What’s New in the Revised Edition of “Free to Move,” Part II: Implications of Remote Work for Foot Voting
The revised edition of my book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom comes out on December 1. This is the third in a series of posts on new issues included in this edition, that weren’t in the original. Previous posts provided a brief overview of the book, and considered the issue of pandemic migration restrictions intended to curb the spread of disease.
This post looks at the implications of widespread remote work for foot voting. Like pandemic migration restrictions, this issue came to my (and many others’) attention because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The spread of the virus led to a vast expansion of remote work that might, at least in part, persist even after the pandemic wanes.
An October 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that the percentage of American workers doing their jobs all or mostly at home had risen from about 7.6% before the pandemic to 27% as of the time of the survey.
In one crucial sense, remote work can greatly reduce moving costs, thereby greatly expanding foot voting opportunities. By separating work from place of residence, remote work enables more people to move without giving up their current jobs. For example, an accountant, lawyer, or computer programmer employed by a New York City firm could move to Kansas, while still continuing to work for the same employer. For many, that could greatly reduce to cost of moving to a location with government policies that better fit their preferences. If the New Yorker prefers Kansas’ more conservative policies on crime, education, or government spending, she can act on that preference more easily. The same goes for a Kansan who wishes to move to a more liberal jurisdiction.
At the same time, however, remote work might also reduce the value of foot voting options. Historically, much of the value of foot voting consisted in moving to jurisdictions whose policies foster better job opportunities, That advantage becomes less significant in a world where work is geographically separate from home.
On balance, remote work is likely to increase the value of foot voting opportunities much more than it decreases them. Much foot voting sti
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