Let's get the important part out of the way: I have no idea what I'm talking about. I've been thinking, over the past couple days, about what kinds of guaranteed, enabled, or restricted travel help or hinder a functioning democracy, or a civilization with full class mobility.[1. I'm not saying those are the same thing, just that they've both been things I've been thinking about.] I'm writing this post not because I have anything profound or substantial to say on the subject now, but because I want to start looking into it more seriously. I hope to:
- Get down the ideas I have now, so I can look more carefully for sources that confirm or refute my beliefs,
- Look for spaces where I know I have gaps in my knowledge,
- Identify presuppositions that I might not be justified in making,
- Publicize where I'm at right now so that
- People who know stuff about this topic might correct me or give me hints about where to look, and
- People who know me personally will know that I'm looking for this sort of information, and send it my way when they encounter it.
There's an important difference between legal restrictions of freedom and practical restrictions
Really, the difference is pretty obvious: Everybody's allowed to leave their home and go live somewhere else, barring some legal issue specific to the individual, but most people still can't. The reason it's important is that ignoring the latter leaves out pretty much all of the content of this question, but most people still do that.
I think that restricting freedom of movement allows for corrupt sorts of control
The first thing that comes to mind is gerrymandering: if it's easy to keep everybody in firm, specific places, it's easy to manipulate the definitions of their areas to make those definitions suit your needs. But on the same line of thinking, and a much bigger deal, is housing segregation, like when people of color were denied access to suburban homes while white people were given cheap mortgages under the GI bill after World War II.
Failing to enable travel enables a stratified class system
If the ability to get around and choose where you live is a privilege based on finances, the way it is in the US, very nearly every kind of opportunity is tied to that privilege. Ideally, people should be able to get anywhere they want to go in the short-term, meaning comprehensive, affordable public transportation, and live anywhere they have a reason to, which means subsidized housing.
That kind of freedom of movement would radically change the organization of US education
If it were easy to move around based on school district, it would become easier to provide more fair public education. Or, at least, it would require a much more overt kind of oppression to keep impoverished people from attending rich people's schools. Or, rich people would lean even more on private schools. I don't know. I feel like there's a substantial case to be made here, but I'm not sure what it is.
State and country lines would become problematic in new and interesting ways
This one really depends on exactly what kind of changes were made to freedom of movement, so I'm not going to make any more points about it now.