The Volokh Conspiracy

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Voting With Your Feet

My National Affairs Article on "Voting With Our Feet"

The article explains how expanding opportunities for foot voting can enhance political choice, help the poor and disadvantaged, and reduce the dangers of political polarization.


Today, National Affairs published my article "Voting With Our Feet." Here's an excerpt from the introduction:

America today faces three serious, interconnected problems. The first is the powerlessness of individual citizens in determining which policies they wish to live under, particularly in national elections. Second, over the last several decades, opportunities for the poor and lower-middle class have become increasingly constricted. Finally, growing partisan bias and hostility have resulted in a situation where people on the right and left not only oppose each other on policy, but view the other side as a menace to the republic.

There is no single solution to these problems, of course. But all three can be substantially mitigated by empowering Americans to "vote with their feet" to a greater extent than is now the case.

People vote with their feet in three major ways: through international migration (not considered in this essay), by choosing which jurisdiction to live in, and by making decisions about which institutions to participate in, such as schools and planned communities. These types of foot voting are often considered in isolation, but they have much in common — including the fact that they represent mechanisms for exercising political choice.

If we want to augment political freedom, increase opportunity for the poor and the disadvantaged, and reduce tensions caused by polarization, expanding opportunities for Americans to vote with their feet can be of great help.

The article, in part, draws on ideas developed in much greater depth in my book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom.