Voting With Your Feet

My Forthcoming Book "Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom"

It will be published by Oxford University Press in April.


My new book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom will be published by Oxford University Press in April. It is now available for preorder on Amazon (where if you order now, you can get the benefit of any price reductions Amazon does between now and the release date),  at the Oxford UP website, and elsewhere.  If you contact me, I can send you a code that will entitle you to a 30% discount at Oxford UP site. A Kindle/e-book version should be available for preorder within the next 2-3 months.

Here is the publisher's summary:

Ballot box voting is often considered the essence of political freedom. But it has two major shortcomings: individual voters have little chance of making a difference, and they also face strong incentives to remain ignorant about the issues at stake. "Voting with your feet," however, avoids both of these pitfalls and offers a wider range of choices. In Free to Move, Ilya Somin explains how broadening opportunities for foot voting can greatly enhance political liberty for millions of people around the world.

People can vote with their feet through international migration, by choosing where to live within a federal system, and by making decisions in the private sector. These three types of foot voting are rarely considered together, but Somin explains how they have major common virtues and can be mutually reinforcing. He contends that all forms of foot voting should be expanded and shows how both domestic constitutions and international law can be structured to increase opportunities for foot voting while mitigating possible downsides.

Somin addresses a variety of common objections to expanded migration rights, including claims that the "self-determination" of natives requires giving them the power to exclude migrants, and arguments that migration is likely to have harmful side effects, such as undermining political institutions, overburdening the welfare state, increasing crime and terrorism, and spreading undesirable cultural values. While these objections are usually directed at international migration, Somin shows how a consistent commitment to such theories would also justify severe restrictions on domestic freedom of movement. That implication is an additional reason to be skeptical of these rationales for exclusion. By making a systematic case for a more open world, Free to Move challenges conventional wisdom on both the left and the right.

And here are some early endorsements:

"In this excellent book, Somin makes a compelling case that migration –or foot voting—provides far more political power than voting. Any one voter has a trivially small chance of altering an election, but any household can choose a new state and local government by simply moving.This insight implies that devolving power to local governments will generate far more political voice than any conceivable reform to national elections. Freer international migration would empower even more people to choose their own government. Somin's case is strong, his thinking is clear, and his writing is eloquent."—Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University, and author of The Triumph of the City

"Ilya Somin shows that mobility-the freedom to move from here to there-might be the most underrated underpinning of a free society. It is especially important in America, where states can compete with one another to have social policies welcoming to enterprise and liberty.Voting is important; so is what Somin calls 'foot voting.'"– George F. Will, columnist, Washington Post, and author of The Conservative Sensibility

"This eminently readable, tightly-argued, and compelling book is a model for how empirically-informed democratic theory ought to proceed. Somin shows us that in modern democracies, even when everyone has equal voice, that voice is usually close to worthless. Taking political freedom seriously requires a serious solution: foot voting. We need to ensure everyone has the right and power to move and work where they please. Exit beats voice almost every time, and the competition isn't even close. Somin deftly considers and rebuts every major objection to his view. In the end, the conclusion is inescapable: the arguments for democracy don't so much justify participatory democracy; they instead justify real freedom of movement."– Jason Brennan, Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Term Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University; author of The Ethics of Voting

"Ilya Somin has done it again, producing a compelling new book, rich with insights about democratic theory, law, and economics. Free to Move takes a familiar idea-that people should be allowed and encouraged to choose the entities that govern them by moving between jurisdictions-and shows why it is valuable and how taking it seriously as a form of political choice provides a clear set of answers to some of our most pressing social problems. Those who share Somin's belief in the value of 'voting with your feet,' will see the scope of their commitment pushed by his consistency and range, and those who do not will find themselves challenged and perhaps even convinced."– David Schleicher, Professor, Yale Law School

"Many find majority voting with ballots to be the highest guarantor of liberty. They may never have found themselves in the minority on a question vital to their well-being. Ilya Somin brilliantly and accessibly points to the central, additional role of voting with your feet—moving to a place with better policy—in protecting liberty. His book mines a deep vein of law and philosophy, but you'll find mercifully little jargon here. What you will find is a book that gives to common assumptions a taut and compelling challenge, and might leave you transformed. It offers a new way to think about international migration, but not just that. It is nothing less than a proposal for a higher form of democracy, built on the critical roles of both ballot-voting and foot-voting as guardians of freedom."— Michael Clemens, Center for Global Development, author of The Walls of Nations

On Twitter, Robert Guest, foreign editor of The Economist, says "It's first rate" (he read a pre-publication version of the manuscript).

For universities and other organizations that might be interested, I am available for speaking engagements related to the book. If you are an academic or teacher and assign the book to your class, I will speak to your class remotely by Skype, for free, if you are interested.

By now you are probably thinking that this post is shameless self-promotion by a book author. I plead guilty to that charge! But, for what it is worth, I also intend to donate 50% of all royalties generated by Free to Move to charities benefiting refugees.

I will write more about the book closer to the publication date.

UPDATE: I have added the endorsement by economist Michael Clemens —one of the world's leading experts on international migration—which just came in today.


NEXT: Four Observations Concerning the GAO Decision

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  1. The “right” for someone to vote with their feet does not trump the right of a nation to control its borders, and decide who it allows in.

    1. The right to control a border does not necessarily mean imposing authoritarian, bigoted, cruel immigration policies and practices.

      It also does nothing to make the proponents of such policies and practices anything other than deplorable, stale-thinking, bigoted, replacement-worthy casualties of our culture war.

      1. So, you do concede that a nation does have a right to control its borders, just as long as they do it nicely? How would you define that.

      2. The only reason you people want illiterate, low IQ third worlders to immigrate here is for the votes.

        1. Even assuming they are illiterate and have low IQs, at least they don’t have the same moral deficiencies that you consistently display.

            1. All the comments about how he would like to gas and kill people?

              1. I would hesitate to classify expressing violent thoughts as much of a moral deficiency, as moral deficiencies go. Most of us have played a lot of role-playing games and video games where we reveled in the slaughter.

                That said, my biggest disagreement with RWH is that he wants another Civil War, and I think it’s unnecessary with just 3-4 policy changes, none of which are really major in that they have all been done before in America.

                1. Sure. But wanting actual humans to die as opposed to just video game characters you know are video game characters is evidence of moral deficiency.

                  1. Wanting actual humans to die, but not doing anything more than saying so, and slaughtering virtual people visually in a video game, all things held equal, are about the same. One is hot air, and thus mostly meaningless, and the other is virtually enacted, and thus mostly meaningless.

                    1. Decent people consider bigotry morally deficient.

                    2. Your moral calculus is wrong.

                      Imaginary violent acts towards real people is antisocial and not normal.

                      imaginary acts towards fake people is a whole different thing.

                      Don’t defend that asshat.

  2. “Free to Invade: German Tourism in Europe from the Mid-19th Through the Mid-20th Centuries”

    1. Free to Move: Taqiyya, Nonprofit Refugee Organizations, and “Foot Jihad.”

  3. Meanwhile, sanctuary Dems are responsible for the murder, sexual assault and attempted rape of a 92 year old woman named Maria Fuertes in Queens, NY.

    But for the sanctuary Dems virtue-signaling, open borders ideology policy of refusing to cooperate with ICE, Maria Fuertes would never have been allegedly raped and murdered at 92 years of age by 21-year old illegal alien Reeaz Khan, who was indicted Jan 6.

    Less than two months before Maria Fuertes was killed at the age of 92, Reeaz Khan should have been deported after being arrested and charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon. ICE filed a request that Khan be turned over to them. NYPD, of course, denied the request and let him back onto the streets.

    1. But, think of all the great and varied food that ethnic diversity gives us. That alone more than makes up for the crime.

      1. How about thinking about how the only reason you have the culture that you enjoy is because of migrations?

        1. Sure, and like the Indians, I wouldn’t have wanted any more people to come in either after a point, eh?

          1. Your entire life is the way it is because people failed to stop migration. Why are you so convinced that this should be the end point? Other than a selfish desire to make sure things never change?

            If the Romans were successful in stopping German migration, Western civilization would not exist. Western civilization also would not have its philosophical roots or scientific literacy if it had successfully resisted Arab migration and contact in Spain and the wider Mediterranean. If American natives were successful in repelling colonization you wouldn’t be here. If the Know-Nothings were successful in stopping Irish and Southern European the culture wouldn’t be the same. Nor would it be the same if Americans had successfully stopped Asian migration. We have no idea what the future will hold. Why would you think that this is a natural end point and not the start of a flourishing civilization?

            1. Everyone’s life has been channeled by both the *good and bad* aspects of human migration, from that first proto-human that left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago to the global South to North migration underway today.

              See, you seem to think that most of that human migration has been good, whereas, at least for the people who lived someplace prior to the migrants moving into it, it has been almost universally bad. Now, the current rush of 3rd worlders to the West isn’t as bad as the Mongols, but then again, there isn’t much evidence that it’s been good thus far and more evidence that it has been bad for the West. The values of the Enlightenment are at stake. Even Angela Merkel, the architect of much of it, has said “multiculturalism is a failure.”

              However, from the perspective of a bloke escaping a crappy situation in Libya or Syria or Venezuela or Cuba, it’s a pretty good thing.

              1. The values of the Enlightenment only exist because of migration.

                  1. A blog comment section is not a very suitable place to put the entire history of Western philosophy, political thought and organization, or religion. But I think if you read any good history of Late Antiquity, Medieval Europe, and then Early Modern Europe you will see how Western Civilization is the way it is because of Germanic and Muslim migration and cultural fusion.

                    1. That, my friend, is a misunderstanding of what the Enlightenment is, because all your saying here is that European culture was influenced by migration. We’ve already established that everywhere was influenced to some point, and at some level, by migration.

                      Let me ask you then, what is, or was, the Enlightenment?

                    2. America has had successive waves of ignorance and intolerance, often related to religion, skin color, ethnicity, or perceived economic pressure, aimed at more than a dozen groups who today constitute more than half of the American population. Today’s immigrant-bashers are the intellectual and moral heirs of those who targeted the Irish, blacks, gays, Italians, Jews, Catholics, Asians, agnostics, Hispanics, eastern Europeans, women, other Asians, etc.

                      In America, the bigots don’t win, at least not over time. This latest batch of bigots seems nothing special. America’s better citizens will again prevail against the bigots.

      2. As has been repeatedly noted, illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native born Americans.

    2. And if we didn’t have anti-immigrant rhetoric there would be 22 people who would be alive in El Paso….

      1. Yes, and if we didn’t have anti-Trump rhetoric, Steve Scalise wouldn’t be using a cane and walking with a limp.

        See what I did there?

        Words don’t kill people, and we live in a (mostly) free society that allows people to express anti-immigrant rhetoric, or write pro-immigrant/refugee/illegal alien books like Somin.

        1. Right. Words just help form the idea in people’s minds that its okay to kill Hispanic people. It’s as causally connected as not detaining immigrants is to deaths.

          1. Look I don’t disagree that ideas and symbols are powerful things, and that people will sometimes go to great lengths for them. But, in the end, we have this thing called “free will” and nobody is at fault for any killing except the killer.

            1. Okay. Then you agree sanctuary city policies and refusing immigration detainers is not to blame for a particular death?

              1. The chain of causality for a specific killing is rather tenuous, yea, I’d agree. This is not to say that letting out a violent criminal onto the streets rather than to ICE doesn’t mean that some culpability isn’t shared. Think of it like breaking the door to a house open, but not being the one who went in and stole the TV.

                But don’t expect such nuance in political rhetoric, never has it existed before, and won’t in the future. If the entire Athenian assembly was as wise as Socrates, it would still have been a mob.

      1. This comment system suck, who are you responding too, and which comment?

        1. He’s saying I sound angry about the effects of Dems’ sanctuary policies.

          It’s because in another thread I said that another commenter seemed angry.

          1. Oh, okay. That makes sense, because that was even sillier than the usual Sarc attempt at trolling.

            1. Trolls are insincere. I generally mean what I say.

              Nothing wrong with being angry about politics, so long as you keep it from blowing up. But ML implied such here. Just noting his inconsistency.

    3. In 2017 – the total number of murders was 17,284 or about 47 per day. And I would be that all were killed by an American. What do you care only about a 92 year old? Oh – that’s right – it pushes your racist agenda.

      The most dangerous place to live? Louisiana. Hardly a “sanctuary” state.

      The simple fact is that immigrants (legal or otherwise) are less prone to commit crimes because they actually want to be here. Committing a crime means being deported.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how some of the strongest opponents of “big government” are also consistently in favor of using force and violence to keep people who were born on one side of a line from moving to the other side of that line.

    1. A ton of straw manning there. But borders are not just imaginary lines, they not only delineate the limits of political power, but they differentiate culture and languages. France isn’t just France because of the lines on a map. If you, upthread, weigh heavily on the power of political rhetoric, you must understand the power of culture.

    2. First, end the big government welfare state, which includes its ownership and operation of the nation’s education and infrastructure. Then talk about opening the borders to the millions and billions who would like to flood in.

      You’ll still have a more fundamental problem. Say you’re a strong opponent of “big government.” Great, but why does it matter what you or anyone else thinks? The only way for the people to exercise influence over the government is by the political franchise through which we are supposedly “self-governing” (emphasis on supposedly). Why would you disenfranchise yourself, and in effect support and ensure “big government,” by handing the reigns of your government to millions of newcomers that disagree with you entirely?

      None of that is the biggest political problem for LawTalkingGuy’s open borders ideology, though. Setting aside the attempt at finding hypocrisy on the part of limited government advocates, our current, globally historically unprecedented mass immigration scheme results in a $500 billion annual transfer of wealth from working Americans to employers. It’s all about the economics. Mass immigration not only suppresses incomes, particularly for working class and minorities, it also causes massive spikes in housing costs, education costs, health care costs, and such costs that are the chief concerns of the working and middle classes. These are also, of course, the exact same reasons that mass immigration is supported by the big business lobby.

      1. You’re neither different nor better than the bigots who targeted Italians, blacks, Asians, Catholics, gays, Jews, the Irish, and others, M L. Just another clinger to be replaced — after you watch your betters shape progress against conservative wishes and works.

        1. Never said otherwise, but you’re just a troll and you know that. I’m part at least one of the things on that list, not that it matters, nobody cares, this is America.

          1. You’re one of the clingers who attempts to hide his bigotry — because your betters have ensured that being a bigot is no longer considered attractive in decent society — with euphemisms such as “color-blind” or “traditional values?”

            These days, that works just about as well as that thing atop Trump’s head.

  5. CTRL ‘F’ “commons”

    Sees no results.

    Very serious discussion for sure.

  6. This is how dumb the state of our nation is.

    At the top of today was a big red banner:


    So the federal government is making this decision now. Not the local school board and parents. Just how stupid can we get?

    Where’s the point of foot voting if government power is increasingly centralized? Not just nationally, but internationally as well.

    1. You figure parents should control school lunch menus, you half-educated bigot?

      1. Everything about local government should be controlled locally, yes.

        1. You seem destined to hate America’s future at least as much as you hate current, modern America, meaning you will spend the rest of your life a casualty of the culture war, muttering bitterly about all of this damned progress.

          You’ll have the Conspirators to keep you company on the losing side, though.

  7. I am late to the party as usual, but… is Ilya advocating for world federalism?

    People can vote with their feet through international migration, by choosing where to live within a federal system, and by making decisions in the private sector.

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