From the Detroit News:
As the broken city thinks big and radically about its future, a developer is stepping forward with a revolutionary idea: Sell the city’s Belle Isle park for $1 billion to private investors who will transform it into a free-market utopia.
The 982-acre island would then be developed into a U.S. commonwealth or city-state of 35,000 people with its own laws, customs and currency.
City officials are likely to reject the plan. But on Jan. 21, supporters including Mackinac Center for Public Policy senior economist David Littmann, retired Chrysler President Hal Sperlich and Clark Durant, co-founder of Detroit’s Cornerstone Schools, will present the Commonwealth of Belle Isle plan to a select group of movers and shakers at the tony Detroit Athletic Club.
A young idealist named Octavio Sanchez is chief of staff to the president of Honduras. He gets an idea: What if you could cure all your country’s ills by just … starting over? In one little spot, you could create a whole new, perfect city. Do all the reforms you want to do in that one place — and if it works, it could spread to the whole country. But how could he pull off such a radical project?
This is a guest post by Edan Yago. He is a entrepreneur who studied neuroscience and philosophy. He comes from a long line of rebels and freedom fighters. His family fought Nazis as partisans and fought the Apartheid government of South Africa. Yago has continued this tradition in Israel where he was a conscientious objector to the military and has volunteered in both Jewish and Arab schools teaching the principles of freedom. –Editor
The future is going mainstream. Publications like the Economist, Forbes and the New York Times have finally figured out something that has been obvious to us for a while now – technology is moving at breathtaking pace; but, at the same time, we are experiencing a “great stagnation”, because vested interests are doing their best to limit change. Specifically, innovations like P2P sharing, virtual currencies, 3D printing, online education and DIY health monitoring are threatening the business models of large established players – everyone from big media to taxi unions. These vested interests are fighting back by smothering innovation with a blanket of labyrinthine regulations and patents.
What this boils down to is that our future is being stolen from us – because of a mismatch between the pace of technological change and governmental change.
For the last couple of decades, starry-eyed futurists, singulatarians and transhumanists have espoused a crazy “techo-utopian” idea: Technology is going to make things so cheap that abundance, rather than scarcity, will become the norm. Futurists have been the recent champions of this idea but they did not invent it. Intellectual giants of the past have been animated by this vision, which they could see as clearly emerging from the trends of technological progress.
John Maynard Keynes published an essay in 1930 – “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren“ – in which he predicted that, by 2030, society would become so rich that “for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” Not long after, in 1932, Bertrand Russell wrote “In Praise of Idleness”, where he suggested that technological and scientific progress should make it possible to reduce the work day to only 4 hours. However, way ahead of these two giants and far more influential, was a thinker for whom the increasing productivity provided by capitalism was the central idea in this thought. In 1848, Karl Marx described in the “Communist Manifesto”, a “society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production” that it needs to deal with an “epidemic of over-production.”
Marx realized that at some point, capitalism would make things so cheap, that capitalists could no longer be able to make a profit. When this happened, the capitalists would fight to limit abundance. Marx also predicted something else, that Big Business would try and capture whatever benefit could be squeezed out of technology to reduce its reliance on labor. So workers (the 99 percent) would find themselves, on the one hand, competing with technology for an ever decreasing slice of the pie and, on the other hand, forbidden by law to take advantage of technologies that could empower them. In other words, Marx predicted both DRM and outsourcing. It is this combination of being restricted from either end that brings Karl Marx and Milton Friedman to agreement – this is not a free market, it’s a rigged game.
Which is why we are now seeing right-leaning publications like the the Financial Times agree with the likes of Paul Krugman. The FT noted that “companies have an interest in sabotaging progress and efficiency because not doing so could lead to the sort of abundance that might make it impossible to monetise anything” and linked this to thoughts by Krugman, who believes this helps account for decades of wage stagnation in America.
This war, with technology and individuals on one side and Big Business and Big Government on the other side has only just begun. As technology increasingly has the potential to empower individuals at the expense of centralized power, the steps that vested interests will need to take to hold back the tide of progress will become increasingly draconian. We need to reorient our thinking around this problem. In a world where Marx and Friedman would agree with Krugman, Keynes and even Ray Kurzweil, the old political divides are increasingly irrelevant. Technological change is the dominant fact of our modern existence. We must figure out how to adapt our governments and rules to take advantage of progress. The new dividing line in politics is between those who are ready for an evolution in society and those who want the past to control the future.
Update–TSI responds to the story:
Our biggest grievance was the segment’s failure to recognize seasteading as a movement to enable multiple competing visions of governance. Professor Holly Folk, the expert featured to provide a counter-argument to seasteading, demonstrated her incomplete understanding of our strategy by focusing on potential problems with starting a new libertarian intentional community. She alleges a desire by seasteaders to “game the global system,” and claims libertarians have “a worldview that’s going to be attractive to people who are in some ways probably not hard-wired to behave and take orders very well.” The segment contains no evidence for the first allegation. Folk’s second claim might have some validity, but only if we were advocating a single community based on a contrarian philosophy.
Another disappointment was the labeling of our supporters as “rich techies,” a framing which hardly does justice to the diverse composition of our movement. The defining feature of our local meetup attendees has always been passion for alternatives to the governing status quo, and dedication to enabling a broad range of new communities experimenting with innovative solutions. Being so close to Silicon Valley, many of our local supporters are naturally interested in harnessing recent technological progress to advance humanity in other realms, such as the rules for organizing into peaceful and prosperous societies.
Additionally, the references to profits as the motivation behind our efforts are overdone. Yes, the Institute explores ideas for making seasteads economically sustainable, but profits merely exist to signal which seasteads are meeting the demands of citizens and customers, and to encourage innovation. Seastead communities will not be “built around profits” any more than existing communities on land, which of course depend on the existence of economic opportunity to support their citizens.
As diverse as our support is, it continues to frustrate us when the media pigeonholes the concept of seasteading as exclusively libertarian. Fortunately, history will not remember us for a particular ideology, but instead for our pioneering of a movement to improve all of humanity’s relationship to its governments, and to the planet. We are hopeful our true vision will still reach many of NPR’s listeners, and we appreciate the opportunity to be showcased to their audience.
The Tiebout model proposes that because entry and exit out of commuter towns are relatively easy, we should expect a competitive market in local governance. If, like Gerard Depardieu, you don’t like what you’re getting, you flee somewhere more amenable. Each town offers a bundle of goods–schools, street cleaning, parks, police–and each bundle has a price collected as taxes. And because people desire these goods in different degrees, we see, as the communities sort themselves out, a difference in the quantity and quality of amenities any town provides.
Bryan Caplan started things off recently by highlighting some absurd conclusions of the model: it implies local governments will not redistribute wealth from one population segment to another (and yet we see that it does) and it suggests we should see little waste in the provision of these local goods (and yet we know how our public schools are run).
Arnold Kling followed up with some more difficulties for the theory: exit is not frictionless and the bundling of local goods helps to pile on lots of pork.
David Friedman added a note for Bryan’s post:
What’s wrong with [the model] is that land can’t move. If the local government engages in exploitative taxation, pocketing the money, people move out. As they move out, land values fall. They stop moving when the drop in land value just balances the cost of the exploitative taxation. The implication, if the rulers are smart, is that they will produce an efficient bundle of services, but tax away the land value and pocket it.
One more point I’ll add to Arnold’s thought. Our friends and the networks we create take time to develop. As a child, I hated moving to a new school because it meant I lost my friends and had to make new ones. The same effect holds for growing networks in an industry. For example, there’s some evidence that startups located in a founders’s home region outperform those started in unfamiliar places. In addition, we come to grow attached to the businesses and vendors in a neighborhood. Routines enable trust. And so, whenever we move communities, we also lose the Hayekian local knowledge about where we live, all the little tricks such as what roads to run on and where to find parking places at the train station. Sure, all these difficulties can be overcome, but the pebble problems add to the burden of exit.
Patri’s P.S. Also see Bryan’s paper “Standing Tiebout on his Head” (linked at the end of his essay), and my response: Seasteading, Tiebout, and Federalism: Seasteading FTW
I did not.
Did you know that they speak a different romanic language and have a distinct and very rich cultural universe that more than 12 milion people share? Did you know that Gaudí, the architect of the Sagrada Família, was beaten because he spoke Catalan, or that the Barcelona FC (Barça) was created to promote the Catalan culture? Did you know that Catalans are forbidden to call a referendum about their own destiny or that they would be one of the richest countries in the world if they just weren’t plundered 10%+ of their annual GDP? If this is news for you, please read our site, spread the word, and help Catalonia.
This Help Catalonia website offers a mix of news and opinion on Catalonian independence. Here’s a promising op-ed from the former minister of the Catalonian government. He calls for a Hanseatic Mediterranean:
In Madrid, and here in Catalonia, the most conservative –to be found among the bigwigs of the economic or media status quo– will not admit that the push towards the construction of sovereign nations, though no guarantee, is seen as an opportunity for wholesale regeneration, unfeasible within the framework of dinosaurs unable to evolve.Indeed, if we look to the Europe that functions, it orbits around two seas that hosted the city-states of theHanseatic League: the Baltic and the North Sea. Where there were city-states, there are now nation-states. Homogeneous small and medium sized states emerging after the implosion in the 19th and 20th centuries of the old Russian, German, Swedish or Danish empires. The Baltic now features independent, dynamic, flexible republics of the global economy. And in the North Sea, Holland and Flanders, both ex-colonies of Spain, the latter in the process of emancipation; Norway, formerly belonging to Sweden; and Scotland, also claiming sovereignty.
Is it necessary to point out that the Mediterranean has never regained the prosperity and wealth it had, in relative terms within Europe, that it had in the times of the republic- and principality-states: Barcelona-Catalonia, or Valencia, Granada, Genoa, Provence, Florence, Venice and Naples?