Saturday, August 27, 2011

Is Voting With One's Feet Really Voting

Andrew Ferguson profiles Rick Perry in The Weekly Standard, a publication not known for liberal bias.  Ferguson quotes the following nugget from Fed Up, Perry's recently published book.
“Crucial to understanding federalism in modern-day America is the concept of mobility, or ‘the ability to vote with your feet,’ ” he writes. “If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”
In short, Perry seems to believe that people vote with their feet and move to places with values and politics that they share.  Perry conveniently ignores that Texas has benefited from energy booms for some of the state's growth. He also ignores the fact that many localities seem to have economic development policies that can best be described as "pay them enough to live but too poor to leave."

Ferguson develops another problem with Perry's view of federalism.
Perry’s idea of federalism, boiled down, becomes a kind of crude majoritarianism. What if you favor both medicinal marijuana and the death penalty? What if you’re a guy who takes comfort living in a state where citizens pack hand guns but you still want to marry your boyfriend? You’re out of luck. You’ll have to live in a state where the majority​—​gun-packing homophobes or potheads with a distaste for capital punishment​—​perpetuates itself by disgorging people like you. “If you don’t like how they live there, don’t move there” is a principle with a corollary: “If you don’t like how we live here, leave.” You and your partner might have to secede.
Ferguson makes big point here.  Many people have views that differ from the majority of those in their locale.  They can't all move to regions where people share their idiosyncratic views.  As one who is "displaced" because of idiosyncratic ideas, I'm not sure how many places I can move to that share my views.

Further, and I admit to committing history, sociology, and philosophy without a license, but it strikes me that the United States is the only nation on earth that is not united by geography, religion, or language.  Instead the country is united by the idea that being an American is unique and wonderful.  "Love it or leave it" or "vote with your feet" will create a mindset where some regions are "American" while others our not.

Besides, it seems that we have acted on this idea once before.  One region had a "peculiar institution"; another did not.  Those offended by this institution could leave.  Eventually, one region seceded and the US engaged in the Civil War,

Whether "love it or leave it" comes from the right or the left, it's wrong. It may also be dangerous.


David Newquist said...

South Dakota's outmigration is largely a matter of voting with the feet. Our brightest high school students leave to go to colleges and universities more compatible and encouraging of critical, exploratory mindsets. Few of those students return. Another wave of bright people is lost when the more talented and ambitious of graduates from our colleges and universities go where their talents and accomplishments will be welcomed and put to use.

The love-it-or-leave attitude in South Dakota, where criticism and the desire for improvements is not tolerated, has drives away many people find the town-cafe intolerance and malevolence to be toxic and lethal to live in and raise families.

The culture that is left behind is not one which promotes genuine growth and development.

LK said...

Thank you for an important distinction. As I was writing, I was thinking about the reasons to move to somewhere. I wasn't thinking too much about reason to leave a state.

I do believe that some of South Dakota's leaders do advocate policies that keep citizens "too poor to leave."