Sunday, March 16, 2014

Open Borders Day - Run or Repair?

Today is Open Borders Day.

Even though I fully support open borders...Bryan Caplan has dedicated far more blog posts to the subject than I have.  This is because I'm fairly confident that tax voting (pragmatarianism) is a far more pressing concern than foot voting.

Maybe this might help shed some light on our priority disparity...
When you vote, the chance that you tip the outcome is near 0%, so you might as well just scream about your identity.  When you move, in contrast, the chance that you tip the outcome is near 100%, so you'd better consider cost and convenience. - Bryan Caplan, Expressive Voting, Emigration, and Alsace-Lorraine
Perhaps Caplan perceives that people really only have two options...

A. Ballot voting
B. Foot voting

Ballot voting won't change the outcome...but foot voting definitely will.  Well...for yourself.

If a house is burning...then certainly people should be free to flee.  But running away doesn't put the fire out. Running away doesn't make the space habitable again.  Running away doesn't help prevent future fires. The freedom to run away is absolutely essential...but it does absolutely nothing to solve the problem(s) that people are running from.

Personally, I think that people should have a third option...

C. Tax voting

If you perceive that immigrants pose a problem to the US...then you could...

A. Ballot vote for closed borders
B. Foot vote for a country with closed borders
C. Tax vote for the construction of a great wall

But the fact of the matter is...if we allowed taxpayers to choose where their taxes go...then proponents of closed borders wouldn't be able to complain about immigrants using public services that they weren't paying for.  This is because if a proponent of closed borders didn't want to spend their taxes on welfare...then rather than exit from the US...they could simply exit from welfare by spending their own tax dollars on other public goods.
Overall, government action seems likely to reduce the robustness of institutions and to exacerbate collective-good problems because removing the ‘exit’ option prevents individuals from judging how their personal contributions affect outcomes.  When taxpayers who fund failing programmes cannot exit with their own money, then the only form of accountability left is that of democratic voice.  Yet, given the minuscule chance of affecting the result of a large-number election it is rational for voters to remain ignorant about the relative effectiveness of specific programmes.  It is precisely this ignorance that may allow opportunistic behaviour to go unchecked. - Mark Pennington, Robust Political Economy
There are numerous failing government programs that we are forced to fund.  They are failing because, unlike in the private sector, consumers aren't free to use their own money to define "success".

In order to try and help drive the point home that foot voting is a very distant second best option...imagine if we applied our current system to the private sector.  Let's say that you perceive that Britney Spears is a problem.  Your only options would be...

A. Ballot vote against her
B. Foot vote for another country

How defective would our private sector be if dollar voting wasn't an option?   It would be just as defective as our public sector.  Not just our public sector...but every country's public sector.

How much do you value not being forced to purchase a Britney Spears CD?  How much would you value not being forced to fund an atrocious government program?

Am I missing something?  Why does Bryan Caplan believe that opening borders between countries is more important than opening borders within countries?  Isn't it a far more pressing concern that taxpayers aren't free to shop in the public sector?  Aren't command economies the primary reason why people flee in the first place?

Basically, why is Caplan attacking the symptom rather than the disease?

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