charter cities ctd.


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Louis B. says:

    This is probably as crazy as birtherism, but…

    Has anybody given serious thought to going the British route and doing exactly that with Guantanamo Bay? That way the right could stop whining about how closing Gitmo means releasing terrorists on American soil since it would be combined with something else they love (entreprise zones). Not to mention it would be a pain in Cuba’s ass, something else conservatives love.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    So a Mexican Hong Kong would be free of its bad government. Would the drug cartels also just stay out, therefore leading to wondrous things? It’s easy to be a new Hong Kong when you start with all the advantages of the real HK.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The problem is that the majority of such labor is “unskilled”. The vast majority of people who take such jobs are people who can’t get better ones… or people who see such jobs as a huge step up from what they could otherwise get.

    I reckon the latter have less of a morale problem than the former… which, if all other things are equal, will result in the latter being hired more often than the former. Eventually, this may result in positive feedback.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Unskilled labor is usually required locally, to boot. If I am going to work some books as an accountant, I can do that pretty much anywhere (today, anyway). All I need is an internet connection and I can provide anything from accountant help to reading x-rays to unix tech support… all from a thousand miles away. If, however, a bed needs making, a tomato needs picking, a nail needs hammering, a table needs bussing… that needs to be done right here.

      A city a hundred miles away won’t give me what I need unless it’s full of knowledge workers.

      And we have one of those. It’s called Southeast Asia.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        I’d imagine part of the goal is to create a concentrated place in which to raise new human capital. (Yes I realize that sounds vaguely orwellian) Good public administration is as much a function of the civil service as it is of politicians. One of the things a colonial administration that requires the use of a well trained set of local bureaucrats is that it raises exactly that sort of public administration strata. Having that sort of people in control would then make a city more attractive to foreign investment and keep local talent in place, which I suppose hypothetically would mean there’d be better service jobs for unskilled labor.

        That said, the point does seem to boil down to: is there a competitive advantage (outside of any potential moral considerations, just purely on an economic scale) to establishing charter cities for anyone other than colonized state?Report

  4. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    So how many cities in latin america exist that have been occupied as colonial trading outposts by a major economic power and have all the bureaucratic and governmental functions as well as the human capital creation tools (education structures) that could sustain such a functional government?

    Hong Kong is the way it is now because of a hundred years of British colonial rule and deliberate cultivation as a center of trade. Not only that, it’s importance has suffered markedly since it returned to Chinese control even with the continuity in government. Do we really think someone could pull off a social engineering project of that size in the US? Really?Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I’m confused. These charter cities would be in Latin American countries – not in the U.S. And they would be, in essence, voluntary colonial cities, managed by outsiders – much like the colonial Brits managed Hong Kong. The idea is to replicate Hong Kong – voluntarily – in Central and South America.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Err sorry. I meant “in Latin America.” Not the US.

        I tend to think such a project wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell precisely because they ARE colonial projects and social engineering on a grand, grand scale. This seems to me as utopian and unrealistic as the “greeted as liberators” and “tide of democracies” idea that deluded much of the interventionalists pre-Iraq.

        The expenditures required to actually start up such a charter city would be immense. Who would manage this money? Where would you get the administrators? What sane country would ever give up sovereignty over its own soil? What people would actually accept any colonial rule?

        Moreover there’s simply no public policy training available with current crops of public servants and bureaucrats to even think of establishing a project of any sizable and useful scale. This seems like an idea with so many potential horrendous unintended consequences that it seems very very odd for libertarians to consider it seriously.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

          You don’t start a charter city from scratch. You take an existing city, and make it a charter city. Now, as to the “what sane country would ever give up sovereignty over its own soil?” that’s a legitimate question. I think the best possible answer is the U.S. I for one would be willing to let true ians somewhere start their own gig as a proof of concept.

          Future considerations included, assuming that humanity doesn’t find a way to wipe itself out or get nuked by some random gamma ray burst, you’ll see a charter city the first time we actually colonize some other planet or the moon. It’s entirely impractical to believe that a nation can truly have sovereignty over something that isn’t even connected to the same local gravity well, but there will be obvious tightly coupled relationships with the mother country for life supporting supplies, so the relationship will be not unlike a charter city.Report

  5. Avatar zic says:

    I can imagine this happening, but as company towns, owned and operated by multi-national corporations.Report

  6. Avatar Mr. Prosser says:

    This is all most intriguing. I think Jaybird is on the right initial track. “Cloud” data storage already presents a virtual charter city for information services. Actual cities may not be too far (relatively) behind. Anyone read Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age or his Data Heap ideas in Cryptonomicon?Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I actually keep meaning to read some Stephenson, but for whatever reason I just never get around to it….Report

      • Avatar Mr. Prosser says:

        Stephenson’s books look huge but read fast and are constructed so that the many internal stories can be followed independently. Diamond Age posits communities of like values which also are capable of independence through their economies. The author structures the city states as corporate. Cryptonomicon has a subplot involving the storage of data away from the prying eyes of national governments – a sort of Swiss Banking system of information, finance, commerce, etc. The protagonists set up their system on a tiny, independent Pacific island whose government provides infrastructure and security. Basic labor comes from the local population. The idea isn’t that farfetched. Co-opting the present Fijian junta could be possible. Other archipelagos exist throughout the south Pacific. By the way, I think the example of Singapore as a city-state is as good a present example as Hong Kong. Raffles set it up specifically as an economic free port.Report

  7. Avatar Jim says:

    ” Preventing immigrants from coming to the United States to work essentially creates a barrier to exit. Immigrants are forced to remain within the monopoly of their native state. ”

    That’s not what happens. The barrier does not have the efect of keeping illegal labor out; it has the effect of giving employers and effective tool to intimidate workers inot accepting pay at half or les the going rate.

    “Now, as to the “what sane country would ever give up sovereignty over its own soil?” that’s a legitimate question. ”

    If the money is right, a sane county might very well go for it. If the effects of proximity worked in its favor, a country might go for it. If enough corrupt officials made enough money off the deal, even an insane country might go for it.

    “You don’t start a charter city from scratch. You take an existing city, and make it a charter city. ”

    Panama City is evolviong in this direction already, and has been for a awhile. There was time when it aspired to be the Hong Kong to the cocaine cartles in the same way that Hong Kong was the Hong Kong of the opium trade.

    “I tend to think such a project wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell precisely because they ARE colonial projects”

    Colonial projects tend to succeed very well, at least for a few decades, maybe a century – look at our whole Middle East/oil policy. That’s the problem.Report