Foot Voting, Decentralization, and Development

23 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2018 Last revised: 6 Mar 2019

See all articles by Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Date Written: April 25, 2018


We can enhance development by making it easier for people to “vote with their feet” between jurisdictions. Few, if any, policy reforms can achieve such enormous increases in economic growth and opportunity. Foot voting is, in several crucial respects, a better mechanism of political decision-making than ballot-box voting. Foot voters generally have better incentives to acquire relevant knowledge and use it more wisely than ballot box voters do. Empowering foot voters enhances development by enabling citizens to move to areas with greater job opportunities, and incentivizing regional and local governments to adopt pro-development policies in order to compete for residents and businesses. Even greater gains can be achieved by expanding opportunities for foot voting across international boundaries, through immigration. Constitutional structures can be designed in ways that maximize the benefits of foot voting and minimize potential costs.

Keywords: voting rights, foot voting, constitution, political decision-making, franchise, Democracy, federalism, immigration, refugees, human rights, development, keyhole solutions, voting with your feet, constitutional design

JEL Classification: K37, P48, H10, H11, H70, H73, H77, J60, J61, O10

Suggested Citation

Somin, Ilya, Foot Voting, Decentralization, and Development (April 25, 2018). Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 102, No. 4, pp. 1649-1670, June 2018 (Symposium on "Decentralization and Development"), George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 18-12, Available at SSRN:

Ilya Somin (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

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