Choice vs. Voice

In the course of reading many of the discussions held here on Catallarchy and around the 'sphere this summer, I remember thinking that the formulation of "Exit vs. Voice" seemed to be a dichotomy rigged for the statists. It reminded me of "love it or leave it", with your options as a dissatisfied individual in society being either rejecting society (and presumably becoming either a hermit or a bandit/rebel, depending on your preference for violence) or embracing political solutions (which may or may not address any of your concerns).

It would seem that the market, optimally, instead of providing "exit", rather provides choices for individuals. Yes, you may exit from one choice to another, but the alternative is to get what you want instead of 'fighting to be heard so that your preferences may or may not be addressed.'

Maybe it's just a semantic quibble, but I like that way of framing better.

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I strongly disagree. The

I strongly disagree. The "love or or leave it" argument for the legitimacy of government is entirely circular.

Q. Why gives the state authority?

A. The social contract.

Q. And what if people don't agree to the social contract?

A. They are free to leave if they don't like it.

Q. But what gives the state the authority to force them to leave in the first place?

A. The social contract

Q. But how can the social contract justify itself?

A. If you don't like it, leave.

Q. Um...

None of this implies that Exit is a bad thing, or is part of a dichotomy rigged for statists. The dichotomy of Exit vs. Voice is not "rejecting society" vs. "embracing political solutions"; rather, it is embracing political solutions or embracing market solutions. The market is the epitome of Exit: If you don't like Ford, you stop buying Ford and buy Honda; If you don't like Kroger, you stop buying Kroger and buy Whole Foods; and so on.

Voice also exists in the market; If I don't like the way McDonalds runs its business, I can (a) purchase McDonalds stocks and hope to gain a large enough share to influence investor voting or (b) run an anti-McDonalds publicity campaign encouraging McDonalds to change their ways. Boycotts are a mix of Voice and Exit. And although dissatisfied individuals in a market have both options, Exit -- not voice -- is more likely to bring about change, especially for the individual. The market is dominated by Exit.

Political solutions to dissatisfaction also contain both elements, but the role played by Voice and Exit are reversed. Politics is dominated by Voice. Political decisions are made (roughly) according to the votes of the electorate, while the only opportunities for Exit are political revolution (which is a public goods problem) and literal exit from the country - emigration. This is the kind of Exit you rightly oppose; not market Exit but political Exit.

In both cases, markets and politics, Exit gets you what you want, but Exit is much more costly in the political context and often entails large public goods problems.

Ack, that first question

Ack, that first question should read, "What gives the state authority?"

I think you misunderstand

I think you misunderstand me- I don't mean to suggest that Exit is a statist assumption, but rather that the connotation of Exit brings to mind alienation at first blush rather than simply leaving to do something else. I think that's the reason the term "exit" was chosen i the paper that originated the phrase- IIRC, it was a paper decrying alienation of people from their government or industries and suggesting that more "democratic"/political structures ("voice") be added to combat said alienation.

I could be wrong.

I believe you are wrong. I

I believe you are wrong. I just read the original Albert Hirshman article a few weeks ago, and although he does give both Exit and Voice a fair say, he certainly does criticize Exit in favor replacing it with Voice. About the only thing he complains about specifically is the fact that American politicians are much less likely to leave their political parties or administrations compared to politicians in other countries.

I should note that although

I should note that although I know nothing of Hirshman's politics, I found his article to be very libertarian (and ancap) friendly.

Is there a link to the

Is there a link to the Hirschmann article or is it paper-only?

[...] , in my view, an

[...] , in my view, an inherent part of democratic government. Apropos the recent discussion of Voice and Exit, the only solution I can see is creating a structure of governmen [...]

Brian, I just realized that

Brian,

I just realized that I mispoke earlier. The article I read was only a chapter taken from Hirschman's book, "Exit, Voice and Loyalty." So it is possible that Hirschman views Exit in a negative light in other chapters.

I haven't seen it online, but I will try to post a .pdf copy when I get a chance to upload it to the Catallarchy.net server.

Your set of questions at the

Your set of questions at the beginning is strange. You take the answer "they are free to leave as they choose" and respond "what gives the state the authority to force people to leave?" That's not a very good use of the word force, at least with consistency in mind. The answer should be "if you don't like it, change it."

This is a hard question, sure, but to act like the absence of a state but the structural enfrocement of capitalism (property rights, etc.) is any less of a contract is misleading.

Matt, the point of my

Matt, the point of my dialogue is to show how the "love it or leave it" argument is circular. If we are trying to investigate what gives the state the authority to rule in the absence of universal consent, we cannot turn to the fact that people are free to leave or change the system. That may be true -- people may be free to leave or change the system -- but that says absolutely nothing about the legitimacy of state authority.

Here's Roderick Long on the subject:

Now, one objection that's sometimes raised isn't so much an objection to anarchism as an objection to the moral argument for anarchism: well, look, it's not really a coercive monopoly. It's not as though people haven't consented to this because there's a certain sense in which people have consented to the existing system - by living within the borders of a particular territory, by accepting the benefits the government offers, and so forth, they have, in effect, consented. Just as if you walk into a restaurant and sit down and say, "Iâ??ll have a steak," you don't have to explicitly mention that you are agreeing to pay for it; it's just sort of understood. By sitting down in the restaurant and asking for the steak, you are agreeing to pay for it. Likewise, the argument goes, if you sit down in the territory of this given state, and you accept benefits of police protection or something, then you've implicitly agreed to abide by its requirements. Now, notice that even if this argument works, it doesn't settle the pragmatic question of whether this is the best working system.

But I think there is something dubious about this argument. It's certainly true that if I go onto someone else's property, then it seems like there's an expectation that as long as I'm on their property I have to do as they say. I have to follow their rules. If I don't want to follow their rules, then I've got to leave. So, I invite you over to my house, and when you come in I say, "You have to wear the funny hat." And you say, "What's this?" And I say, "Well, that's the way it works in my house. Everyone has to wear the funny hat. Those are my rules." Well, you can't say, "I wonâ??t wear the hat but I'm staying anyway." These are my rules - they may be dumb rules, but I can do it.

Now suppose that you're at home having dinner, and I'm your next-door-neighbor, and I come and knock on your door. You open the door, and I come in and I say, "You have to wear the funny hat." And you say, "Why is this?" And I say, "Well, you moved in next door to me, didn't you? By doing that, you sort of agreed." And you say, "Well, wait a second! When did I agree to this?"

I think that the person who makes this argument is already assuming that the government has some legitimate jurisdiction over this territory. And then they say, well, now, anyone who is in the territory is therefore agreeing to the prevailing rules. But they're assuming the very thing they're trying to prove â?? namely that this jurisdiction over the territory is legitimate. If it's not, then the government is just one more group of people living in this broad general geographical territory. But I've got my property, and exactly what their arrangements are I don't know, but here I am in my property and they don't own it â?? at least they haven't given me any argument that they do â?? and so, the fact that I am living in "this country" means I am living in a certain geographical region that they have certain pretensions over â?? but the question is whether those pretensions are legitimate. You canâ??t assume it as a means to proving it.

Note that I'm not claiming anything about the structural enforcement of capitalism. I'm merely showing how the "love it or leave it" argument is circular.

Well that's not what I

Well that's not what I meant. Can it be said that "you are free to leave" and "you are forced to leave" is the same? Because you imply parity between the two statements.

As far as your response is concerned- I agree that the social contract is a very strange thing indeed. I think the question of its intuitive just-ness is much more important than a question of its metaphysical status as a contract. You also might question, along the same lines, the rights of parents' authority over children who didn't choose to grant. I understand that is typically rationalized as excusable paternalism, but the real answer is "the authority seems just" and its justness does not lie in the justice of the contract itself, but an intutive justness, wouldn't you agree?

Can it be said that â??you

Can it be said that â??you are free to leaveâ?? and â??you are forced to leaveâ?? is the same? Because you imply parity between the two statements.

In the context of the argment, the two are essentially the same. The argument is about state authority, and whether or not it is legitimate. If I ask why I should follow the state's rules, such as wearing a funny hat, and am told in response that I must either follow the rules or leave, is the fact that I am given this choice enough to justify the act of restricting my choices to two? What gave the state legitimate authority to restrict my choices to two in the first place? Whatever granted this legitimacy cannot be the fact that I am free to leave, because that is circular.

I think the question of its intuitive just-ness is much more important than a question of its metaphysical status as a contract.

Right. I'm not challenging its historical accuracy; everyone agrees that it is just a thinking-tool. I am challenging its intuitive justification precisely because it assumes the very thing it is trying to prove.

You also might question, along the same lines, the rights of parentsâ?? authority over children who didnâ??t choose to grant. I understand that is typically rationalized as excusable paternalism, but the real answer is â??the authority seems justâ?? and its justness does not lie in the justice of the contract itself, but an intutive justness, wouldnâ??t you agree?

Of course, although I am skeptical that this is any sort of legitimate authority. Rather, it is a least-bad option in most cases, but in cases where a child chooses to do away with his parents authority and care for himself or find another guardian, I'm not so sure the parents have any legitimate claim on their authority. Incidentally, I wrote on this subject recently: Political Child Abuse.