In most cases, I will not respond to reviews of my book unless specifically asked to do so (e.g. at a symposium). Both the book and the review should stand on their own. But I’ll make a rare exception for this review of my book, “Free to Move: Foot-vote, Migration, and Political Freedom,” by Luma Simms of the Ethics and Public Policy Center on the Law and Liberty website. The reason for the exception is that the reviewer skews what the book actually says in a tremendous way.
Simms’ main complaint is that I am allegedly increasing the tight self-interest and selfishness of economists to the exclusion of everything else, that the purpose of the foot choices I advocate is to enable people to seek more wealth, and that I assume that people are purely rational and rational solely guided by reason:
We don’t have to go through the arguments [of the book] one by one, because there is only one thing, or rather no arguments, just assertions: Man is a rational being; his actions are based on individual decisions guided only by reason; his judgment must be independent and free from any coercion (including obligations and constraints arising from family, country or culture); if he deals with others it is entirely up to his choice; he must live by his own achievements, by his own happiness and self-interest; He has no moral duty to others. As such, man must have the political freedom to pursue his or her self-interest in order to achieve happiness …
In Somin’s world there is no love of place, no value for a sense of belonging, nothing that says, “These special people live here, and isn’t it wonderful that it is so.” It is a world populated by selfish and selfish automatons trying to enrich themselves.
Far from focusing solely on wealth, I emphasize throughout the book that foot-voting decisions are often the result of efforts to evade brutal repression, that they can expand political choice in a myriad of dimensions, and that the increase in foot-choice options Of particular value is the poorest and most downtrodden people in the United States and around the world. These are not just minor points referred to in a dark passage or footnote. These are central themes that I highlight repeatedly in almost every part of the book, beginning on page 2 of the introduction.
In Chapter 1, I also explain how foot voting promotes political freedom in relation to various prominent theories, such as: B. Consent theory, non-labeling, negative freedom and positive freedom. None of these are solely (or even primarily) about maximizing people’s ability to “enrich themselves”.
If I had thought that people “have no moral duty to others,” I would not have bothered to write the many parts of the book in which I claim that it is immoral and unjust for governments to exclude migrants and Restricting free movement on a large scale is what most are doing now. The points I make against such guidelines apply regardless of whether they serve the narrow self-interest of those who issue them.
Promoting economic opportunity is an important benefit of expanded footing, and I will cover this topic at length in several places in the book. For reasons I will elaborate on, this is of particular value to the poor and oppressed, who otherwise are condemned to lifelong poverty through no fault of their own because they are trapped under the rule of oppressive or dysfunctional governments. However, my defense of the economic value of foot voting does not mean that it is the only value, and it certainly does not mean that prosperity should be pursued to the exclusion of all other goals.
Nor am I suggesting that human actions are “only reason guided”. On the contrary, I emphasize in Chapter 1 that one of the advantages of foot voting over the traditional ballot box is that the former creates stronger incentives for people to contain irrational biases to which we are all, at least to some extent, vulnerable. But I also point out (in the same chapter) that completely rational decision-making is probably not achievable. The advantage of foot voting here is not that it eliminates irrational biases when evaluating information, but rather that it reduces its impact.
It is similarly wrong to claim that I reject any “love of place” or “sense of belonging”. On the contrary, I point it out (pp. 144-46) in response to a famous criticism by Albert Hirschman of foot voting, how the ability of people to vote with their feet enables many to find a home that is theirs Corresponds better to values and interests. This, in turn, increases “sense of belonging” and leads to greater investment and participation in community institutions (a point supported by the empirical evidence I have described).
I argue in the book that migrants – both domestically and abroad – are entitled to a presumed right to free movement and that governments can only rightly exclude them in some extreme, unusual circumstances. Much of the book (Chapters 5 and 6) is devoted to criticizing numerous reasons for a broader right of exclusion, including some that enjoy broad support. I also criticize several arguments that people have a moral obligation to stay in their countries of origin (or regions in some cases). This may have attracted Simms’ anger. If so, that’s fine. A book that rejects popular beliefs will cause some setbacks.
If Simms had tried to answer the points that I actually made, she could possibly have made a useful contribution to the debate on these issues. Instead, she attacks her own caricature.
The above points are a far cry from the only flaws and distortions in Simms’ review. But I’ll stop here because I think I’ve said enough to show that your review cannot be trusted as a description of what my book actually says.