Federalism

My State and Local Government Law Blog Post on "How Federalism Can Empower People to Vote with Their Feet"

The post focuses attention on an aspect of federalism that is often overlooked in current law and policy debates.

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The recently established State and Local Government Law Blog (SLoG), which Jonathan Adler wrote about here, has posted my piece on "How Federalism Can Empower People to Vote With their Feet." Here is an excerpt:

American state and local government has gotten its share of criticism in recent years, including on this blog. Instead of being "laboratories of democracies," as Justice Brandeis once famously called them, the states – especially red states – are often seen as agents of "vote suppression," promoters of dysfunctional policies, and oppressors of women and minorities. In addition, the nationalization of state politics has led to a variety of flaws in state and local elections, including reductions in competitiveness and accountability.

Much of the criticism of states and localities is deserved. But most of the debate over the vitality of American federalism overlooks a crucial way that it can help alleviate our political and economic woes: by providing opportunities for people to "vote with their feet." Foot voting withing federalism already helps hundreds of thousands of people, every year, choose government policies that better fit their needs, and increase their economic opportunities. Reforms could greatly expand that number. At the very least, foot voting should play a much bigger role in debates over federalism.

I am now a regular contributor to SLoG and will do other posts there in the future. However, the Volokh Conspiracy will remain my primary blogging outlet.

NEXT: Radically Incomplete Reports of Legal Proceedings as Libels

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  1. "Instead of being "laboratories of democracies," as Justice Brandeis once famously called them, the states – especially red states – are often seen as agents of "vote suppression," promoters of dysfunctional policies, and oppressors of women and minorities."

    Seriously, you're humoring this "vote suppression" nonsense?

    1. A guy who believes fairy tales are true considers the evidence concerning a longstanding national Republican voter suppression push a fantasy?

      The 30-year national consent decree . . . the repetitive North Carolina decisions rejecting voter suppression efforts one court described as 'almost surgical precision' with respect to race-targeting . . . the findings that precipitated the Voting Rights Act in general and section 5 in particular . . . the documents recounting the motivations and methods of Republican voter suppression . . . all "nonsense," as viewed by Birther Brett Bellmore.

      1. The New York Times is your source to make this assertion? Don’t make us laugh ever louder at your partisanship. Instead of using bird cage liner, try actual research. Some samples:

        “Our analysis, using state-level data and the Current Population Survey (CPS) November Supplement File (NSF) for 1980 to 2010, offers little evidence for the belief that minority turnout is uniquely affected by voter ID regulations.”
        Rocha, Rene R., and Tetsuya Matsubayashi. “The Politics of Race and Voter ID Laws in the States: The Return of Jim Crow?” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 3, [University of Utah, Sage Publications, Inc.], 2014, pp. 666–79, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24371900.

        1. Voter identification laws are not -- not nearly -- the sole methods by which Republicans engage in voter suppression. You also appear to have cherry-picked the evidence, as racist Republicans seem wont to do.

          You ignore a damning series of court decisions and legislative findings and actions . . . are bigoted, obsolete clingers beyond the reach of mainstream authorities and reasoned argument in modern America?

      2. Ilya must support the immigration of a million Indian lawyers. They would love to be law professors making $25000. Until Ilya does, he is advocating the suffering of others and not of himself. The worse off will be blacks, whose jobs will be taken, and whose salaries will be reduced by the competition.

  2. As someone who will be voting with his feet, moving from a red state where the Lt. Gov. refers to the LGBT community as filth and no conservative calls him out, I would see the major impediment in this job vacancy rich economy to voting with one's feet being the cost of relocation.

    The near monoply the realtors have over listing houses results in a 6% competion-free commission rate, which is not being reduced despite the high inflation in housing prices. Lawyers are heavily involved in the contract and other documents involved in a house purchase, and so the offering contract where we are looking is over 20 pages. Disclosure requirements are massive.

    So as a supporter of the concept of vote with your feet I suggest we try to enact policies which make moving easier. This will not only have political benefits, but will also bring large economic gains as workers are better matched with job openings.

    1. The near monoply the realtors have over listing houses results in a 6% competion-free commission rate,

      Not true at all. https://www.1percentlists.com/ and https://www.redfin.com/ are two of the most prominent, which in the amazing world of free markets has put pressure on the old guard to be more flexible on commissions. The lockstep 6% model is old news.

      1. Oh that it were so.

        Yes there are some minor organizations with less than 6% rates, and there is For Sale by Owner, but all or almost all of the major realtor franchise groups are lockstep at the 6% rate.

        Remember, while it is true that the Seller physically pays the commission, the economic burden of the commission falls on the buyer. If a property is listed by a 6 percenter realtor, as almost all are, the buyers have no choice if they want to purchase the property. The must pay the 6%.

    2. I'm disappointed to learn a lieutenant governor referred to the LGBT community as filth. I couldn't find a link, though I found another story where a lieutenant governor (in NC) said this:

      "There's no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth."

      https://news.yahoo.com/north-carolina-lieutenant-governor-faces-193800089.html

      1. Yeah, I full support the Lt Gov. wanting to keep that out of public schools. Indoctrinate your kids at your house.

        1. Do you feel the same way about the pledge of allegiance?

  3. "Voting with your feet" is potentially the proposal most detached from reality I have ever encountered. Prof. Somin apparently believes people can just uproot their families and lives and leave their friends and communities behind because they disagree with a policy. This does not even begin to pass the straight face test when it comes to cost benefit, much less respecting the difference between those who can live "anywhere" and those who live "somewhere". Absolutely unhinged -- and quite frankly I am tired of hearing about it.

    1. Well, back in 2008 I had to do just that, when the engineering job I'd enjoyed for 23 years near my rural home evaporated. I wound up moving over a thousand miles with a pregnant wife, and starting life over.

      People actually can "just uproot their families and lives, and leave their friends and communities behind", over things they actually care about.

      What's detached isn't the possibility of moving, but failing to admit that foot voting on a large scale can be self-defeating, as the refugees of a sort, not understanding the cause of what they fled, recreate it where they flee to.

      Foot voting requires a diversity of places to "vote for", and foot voting, ironically, tends to erase that diversity.

      1. "What’s detached isn’t the possibility of moving, but failing to admit that foot voting on a large scale can be self-defeating, as the refugees of a sort, not understanding the cause of what they fled, recreate it where they flee to."

        I was just talking about this earlier today. Is there any meaningful downside to preventing new arrivals from voting for a period of time upon arrival in a new jurisdiction? And from running for office? I don't have any worthwhile suggestions about how long such a probationary period would run, but surely anything is better than our current system.

    2. " much less respecting the difference between those who can live “anywhere” and those who live “somewhere” "

      Could you explain this point, please? I do not understand it. Thank you.

    3. Dont most people move states at some point in their lives? I would if I lived in a liberal hellhole. Moving isnt that hard IMO vs leaving the country.

      1. According to the Census department, 72% of people live their whole lives, (Aside from vacations, of course!) in the same city or town where they grew up.

        Of those who moved out of the city or town where they grew up, 30% remained in the same state.

        Now, something close to 10% of the population do move each year, but only 1% make inter-state moves. And a fair proportion of those people doe it over and over.

  4. Are there types of changed-circumstances arbitrage that voting with one's feet allows, and, if so, is it a good thing? The most obvious example I can think of are the working age parents who lives in a community where high taxes pay for good schools, good roads and transit for workers (back in the day when people, um, I think the word used to be "commuted"), and the relatively robust policing required in a community of younger people. Grab all those advantages for a few decades, and then leave the high taxes and outstanding bonds behind, by retiring to a newer community with lowwe taxes and fewer legacy costs . The schools and roads might be so so, but who needs them at that point?

    (That having been said, I'm retired in a relatively high-cost community [Arlington VA] because my kids and grandkids are all in the area. As comments above note, there is an inertia of family ties and history to overcome before one votes with one's feet, though I'll grant you that for some folks that inertia is either relatively small or can be overcome.)

  5. Foot voting is a reasonable idea for the well-moneyed.

    There are considerable upfront costs to moving. Securing housing from afar often requires credit and background checks, and other fees. Securing employment from afar is much the same. If the area has lots of jobs available, it is a safe bet that housing in that area is also more expensive.

    I don't know if this ilya guy has considered that for the average person under 35 with low to zero savings, securing the costs for moving can be a race without any chance of reaching the finish line.

    The ilya guy could test this out by ruining his credit, giving away all of his assets over $1k, and hitting the open road to see how easy it is to pull off a move.

    1. "I don’t know if this ilya guy has considered that for the average person under 35 with low to zero savings, securing the costs for moving can be a race without any chance of reaching the finish line."

      Having read Prof. Somin's contributions to this blog for many years, I would expect his response to be something along the lines of "if they truly cared, they would make it work." Detached from reason, of course, but that is what I have come to expect.

      1. So work hard for a year and save every penny possible to make it happen.

      2. And if he said that, he'd be right.

    2. Foot voting is a reasonable idea for the well-moneyed.

      There are hundreds of thousands of people from south of the Rio Grande who vote with their feet each year. I assure you that the vast majority of them do not carry Platinum AmEx cards across the border.

      1. Yes, in a year when we're on track to have several million poor people illegally cross our border, often traveling thousands of miles to do so, it seems a bit much to deny this happens.

    3. " Foot voting is a reasonable idea for the well-moneyed. "

      This seems wrong. In some important ways, it is easier to move when you are have fewer financial ties to a hometown, a career, etc. My wife and I moved 1,500 miles when (and to some degree because) our possessions fit in a compact car.

      1. And a licensed professional may not be able to switch states on short notice because of the need to be licensed in the new state to practice his or her profession, whereas someone who works in, say, retail or food service is under no such similar disability. (I am not asking for sympathy for those professionals, whose overall situation is likely to be much better than those of the retail/food workers; I am simply noting another element besides money that factors into mobility.)

        1. Personally, I'm a tooling engineer in the stamping industry. While I wouldn't have great trouble finding a new job, (Even in 2008, in an economic crash, I was able to do so in a matter of months.) I wouldn't have a huge choice of where to move to; Stamping plants are not widely distributed, and I have to live near one until I retire.

          Many specialized professions actually dictate that you have a very limited choice of where to live.

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