In his work Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, author Albert Hirschman presents a way of understanding individual choice within an institution or organization. Hirschman gives the argument that many aspects of perfectly competitive markets are also applicable to the American political system. His primary interest involves studying what happens when firms, organizations, and states dysfunction, decline, and under-perform and how they receive feedback and correct their errors over time. Thus, this work looks in detail at individuals who are dissatisfied and the choices that they have available.
Hirschman cites two basic options that are accessible to displeased employees, consumers, voters, and political candidates: voice or exit. In the former case, the discontent individual expresses his concerns or dissatisfactions to those around him (superiors, colleagues, employees) in order to effect change. In the latter case, the individual simply decides to take his “business” elsewhere. There are, however, two subcategories of this option: (1) silent exit, in which this said individual does not voice complaints before or after his exit, and (2) exit with voice, in which he expresses his dissatisfaction before and/or after his exit.Order now
The two main options are often key choices in a political crisis. This fact is demonstrated in the case of Senator James Jeffords, who switched political parties in May of 2001 from Republican to Independent and thus shifted the balance of power in the United States Congress, an event with many extensive and significant implications. Senator Jeffords’ case is one of an incomplete exit with a marginal amount of voice both before and after his decision. Jeffords states that he expressed his objections with the new budget and education spending to President Bush throughout the first year of his term.
However, he did not make his discontentment known clearly or vehemently enough: in his piece My Declaration of Independence, he cites only a few specific instances in which he explicitly voiced his complaints to a superior. Despite the instances in which he informed the President of his concerns (that he would be a one-term President if he did not move beyond his Conservative Republican base on many issues) and told a CNN reporter of his qualms with the size of the tax cut, Jeffords did not use a strong enough voice until the spring of 2001.
By this time, budget talks were well underway and it was almost time to vote on this issue. Thus, he reserved his voice until it was virtually too late for it to be effective. It must be noted, however, that Senator Jeffords does allude to several instances (Republican meetings and more private settings) in which his voiced concerns were either ignored or looked upon with mockery, disbelief, and condescension.
These reactions do indeed give validity to his frustration and disillusionment. However, even in light of such causes for dissatisfaction, it was only after his departure from the Republican Party that he truly and publicly expressed his dissatisfaction and expounded upon the reasons behind it. It is now clear that along with his disagreement with the tax cut and education spending, he was also upset with removal of money from the budget for health programs.
It is only now that he cites disagreement on other fundamental issues such as: “choice, direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decision, missile defense, energy and the environment, and a ‘host of other. ‘” This failure to elucidate such disparities discredits his efforts and implies that he could indeed have used a stronger voice before deciding to give up and defect to another political party; an act that many view as disloyal to not only the Republicans but to the state of Vermont as well.