The case for empowering Americans to vote with their feet

By Ilya Somin The Week

Realistically, your ballot doesn’t matter. ‘Foot voting’ does.

American democratic institutions are in crisis. One of the worst flaws of the status quo is the near-powerlessness of the individual voter over the policies which determine so much of daily life. Closely related is the need to promote opportunity and choice for the poor and disadvantaged. Both these problems can be greatly alleviated by expanding opportunities for people to “vote with their feet.” If you don’t like state or local laws, it should be easier to escape them.

We normally think of voting at the ballot box as our principal means of exercising political choice, and ballot-box voting has great value. But it also has two severe limitations: the very low odds that an individual vote will make a difference, and the resulting incentive to make poorly informed decisions. Foot voting is superior on both dimensions.

In a presidential election, the average voter has only about a 1 in 60 million chance of affecting the outcome; higher in close swing states, but lower in strongly “red” or “blue” ones. In state and local elections, the odds are higher but still generally very low.

Yet meaningful freedom requires the ability to make a decisive choice, or at least have a high probability of doing so. It is difficult to claim a person has meaningful religious freedom if he has only a 1 in a million chance of determining which religion he will practice. Similarly, a person with only a 1 in a million chance of deciding what views she’s allowed to express surely does not have meaningful freedom of speech.


Categories: Strategy

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