Legislation Can’t Fix Social Media

It is perhaps apocryphal, but when reportedly commenting on Russia’s peasant soldiers deserting the tsar’s army during Russia’s Revolution between 1905-1906, Vladimir Illich Lenin—the founder and first head of government for Soviet Russia—quipped, “They voted with their feet.” 

In 1956, economist Charles Tiebout argued in his essay A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures, that a similar type of “foot voting” (a term he does not use), where consumers willfully relocate to jurisdictions where policies better align with their preferences, is more efficient and effective than voting to change government or its policies. Ronald Reagan, agreeing with Tiebout, often said Americans should “move along” if their local government was not to their liking.

This is of course consistent with our diverse federal system of government so eloquently summarized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who said, “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Legal scholar Ily Somin says these laboratories of democracy and the migratory options they enable are, therefore, “a tool for enhancing political freedom: the ability of the people to choose the political regime under which they wish to live.”

My point in highlighting this context is to bring into sharp relief this truth: Americans have agency and the opportunity to improve their lives more efficiently and effectively than government can.

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