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Brexit, Voice, and Loyalty

PRINCETON – Albert Hirschman, who died at the end of last year, was a great economist with a gift for producing striking insights by focusing on an element of observable behavior as a way to transform our view of a whole range of particular problems. One of his most far-ranging insights was his framework of “exit, voice, and loyalty.”

Originally formulated after an experience with poor trains in West Africa, Hirschman realized that if a complex social system allowed people to leave (exit), its efficiency might deteriorate; a better solution would be to retain people (loyalty), which would give them incentives to articulate demands (voice) that would improve the system’s performance.