Ignorance, Exit, and Voice

In this essay, I suggest that even if voters were knowledgeable about issues, our democratic process would still not be as desirable as having the exit option. This is in the context of talking about a recent book by Ilya Somin. In my view, an even more frustrating problem than voter ignorance is the enchantment that many people have with democratically elected leaders.

As I see it, reasonable government, including the protection of liberty, requires those in office to follow norms of behavior that are bound by Constitutional constraints and principles of limited government. The problem with democratic enchantment is that it sanctions whatever majority-elected political leaders can get away with.

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2 Responses to Ignorance, Exit, and Voice

  1. Hunter says:

    It stinks for the people left behind as in Detroit. Many people have been voting with their feet and the politics and leadership if anything has gotten worse in Detroit. I’m also not sure how individuals can make policy decisions through market choice. As you said you get a bundle of choices. Sometimes that bundle gives the individual more say in their day to day lives and in others the bundle gives the collective more say.

  2. Kevin C. says:

    The first problem with exit is that you need a place to exit to. With no more frontier, we’re left with the narrow set of choices of existing polities. And then, you have to find one of those who is willing to take you.

    Second is the problem of “ruin voters”: people who flee from less successful location A to more prosperous location B, only to then work to make B more like A, voting for the very policies that led to the conditions they fled from back home (see, for example, recent migration from California to Colorado). Note, the result is that instead of things getting better by A emulating the successful policies of B in order to compete, things get worse as migrants turn B into another A.

    Thus, ruin voters provide incentives for successful polities to seek to exclude migrants from less successful polities, thus making it harder for people to leave failing regions.

    (None of this criticism of exit is to be taken as indicating that I favor voice; I agree that exit is likely superior to the democratic process. It just seems to me that both are insufficient to address the problems we face).

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