Voting with feet: facts, beliefs and public choice models in political science
There is a resurgence of interest in fiscal mobility among policy-makers in the UK and elsewhere. The famous 'voting with feet' result in Tiebout (1956) is central to this debate but is also emblematic of the public choice approach in political science. This article reviews critically a representative sample of the vast literature on the effect of differences in the tax-service bundle in different localities on residential mobility. Empirical work on Tiebout's model has been bedevilled by ambiguous results and methodological problems. Nonetheless, the model's result continues to be attractive to scholars and the progress of the fiscal mobility debate highlights crucial questions about the use of economic reasoning within political science. I argue that this is a case where public choice explanations have enjoyed an epistemological status independent of empirical verification and speculate on the reasons why.
Australasian Political Studies Association Conference 2005