Exit, Voice, and Freedom: An Example
By Arnold Kling
Following up on this post and this one, let me try to offer a hypothetical example of freedom without democracy. Maybe Will Wilkinson can comment on the example in a way that sheds light on what he is thinking, because I am not following him.
Here’s the deal: Suppose that a new non-territorial state is created. Call it Liberista! To become a citizen of Liberista!, you just pay an annual fee. You pay no taxes to the state. As a citizen of Liberista!, you can live anywhere that Liberista! has an embassy compound. Liberista! leases compounds in countries all over the world. Liberista! embassy compounds are as ubiquitous as Hiltons, but many of them have space for large sections of single-family homes, office parks, and so on.
Living in an embassy compound as a citizen of Liberista!, your status with respect to the host country is comparable to that of a diplomat. You can travel freely within the host country, but you are exempt from income and property taxes. However, the government of Liberista will expect you to pay your traffic tickets and to otherwise not abuse your diplomatic status. Services like utilities, water, and trash collection must be purchased from providers in the host country. Perhaps you contract for these as an individual citizen, or perhaps you allow Liberista! to contract on your behalf and collect a fee from you.
Liberista! is managed like a hotel chain. As a citizen, you have no more right to vote than does somebody who patronizes a Holiday Inn. You can, of course, make suggestions and register complaints.
Of course, there may be competing transnational enterprises, each with franchises–er, embassies–all over. Such a world is described in Snow Crash, and I make no claim to originality.
If there were a Liberista! franchise close to where I live, I would move there. But moving to Virginia would be a loser for me, because my wife spends a lot of time taking care of her mother in Baltimore, and the last thing we need to do is lengthen that commute.
I am not saying that one could not shoot all sorts of holes in this model of citizenship in competing transnational entities. But I think we ought to think outside the box of territorial monopoly government. In my view, once we get outside that box, then exit becomes a plausible alternative to voice.
If you value freedom, then I think that exit comes out way ahead of voice as a mechanism by which people can express their preferences. Of course there may be other values, apart from freedom, that you think have a sufficiently high priority that you want to force people to live under governments that have large territorial monopolies. But that is a different argument.