Foot voting

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Foot voting is expressing one's preferences through one's actions, by voluntarily participating in or withdrawing from an activity, group, or process; especially, physical migration to leave a situation one does not like, or to move to a situation one regards as more beneficial. People who engage in foot voting are said to "vote with their feet".

Legal scholar Ilya Somin has described foot voting as "a tool for enhancing political freedom: the ability of the people to choose the political regime under which they wish to live".[1] Communist leader Vladimir Lenin commented, "They voted with their feet," regarding Russian soldiers deserting the army of the Tsar.[2] The concept has also been associated with Charles Tiebout, who pioneered the concept (although he did not use the term "foot voting") in a 1956 paper,[3][4]: 203  and with Ronald Reagan, who advocated migration between states of the United States as a solution to unsatisfactory local conditions.[5][6]

Law and politics[edit]

Legal scholar Ilya Somin has argued that foot voting requires far less information (on the part of the citizens engaging in it) to be exercised effectively than does literal voting at the ballot box; that foot voters are more strongly motivated to acquire relevant information than are ballot-box voters; and that decentralized federalism promotes the welfare of citizens because it facilitates foot voting.[1][4] Somin has also used foot voting to make a case for changes in international law to allow easier migration across international borders.[1] Legal scholars Roderick M. Hills, Jr., and Shitong Qiao have used China as a case study to argue that foot voting is ineffective unless meaningful ballot-box voting is also in place.[7] Somin has rebutted this critique.[8]


Models from theoretical biology have been applied to elucidate the causal relationships between foot voting and the dissemination of human cultural characteristics.[9]


United States[edit]

One of the clearest examples of foot voting is the mass exodus of movers out of California to other states. In 2020, 650,000 people left California, a net loss of 135,000 people.[10] Some of the motivations spurring people to move out of California and to other states are the pursuit of lower taxes, more affordable housing, and fewer regulations on businesses.[11]

Conversely, an example of a movement of people moving to a place rather than from a place is the Free State Project. The Free State Project (FSP) is an American political migration movement founded in 2001 to recruit at least 20,000 libertarians to move to a single low-population state (New Hampshire, was selected in 2003) in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas.[12] By concentrating on a single state rather than being dispersed over several states, libertarians have seen a lot of electoral wins in New Hampshire. For example, 150 representatives in the NH state house were ranked as an A- or above by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance in 2021.[13] As of March of 2022, approximately 6,232 participants have moved to New Hampshire for the Free State Project.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Somin, Ilya (2014). "Chapter 4: Foot voting, federalism, and political freedom". In Fleming, James E.; Levy, Jacob T. (eds.). Federalism and Subsidiarity. Nomos LV: yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. New York University Press. pp. 83–119. doi:10.18574/nyu/9781479868858.003.0004. ISBN 978-1479868858. SSRN 2160388. George Mason University Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-68. Note: the SSRN abstract gives an incorrect page range for the printed book.
  2. ^ Wintringham, T. H. (November 1935). "The road to Caporetto". Left Review. 2 (2): 63–65. Archived from the original on 2017-08-23. Retrieved 2017-09-28 – via Marxists Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Tiebout, Charles M. (October 1956). "A pure theory of local expenditures". Journal of Political Economy. 64 (5): 416–424. doi:10.1086/257839.
  4. ^ a b Somin, Ilya (January 2011). "Foot voting, political ignorance, and constitutional design" (PDF). Social Philosophy and Policy. 28 (1): 202–227. doi:10.1017/S0265052510000105. George Mason University Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-11 – via George Mason University. Note: the George Mason University header page gives the date of the journal article incorrectly as November 2010.
  5. ^ Reagan, Ronald (19 November 1981). "Interview with reporters on federalism". The American Presidency Project. University of California, Santa Barbara. Archived from the original on 2017-10-30. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  6. ^ McGrory, Mary (21 January 1982). "Three who can′t 'vote with their feet' are staying, battling NRC". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-10-30. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  7. ^ Hills, Roderick M., Jr.; Qiao, Shitong (Spring 2017). "Voice and exit as accountability mechanisms: can foot-voting be made safe for the Chinese Communist Party?". Columbia Human Rights Law Review. 48 (3): 158. SSRN 2817652. University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2016/027.
  8. ^ Somin, Ilya (8 January 2017). "Does effective foot voting depend on ballot box voting?". Volokh Conspiracy. Archived from the original on 2017-10-05. Retrieved 2017-09-29 – via Washington Post.
  9. ^ Boyd, Robert; Richerson, Peter J. (21 March 2009). "Voting with your feet: payoff biased migration and the evolution of group beneficial behavior". Journal of Theoretical Biology. 257 (2): 331–339. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2008.12.007. PMID 19135062. (author manuscript)
  10. ^ "Mass Exodus: Why Are So Many People Leaving California". 6 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Mass Exodus: Why Are So Many People Leaving California". 6 January 2021.
  12. ^ Belluck, Pam (October 27, 2003). "Libertarians Pursue New Political Goal: State of Their Own". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  13. ^ "2021 Liberty Ranking" (PDF). New Hampshire Liberty Alliance. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  14. ^ "FSP current mover count". Free State Project. Retrieved 29 March 2022.