The Volokh Conspiracy

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Forthcoming Revised Edition of my Book "Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom" [Updated with Corrected Oxford Univ. Press Discount Code]

The revised edition addresses several new issues including arguments that migration must be restricted to curtail the spread of dangerous diseases, such as Covid-19, claims that immigration might generate a political backlash that threatens democracy, and the impact of remote work on foot voting.


I am pleased to announce that the revised edition of my book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom will be in print on December 1! It is already available for preordering on Amazon and the Oxford University Press website. If you purchase it at the Oxford UP site, you can use coupon code ALAUTHC4 to get a 30% discount. There will soon be a Kindle/e-book version of the revised edition, as well.

Why did the publisher and I decide to put out a revised edition only about 18 months after the first edition was published in May of last year? The biggest reason is that I ended up publishing a book on the value of freedom of movement just as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and much of the world was trapped in lockdown. This tragic event raised issues that were not included in the first edition, but now clearly deserve attention: most notably claims that severe migration restrictions are needed to control the spread of Covid and other contagious diseases, and the implications of widespread remote work for foot voting.

The revised edition incorporates these two issues and more besides. Among other things, I also address the claim that too much immigration might generate a dangerous nativist backlash, which in turn could even threaten liberal democracy. This idea—which I really should have included in the original edition—is distinct from the argument that immigration threatens liberal institutions because immigrants themselves might turn out to be terrible voters who support illiberal politicians and parties. The latter issue was already extensively addressed in the original edition, and I have a added a few points related to it in this one.

The new edition also includes a number of other smaller additions and improvements, such as consideration of the issue of extraterritorial taxation—a problem that caught my attention because Yale Law School Prof. Jack Balkin raised it in an interview with me. Its importance was further highlighted by the abortive case of New Hampshire v. Massachusetts, which I think might be a harbinger of things to come.

I hereby extend my pledge to donate 50% of all royalties generated by Free to Move to causes benefiting refugees. That commitment now applies to any that come my way from this revised edition. The first edition raised several thousand dollars for refugees, and I hope this one might help, as well.

Here is the publisher's description of the revised edition:

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 face strong incentives to remain ignorant about the issues at stake. "Voting with your feet," however, avoids both 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, choosing where to live within a federal system, and by making decisions in the private sector. 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.

By making a systematic case for a more open world, Free to Move challenges conventional wisdom on both the left and the right. This revised and expanded edition addresses key new issues, including fears that migration could spread dangerous diseases, such as Covid-19, claims that immigration might generate a political backlash that threatens democracy, and the impact of remote work.

And here are excerpts from some of the reviews and endorsements of the first edition:

"It is the best book on geographic mobility and exit that has been written to date, and… I am happy to recommend it heartily."—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"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

"First rate."—Robert Guest, Foreign Editor, the Economist, and author of Borderless Economics

"Free to Move shows that foot voting works better than we think, is more common than we think, and that there are many opportunities to improve political freedom by encouraging foot voting…. Chapter 5…. convincingly rejects both individualistic and communitarian arguments that self-determination can justify the exclusion of people. It offers as clear and convincing a rejection of discrimination based on parentage and place of birth as this author has ever seen… One of the outstanding features of the book is that it is robust to criticism. The reason is that Somin deals with potential critiques in a fair way. There are no straw person arguments." — Ilia Murtazashvili, Public Choice

"A powerful book."—Richard A. Epstein, New York University School of Law, author of The Classical Liberal Constitution.

"Ilya Somin's book is terrific."—Guy-Uriel Charles, Law professor at Duke Law School and the co-director of the Center on Law, Race, and Politics, Twitter

"Ilya Somin gives the reader a theory of Federalism writ (internationally) large: A great book."—Professor Roderick Hills, NYU School of Law

"Somin offers a compelling and ingenious justification for free global movement … The book's combination of rigorous thought and engaging argument makes "Free to Move" a must-read for those interested in the future of immigration law and policy."—Peter Margulies, Lawfare

UPDATE: The original version of this post had an incorrect  discount code for the Oxford University Press website. That problem has been corrected.