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.

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  1. When the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    Exactly how many different things has Ilya claimed that voting with your feet is a solution to, as of now?

    1. One might ask the same question about superstition, guns, affirmative action for right-wingers, the use of vile racial slurs, and other staples of this blog's offerings.

      1. Artie. We need your job. You need to be replaced by a diverse, preferably an illegal diverse. Diversity is the strength of our nation.

        Same thing for Ilya. Stop blocking the immigration of a million Indian lawyers who would love to earn $25000 a year.

        1. Until these Democrat dipshits can support doctrines that impact on their personal interests, they are dismissed. They are mere mouthpieces for the Chinese Commie Party seeking to destroy our country from the inside.

  2. God bless him, Somin really, honestly sees libertarianism as a political philosophy based on liberty bound to threaten hierarchy rather than a new and improved defense of it. How wonderfully naive...

  3. The general issue with "foot voting" is that it allows people to make "good" short term decisions which are "bad" long term decisions, but then they escape the consequences of their bad long term decisions by leaving the area they voted in.

    To use a simplified example, imagine in a given county that voters put together a law. This law uses the government to borrow several million (billion) dollars on credit, which it immediately disperses to its voters. The government promises to repay the funds.

    Then, the voters who voted for the law leave the district, leaving the government with the responsibility to repay.

    1. You're skipping the part where they then move to a new location, and repeat the process. As is on display in the Western states surrounding California.

      In the ideal situation, foot voting allows the sensible people to escape the policy preferences of the senseless. In less ideal situations, it allows the senseless to escape the consequences of their won policy preferences, repeatedly.

      How do you allow the sensible to escape the senseless, without enabling the senseless to relentlessly follow them?

      By recognizing that the only right here is the right of exit, not entrance. Foot voting only provides an escape if the problem you're escaping isn't permitted to follow you.

      Robert Nozick goes over this issue in great detail in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Foot voting is totally useless if you don't have a diversity of places to "vote for". Right of exit lets you vote, but right of entrance erases that diversity, rendering your vote meaningless.

      1. So. . . . what is your solution?

        Walls around every country, state, city?

        Seriously, how can you control right of entrance?

        And even then, would entrants have to take a culture/political/religious/socio-economic test and meet certain criteria before entry is allowed?

        1. I mean, also that's not what happens. People are not looting states or countries and then moving on. Maybe that'll be a problem one day, but there is no evidence immigrants are doing that right now.

          And if you mean illegals, well, they can't vote. And by all accounts don't seem very interested in sticking risking deportation to try to vote.

        2. Well, around countries, at least.

          How can you control right of entrance? Seriously? By having borders, and controlling immigration, like every functional country in the world does.

          You might not like the fact that unrestricted "foot voting" has downsides as well as upsides, but it does. It's not just the people moving into a place who stand to gain, the people already there can lose.

          Ironically, sometimes they'll lose what the immigrants came for, because they brought with them what they'd fled.

          1. The concern you and AL detail is scale-agnostic. As much a problem with allowing free movement between states as nations. And cities too.

            And yet we're quite sure free travel between states and cities is pretty good.

            Now, as someone who isn't for open borders, there are plenty of good reasons why one would want national borders and not state. But the scenario of liberals always creating and fleeing bad policies does not support that distinction.

          2. Thinly veiled replacement theory nonsense.

  4. I'm hoping to vote with my feet in 2022 or 2023 - and leave this shithole country. I can collect my SS overseas when the time comes, and get the foreign earned income exemption on my earned income before retirement. And I won't need garbage insurance like Obummercare.

    1. Outside the US, people live like animals, even if rich. Stay healthy. You will enjoy their cheap care, like examinations, setting of broken bones. If you ever need expensive care, you are dead. In the US, people in urban areas live like animals, as they do in Europe, even if wealthy.

    2. I recommend the Philippines. Good medical care, most of the people speak English, friendly, the food is good. Mind, they sell the land by the square meter, so don't expect to have a large lot.

      Don't be surprised if your SS check gets 'adjusted' to local cost of living at some point, though.

      1. Is the Philippines a prominent supplier of mail order brides for awkward, antisocial, conservative incels, Mr. Bellmore?

    3. So patriotic you hate America.

    4. " I’m hoping to vote with my feet in 2022 or 2023 – and leave this shithole country. I can collect my SS overseas when the time comes, and get the foreign earned income exemption on my earned income before retirement. And I won’t need garbage insurance like Obummercare. "

      Another great American, much like all clingers.

      This gape-jawed bigots will come slithering back when he needs specialized medical care, too dumb and character-deprived to recognize what a disgusting hypocrite he is.

      The good news is that he will be replaced by a better, younger American in the normal course, as our society and electorate continue to improve against the wishes of conservatives.

      Carry on, clingers. So far as your better permit, anyway.

    5. If you're collecting social security, you don't get Obamacare but Medicare. On the bright side, in addition to you leaving, you also will get cheaper medications. Perhaps one of the available social democracies you move to will even let you participate in their excellent healthcare systems.

  5. How much does voting with your feet matter on a Federal level. If half of a state's population moves out to a more attractive state, while it will lose House seats it will retain 2% representation in the Senate. Add to that any power change that might occur due to the filibuster.

    1. From the perspective of the recipient state: The electoral college can be influenced easily if that many people relocate to a state with low enough population to change the political balance.

      North Dakota has 781K residents. San Francisco has 875K just in the 49sqmile county. That's just one city in a state full of cities just like it.

      For the donor state, a 50% reduction based on "foot voting" might not be evenly distributed by political affiliation depending on what cause the mass migration in the first place. So if mostly conservatives flee, that might shift a red or purple state solidly in the blue and those two senators might change the party in power there.

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