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Political Ramifications of an Interstate Market for Sovereign Territory

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Apropos of “This could, in turn, inspire a beneficial competition between states seeking to acquire or retain citizens and valuable territory”: Isn’t there already interstate competition to acquire and retain citizens? After all, people can and often do move to other states. This is a bit simpler than shaving off bits of territory. So that leaves “beneficial competition” to retain valuable territory as something to be inspired; but it isn’t clear to me why this would necessarily be beneficial.

  2. Joseph Blocher says:

    A.J.: I think that’s right – citizens’ mobility surely inspires some interstate competition to retain them, just as the ability of businesses to select their state of incorporation is thought to inspire competition for corporate charters. I’m less sure, though, that counting on people to move will always be “simpler” than adjusting borders. After all, moving – especially moving interstate – is extremely costly in terms of money, time, energy, and so on. So long as there are some situations in which a border is less sticky than residence (i.e., the combined moving costs of individuals), couldn’t the border change be comparatively beneficial?

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    I’d be more open to your suggestion if you can show how a border change could enable one to move from New York to California, as I did by jet a couple of decades ago. But even if you could stretch the Golden State to the shores of Lake Erie, the would-be interstate migrant wouldn’t necessarily want to wind up so close to home. It’s worth noting that my CA move was to Los Angeles for a job; there are plenty of places in the state that I would never move to. People often want to move to a specific metro area (which may already be multi-state, as in the case of NYC, DC, St. Louis, etc.), not to a specific state. Border shifts, even where feasible, don’t necessarily reduce the expense of such a move.

    Considering all the disadvantages of border shifts that you mention, it’s hard to imagine that the subset of cases of people who want to move a relatively short distance across a border would justify such a drastic solution, instead of just leaving it up to them to move. In fact, the number of cases that might benefit is even smaller, since your hypothesis is that they want to move across the border for reasons unrelated to any desire to live in a different physical environment — a border shift means they’d be in the same town, same neighborhood, etc. as before. You assume that people move in order to be subject to different laws; how common is that? In any case, the assertion I questioned was that the competition to retain territory would be beneficial, not whether border shifts might benefit some people.