy policies that another state has, but which your state has rejected, you'd have to initiate a statewide movement. But I agree with you that this is not about a binary choice between voting or moving. The different alternatives should be evaluated on cost-benefit as well, and organizing a movement can, in many instances, be just as costly as a move (without as much guarantee that policies will change).

  • bernard11||

    I am willing to be persuaded that the cost of voting is not negative but you need to show your work. With math. What's the benefit of me voting in even a local election? And how does that measure against the cost (of getting in a car, potentially getting in an accident, losing time, etc.)?

    That's like asking me to use math to prove that vanilla tastes better than chocolate. Choices are about subjective preferences, not some calculated expected values. Some people, many in fact, actually like voting as an expression of their views. So are you ready to tell them they are simply mistaken? Second, voting, even if fruitless as a way of electing officials whose policies you prefer may influence those in power.

    (continued)

  • bernard11||

    (cont.)

    If you want to enjoy policies that another state has, but which your state has rejected, you'd have to initiate a statewide movement. But I agree with you that this is not about a binary choice between voting or moving. The different alternatives should be evaluated on cost-benefit as well, and organizing a movement can, in many instances, be just as costly as a move (without as much guarantee that policies will change).

    You don't have to start an organization from scratch. There are all sorts of groups running around. You can get involved with one, become active, etc. without bearing a huge cost.

    Nor does the move guarantee you the policies you like. Policies can change, after all. And "policy" is not one-dimensional. In real life the state you move to is going to have some policies you like better than those you have, and others you don't. That too is part of the cost.

    I think to some degree we are talking past each other. You (may be) talking from an individual pov. If I like things in TX better than things in CA one way to get them is to move to TX which may or not be practical. But as a means of accomplishing broader social change encouraging foot voting is nonsense, because most people can't or won't do it. It's fine as individual action, but as a political mechanism it's silly.

    (I am not of course talking about cases of extreme oppression, such as seeking asylum, but in the context of the United States or other modern democracies.)

  • NToJ||

    "There are all sorts of groups running around. You can get involved with one, become active, etc. without bearing a huge cost."

    I agree. The likelihood of a return (i.e. getting the politics you want) is going to roughly correlate with the amount of effort put in, though. Moving isn't like that so much; the costs of moving to California or Texas are roughly equivalent.

    "Nor does the move guarantee you the policies you like. Policies can change, after all."

    But that's true regardless of what your strategy is (voting versus political organization versus moving).

  • NToJ||

    "It's fine as individual action, but as a political mechanism it's silly."

    It's probably superior as an individual action, and if it brings happiness to peoples' lives in a way that voting does not. The way we know it is because the costs of moving are higher than the costs of voting, so people who engage in it want that change more than voters want to vote (probably).

    I don't agree with you that as a political mechanism it's silly. It's probably more effective than voting, since it effects a real transfer of resources between polities. We know elected officials care about that sort of thing a lot, since they perpetually fight to lure tax bases to their jurisdictions.

  • NToJ||

    "So are you ready to tell them they are simply mistaken?"

    If people are voting to make themselves feel better, I'm not trying to tell them otherwise. See below ("So there's no real reason for me to vote except that it makes me feel good."). The math I was asking for is if you were denying that individual votes do not affect outcomes.

    "Second, voting, even if fruitless as a way of electing officials whose policies you prefer may influence those in power.""

    That may be true of votes generally, but it isn't true of my vote. Unless you believe that a future official's policies hinge on the vote being 37,331:29,284 rather than 37,331:29,283.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Right.

    Which is why, of course, half the Reason staff (supposedly libertarians) live and work in California, which they constantly deride as a liberal tyranny on the precipice of socialistic genocide.

    And Ilya Somin? Well, as a professor at George Mason University (located in Fairfax, VA), I think it's fair to guess that they live in the liberal part of Virginia or DC.

    So I'll have to beg forgiveness, but I'm pushed to one of two conclusions:
    Conclusion A) Foot-voting is not as awesome as advertised
    Conclusion B) Ilya Somin is actually pretty chill with the liberal tyranny of DC, Virginia, and the horrible "SJW" university life.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The Conspirators love to take potshots at strong liberal-libertarian schools and communities, but relatively few of them choose to work on conservative-controlled campuses or reside in the red state backwaters. I also doubt they'd voluntarily go back to the illusory good old days for which they pine.

  • JasonT20||

    My mother signed up to get the regular newsletter from Hillsdale College. I read it occasionally when I visit. From what I can tell, all they have done is create a campus with as much conservative bias as they claim exists for the left in the rest of academia.

  • NToJ||

    That's because they're rich. But that doesn't prevent them from advocating policies that will make it easier for the poor to live in places where the rich currently live.

  • Krayt||

    This is why we need one world government like in Star Trek, so you simply cannot flee the benefit of the wisdom of The People, as extruded through the very best planetary-level charismatics.

  • Eddy||

    I'll vote with my foot
    Guess where it will be put?

  • NToJ||

    In your mouth?

  • JasonT20||

    "Despite some genuine virtues, [ballot box voting] has serious flaws as a mechanism for enhancing political freedom. The average citizen has almost no chance of affecting the outcome of an electoral process."

    This makes me facepalm every time I see Prof. Somin say it. I just don't get how people can use this concept of being the "deciding vote" as if that is how elections work.

    In an election, the order in which votes are counted is irrelevant. No single voter can claim to be the "deciding vote", even if the election really does come down to a one vote margin. If the final vote total is 1001 to 1000, then it was because all 1001 people voted for candidate A, not because of any single one of them alone. If, instead, the vote total was 1010 to 1000, does that mean that nine of those 1010 cast meaningless votes? NO! Because you can't single out any nine individuals as being the "extra" nine votes.

    If I remember the origin of Prof. Somin's idea here correctly, it was some calculation someone did for the odds of elections in each state coming down to a single vote, and the odds were astronomical. But, as I just explained, that is just a curiosity, not something relevant to how democratic majorities work. He is misusing this idea because it fits his preconceptions about political ignorance and foot voting and strengthens his arguments on those topics. I would have thought he'd be more critical of his own ideas given how well he understands confirmation bias.

  • NToJ||

    "If, instead, the vote total was 1010 to 1000, does that mean that nine of those 1010 cast meaningless votes? NO!"

    Yes, it does. Because the vote would have come out the same even if nine people had stayed home. You're right that it doesn't make sense if you view the people as a collective, but individuals aren't a collective. The issue is why should I vote. If the outcome is not affected by my vote, why should I vote?

    If your counter is that if the other 9 people thought like me, the result would change, my answer is they don't think like me. They go vote, probably based on your dumb argument. But knowing they're going to vote is the reason I don't have to. If no one farms we'll all starve, but that doesn't mean we all have to be farmers.

    If you want to understand the argument better, go read The Ethics of Voting. The argument you're making is addressed specifically in that book.

  • EscherEnigma||

    If voting really didn't matter, there wouldn't be so many politicians obsessed with making it harder for the other team's constituents to vote.

    So I'm going to have to be forgiveness, but claimed vs. revealed preference shows that yes, it really does.

  • NToJ||

    "If voting really didn't matter, there wouldn't be so many politicians obsessed with making it harder for the other team's constituents to vote."

    You're confusing the importance of votes generally with my vote. If a politician can suppress 1/10th of the voters in a tight race, the likelihood of that suppression directly affecting the outcome increases dramatically. It should be evident why individual votes matter that politicians don't spend money suppressing one person's vote. They attempt to suppress large groups of people, because they understand statistics.

  • JasonT20||

    "Yes, it does. Because the vote would have come out the same even if nine people had stayed home."

    Which nine of the people that voted for the winning candidate are instead going to stay home because they somehow know that their votes won't matter, all while counting on the other 1001 not to make the same choice, or for more of the people that prefer the other candidate to decide to vote instead of staying home? This is really a nonsensical argument precisely because you don't know how the election will turn out until after it is done and everyone has made their choice.

    You simply cannot predict the exact outcome of an election before it is time to vote. Nor can you read the minds of all other eligible voters and figure out exactly how many are going to stay home. You can make educated guesses based on polling and historical turnout, but polls have sampling error (the +/- X% quoted as the margin of error for the poll) and they might also have significant systematic errors in addition to that.

    "...but individuals aren't a collective."

    Election outcomes are a collective result. You can't just dismiss that fact.

  • NToJ||

    "Which nine of the people that voted for the winning candidate are instead going to stay home because they somehow know that their votes won't matter..."

    This is an argument against telling people that their votes don't matter. It is not an argument for me to vote. And since the public is doggedly resistant (like you) to the possibility that your vote doesn't matter, there's no risk in me telling the ugly truth in any event.

    "You simply cannot predict the exact outcome of an election before it is time to vote."

    You don't need to predict the exact outcome, you just need to be able to predict whether your additional vote will affect the outcome. People can do this all the time. In fact, I'm not aware of many examples of statewide (or even local) elections in which one vote made a difference, ever, in American electoral history.

    "...but polls have sampling error..."

    The sampling error doesn't matter. Even if it turns out that polls showed A was going to win and B in fact won, what does that have to do with whether my vote counts?

  • NToJ||

    "Election outcomes are a collective result. You can't just dismiss that fact."

    I'm not dismissing it as a fact. But it's irrelevant to my individual calculus. The growing and distribution of food nationally is a collective result. It doesn't mean I need to be a farmer to eat.

  • JasonT20||

    I think that this is the problem with your position. You are fixated on whether or not your vote is the 'deciding' one. You are thinking about the process of voting entirely from that point of view. And it is really bizarre to believe that you are acting intelligently and rationally, all the while counting on others to not behave intelligently and rationally and make the decision to vote despite it being pointless.

    All of this discussion assumes that you do, in fact, have a preference as to the outcome of the election. If you don't have a preference, or don't believe that elections have consequences, then by all means, don't vote. If you do care about the outcome, then you definitely should vote. If you aren't going to contribute to that outcome unless you get to be the one deciding vote, then you are basically free riding on the choices of others (as well as gambling that your prediction of which way the election turns out is correct). Your farmer analogy actually supports this.

    "The growing and distribution of food nationally is a collective result. It doesn't mean I need to be a farmer to eat."

    But you do need to contribute something to that collective result. Or else, what is the incentive for anyone at all to be a farmer? You contribute by paying for your food. Then, someone gets something for being a farmer and others won't have to because they will pay for their food as well.

  • NToJ||

    "You are fixated on whether or not your vote is the 'deciding' one."

    Yes, because if my vote is not the deciding one, the result will be the same whether I vote, or not.

    "You are thinking about the process of voting entirely from that point of view."

    What other point of view am I supposed to approach strategic decisions about how to behave, except my own?

    "And it is really bizarre to believe that you are acting intelligently and rationally, all the while counting on others to not behave intelligently and rationally and make the decision to vote despite it being pointless."

    Why is that bizarre? It's not a function of "counting on others" to behave the way I do. It's observing that they don't behave the way I do, and reacting accordingly. Surely this is not the first time you've observed other people behaving irrationally?

  • NToJ||

    "If you do care about the outcome, then you definitely should vote."

    I do care about the outcome, but it isn't the case that voting is important if I care about the outcome. What should be apparent is that it is far more critical to use your time doing things besides voting if you want to influence the outcome.

    "...then you are basically free riding on the choices of others..."

    Free riders are people who enjoy the benefit of an activity without paying for it. The election does not cost more for others if I don't vote (it actually costs less). If anything you're the free rider, because you're imposing your own psychological well-being that you get from voting--which has no affect on the outcome--but which imposes costs on the system (you make the lines longer).

    "You contribute by paying for your food."

    I pay for elections, too. Please understand that elections aren't funded by votes. They're funded by taxes. Votes are part of the cost to produce the election. You're just mixed up with the farming analogy. The argument is: If NTOJ doesn't vote, no one will vote. The counter is: If NTOJ doesn't farm, no one will farm. We know the second statement is false. So why do you insist the first one is true?

  • JasonT20||

    The farming argument you just stated is not what I was thinking. Your phrasing is such that both statements are obviously false on their own. Your choice to vote or not is not going affect the choice of anyone else, unless you try and persuade someone. As for farming, neither you nor anyone else is going to accept starvation as a viable option, so it is extremely likely that someone will choose to farm, out of simple self-preservation. Your choice on whether to farm or not does, in fact, depend on whether someone else farms, and not just whether they farm, but whether the grow excess food.

    So, NTOJ doesn't vote, so his preferred candidate gets one less vote. If NTOJ doesn't farm, then there is one less potential farmer.

    With a large enough population, the chance that your choice not to farm will reduce the total food production of the society is vanishingly small. The basic economics of supply and demand and division of labor practically guarantees that.

    But there is no division of labor or supply and demand in an election. Your candidate getting one less vote is a small chance of changing the outcome, but you only get to assume that your vote won't matter (but your guy still wins) if you also assume that enough other people are going to vote for your guy.

  • JasonT20||

    "If you want to understand the argument better, go read The Ethics of Voting. The argument you're making is addressed specifically in that book."

    Maybe you need to do a better job of summarizing what that book has to say about this, because you aren't convincing me that it would be worth my time to read a more detailed version of what you are saying.

  • NToJ||

    I'll try to simplify but I'm not that interested in persuading you if you aren't going to be persuaded. Other people's decision to vote is independent of my decision to vote. If my vote is not decisive, and does not affect other people's votes, then there is no practical reason for me to vote. Voting has risks--it involves me getting in my car and potentially getting hurt, taking time away from spending with my family, or working, etc. So there's no real reason for me to vote except that it makes me feel good. It should be uncontroversial, as a matter of statistics, that my vote does not effect actual change.

  • JasonT20||

    "It should be uncontroversial, as a matter of statistics, that my vote does not effect actual change."

    This flies in the face of common sense about statistics and probability. Yes, it is extremely rare for elections to come down to a single vote. (I remember reading about some local election that tied, so they needed to coin flip to determine the winner, so I think it has happened at least once.) What if you didn't have any history to go by about turnout and no reliable information to judge the outcome in advance? 4000 eligible voters in a town race for mayor. You have a candidate that you definitely think would be better than the others and believe that the choice for mayor will affect your life significantly. Are you really going to sit out the election because driving to the town hall has some tiny risk of getting in an accident, will take about an hour out of one day, and will use maybe a couple bucks worth of gas?

    You would be relying on others to make the same choice that you would, even though you have no way of knowing they will. If you vote, on the other hand, you've made a contribution to the possible outcome that you prefer.

  • NToJ||

    "4000 eligible voters in a town race for mayor. You have a candidate that you definitely think would be better than the others and believe that the choice for mayor will affect your life significantly. Are you really going to sit out the election because driving to the town hall has some tiny risk of getting in an accident, will take about an hour out of one day, and will use maybe a couple bucks worth of gas?"

    My decision would depend on the likelihood that my vote would be decisive. How else would I weigh "an hour out of one day, and . . . a couple bucks worth of gas" against "will affect [my] life significantly"? Right?

    Do you happen to know what the probability of your vote mattering in a 4,000 person election with no priors (no polling data, etc.)?

    "If you vote, on the other hand, you've made a contribution to the possible outcome that you prefer."

    If you mean I've padded the votes one way or the other, yes, by one. In most American elections, that doesn't matter, though.

  • JasonT20||

    Another thought has occurred to me. The possible outcomes of the election where it comes down to just a single vote are very small in number compared to the total number of possible outcomes. But there is still uncertainty as to whether or not the outcome is the one you want it to be.

    Classic western movie - bad guys start a fire and people start forming a line to pass buckets of water from the well to put it out. You know that only a certain number of people would be necessary to put out the fire and that the chance is small that your contribution would make a difference. Do you stand aside because of that, or do you add your contribution to try and make sure that there are enough people to put out the fire?

  • NToJ||

    "But there is still uncertainty as to whether or not the outcome is the one you want it to be."

    This works against your argument, though. Added uncertainty about whether the result I'm trying to effect being correct, should make people less likely to vote. That's central to Brennan's argument; people who aren't informed ethically should not vote. People who aren't informed are the sort who would not know whether the outcome they're trying to effect is the one they want.

    "Do you stand aside because of that, or do you add your contribution to try and make sure that there are enough people to put out the fire?"

    So there are a few things to consider. If I think the probability of me putting out the fire with buckets of water is .0001%, but the probability of me putting out the fire if I run through the city getting other people to gather buckets is .001%, I have an ethical obligation to not contribute by throwing buckets of water on the fire. If I think the probability of bucketing the fire changing the outcome is .00000001%, but I think the likelihood of me making things worse (by inhaling smoke and passing out, requiring more resources, or by getting burned myself, or by accidentally dropping the bucket into the fire increasing the fire) is >.0000001%, I have an ethical obligation not to throw water on the fire.

  • JasonT20||

    "So there are a few things to consider."

    You're not really addressing the scenario I envisioned. You're going off on tangents that are more about the imperfection of the analogy than anything else. Let me restate it more clearly. A fire has started in a house near the center of town. As people gather from others shouting and calling for help, you are one of those arriving. Logic suggests to you that there is some minimum number of people that need to help (in some fashion, not just by passing or pouring buckets of water) in order to put the fire out. Even if they can't save the house, they need to put it out before it has a chance to spread to other nearby buildings. Basically, the fire and the danger will be extinguished by one person pouring the last bucket. You figure that the odds are small of you being that last person. Does that make it reasonable to think that you might as well not participate?

    Basically, why take the risk that your lack of participation might make a difference to the outcome? You can't know for sure whether the fire will be put out at all, as there might not be enough people in the whole town, or the well pump might not put out water fast enough, or whatever. All you can know for sure is that more people participating is likely to improve the probability of putting out the fire.

  • JasonT20||

    It also makes no sense to single out that last person to pour a bucket on the fire as being any more important than anyone else that poured water. That last bucket is meaningless taken by itself. It is only the sum total of everyone's effort that results in the fire being extinguished.

    Getting back to an election, it makes no sense for you to think of yourself as casting the "deciding" vote even if the margin of victory for your candidate was 1 vote (1001-1000 like my scenario above). What about the other 1000 people that voted for the winning candidate? Don't they have just as much claim as you do to being the "deciding" vote? After all, any single one of them changing their mind would have just as much impact on the outcome as your choice.

    But you know none of this in advance, don't you see? You cannot know if there are even enough people that prefer your candidate to win against all of the people that prefer the other candidate. Factor in everyone's choice on whether to vote or not, and you only know that someone will win, not which candidate, and not by how much.

  • JasonT20||

    So why not contribute to the result? More people helping improves the probability of putting out the fire, and having more people than necessary is highly unlikely to harm, so getting more people like you that are likely to be helpful to do so is the obvious correct course of action. Same for an election.There are other things you can do to improve your candidate's odds besides voting, of course. You can bring up the election in conversations with friends, acquaintances, and family in order to persuade them to vote for your candidate. You can post online your thoughts and arguments, write letters to the newspapers, or even help out with the campaign itself. If you really do care about the outcome, then the minimum that you can do is cast your vote in order to add it to the total. If the cost of casting your vote really seems that onerous to you, then you must not really care about the outcome much at all.

  • JasonT20||

    "That's central to Brennan's argument; people who aren't informed ethically should not vote."

    That's a completely separate argument and issue with voting than the probability based argument that you're trying to make. I would agree that representative government would work better if only people that were well enough informed to make a choice that would be more likely to get them what they want from government. Of course, being informed isn't enough to guarantee that. People can still have cognitive biases that lead their ideologies and partisan loyalties and prejudices to affect how they filter information.

    Democracy is complex business, but it is still better than any alternative. Think what you like about your chances of affecting government with your vote, but I'll still take the tiny cost of voting in exchange for even a small chance to make a difference.

  • David Welker||

    You know what I think would be even better than foot voting?

    Time travel!

    I am convinced that if I can advance time by a few thousand years while not aging, things will be WAY better than they are now.

    This is why I am all in favor of increasing the national debt. As much as possible. F*ck you kids who will live better lives than me because of better technology! At least pay more debt, or something. In my day, we had to walk to school in the snow.

    Uphill.

    Both ways!

    Be that as it may, this whole idea of geographic dispersal in order to preserve liberty is far inferior to the idea of temporal dispersal.

  • Krayt||

    The future is a crapsboot. Name me a time and location in the past that's better than some western country today. :)

    There may be some (dying early of disease, accident, and malnutrition aside) but the choices are even more limited..

  • Ellen B||

    I've read this, and I've long heard arguments suggesting that states and cities should be "laboratories of democracy." For the most part this line of thinking gives me the chills. "Love-it-or-leave-it" (if you don't like the local dicta), and "Rights abridged?--Tough it or go" seems hard-hearted and worse. Persons should leave their homes, abandon the lives they live, if 'rules' become too oppressive?

    Cities, counties, states, and even nations don't have rights that I know of, people do - that is, if a person subscribes to the fundamental existence of natural rights. I do.

    Maybe a U.S. state would like to return to antebellum days and re-institute slavery - work for ya? Move, shall we? I don't think so.

  • Mesoman||

    Illya's view here, and his advocate for unrestricted immigration, both suggest that he has a poor understanding of the important of community, culture and continuity. Many of us are strongly against high rates of immigration because we believe, based on darned good historical evidence, that the culture we have in the US - or at least, used to have - is extremely successful, and that the cultures from which many "foot voters" flee are those that are quite the opposite. And, reasonably, we suspect that too large infusions from those cultures, especially in the age where our mechanisms that encouraged, even forced acceptance of our own culture, will serve to destroy our culture even better than the globalist progressives are doing.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online