Foot voting

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

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]

See also


  1. 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. 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)
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