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Ten Practical Steps Towards Creating a Nozickian Utopia of Utopias

September 8, 2009

This guest post comes from Michael Strong. He is the CEO of FLOW, Inc., and the author of Be The Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All The World’s ProblemsMichael will be speaking at the Seasteading Conference in SeptemberEditor

The how-to-guide for letting a thousand nations bloom, in ten steps:

One: Create a new city in the developing world using a private developer that provides World-Class legal and physical infrastructure for the city, and distribute dividends from the city to the government and people of a given nation as well as health care and education for the city.  Create a sliding scale whereby the proportion of dividends going to government and citizens changes over time from equal shares to 100 percent citizens shares.  For instance, the city could be owned 60 percent by the private developer, 20 percent allocated to education and health care, and 20 percent to government and citizens.  Initially this last 20 percent could be divided equally between government and citizens, with gradually shifting over the course of 30 years to all 20 percent going directly to the citizens (Thanks to Mark Frazier of Open World for proposing similar vesting strategies).  To get a sense of the possible scale of such cities, New Songdo City in South Korea is a $35 billion development, the largest private real estate project in the world.  A key difference between the Songdo project and Free Cities as proposed here is that the Songdo project, although it is in a Free Zone, relies on existing Korean law.  The single greatest advantage that the proposed Free Cities will have (similar to Romer’s Charter Cities), is that they will run a world-class legal system (U.S., Singapore, Hong Kong quality or better).  Because most developing nations have legal systems that provide significantly weaker business environments than do those nations ranked most highly on economic freedom indices, a change in legal system within a Free City located in a developing nation should provide a significant gain in previously unrealized wealth creation possibilities.

Two: Create a second, third, and fourth such Free City, and so on.  Encourage the replication of Free Cities based on a similar model on the grounds that it is a proven technique:

  • For jump starting economic development within the city and thereby within a given nation-state.
  • Distributing newly created wealth to the government and citizens of a given nation-state.
  • For funding innovations in health care and education that would otherwise not come into being.
  • For creating and maintaining cutting-edge innovations in urban infrastructure and other city-scale “public goods.”
  • Although one can make a libertarian case for allowing individuals to make their own decisions with respect to education and health care, many developing world nations do not have adequate pipelines for talent or adequate institutions for contemporary health care.  Insofar as they rely on the legacy institutions designed by the mainstream establishment, their institutions will not be optimized for progress in the 21st century.  Moreover, insofar as existing mainstream organizations – academic, NGO, journalistic, and multi-lateral institutions – use education and health care statistics as metrics of progress, we want our cities to outperform existing legacy institutions quickly and decisively.  Insofar as the Free Cities are managed as for-profit institutions, they will have an incentive to optimize their education and health care systems.  In the long run, with thousands of Free Cities, we will gradually discover the extent to which city-level, for-profit Free Cities are an appropriate decision-making unit for diverse services vs. the extent to which they delegate such decision-making to their city’s citizens.  Some Free Cities will want to more centralized control of such services, others will want less.  Some corporations and some private communities are highly centralized, some are highly decentralized.

    Three: Finance an intellectual, activist, and public relations movement on behalf of this strategy for alleviating poverty around the world.  One way to do this is to allocate a portion of each new city development project to fund intellectual, activist, and public relations content producers on behalf of the Free City movement.  For instance, if each of a series of content partners to a Songdo-scale development received .1 percent of the deal, each such content partner would receive $35 million.  The combination of privately funded universities, think tanks, activists and NGOs, and public relations organizations, all of whom find their financial destinies tied to that of the Free City movement, could find themselves receiving reliable revenue streams in the hundreds of millions, and then billions of dollars over time.  Ideally their funding would be tied to the annual GDP growth of the Free City or to the value of equity shares in the corporation managing the Free City.  The cumulative scale of such funding dwarfs the investment made by Charles Koch in the libertarian movement.

    Four: Create a coalition of such cities and other entities who persuade and lobby both nation-states and international organizations on behalf of greater autonomy for such jurisdictions as well as for the open-ended creation of new jurisdictions.

    Five: Create a network-node basis of global governance that ensures that dangerous activities (terrorism, money-laundering, the creation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and the rest.) are adequately constrained while also allowing much greater freedom with respect to economics, governance, and lifestyle.

    Six: Document the progress in wealth creation/poverty alleviation, health, and education due to this new paradigm and the delta of this approach vs. the mainstream establishment approach.  Document definitively the extent to which the mainstream academic establishment has, through poor judgment with respect to its understanding of the free enterprise system, been responsible for more than a century of unnecessary war, poverty, human degradation and misery.

    Seven: Create and continuously re-affirm a heroic narrative in all education, journalistic, entertainment and scholarly materials showing the escape from the dark ages of statism and the importance of maintaining a system of Free Cities around the world.

    Eight: Encourage the withering away of remaining vestigial nation-state governments by means of a movement whereby citizens around the world demand direct Citizen’s Dividends rather than allowing the governments to continue to take their wealth from them.

    Nine: Allow the network-node global governance system to interact directly with city-scale free entities and bypass relationships with nation-states.  The nation-state system may continue to survive for sometime, perhaps for centuries, but as an increasingly irrelevant atavism, playing a role in world affairs similar to that currently played by the British monarchy.

    Ten: Further human progress takes place by means of endless entrepreneurial improvement in Free City developments and the network-node system of global governance.  The future of humanity consists of endless advances in health and happiness, discovery, adventure, and creation, a Nozickian Utopia of Utopias.

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    15. April 14, 2011 8:40 pm

      Great post. Love the size of vision, but instead of thinking on the scale of new cities, we can think in terms of a game that people can play within existing citites and landscapes. This game would generate real wealth through the harvesting of natural production (farming, fishing, etc) that people can consume to create more value (fabrication, art, enterprise, etc) and exchange outputs with each other through game mechanics.

      This is becoming easier and easier as emergent networks of coworking spaces and ecovillages coalesce, as free/libre/opensource technologies mature and gaming frameworks become more modular and deployable. Sarapis Foundation and our partners are working on a prototype in the New York area that connects rural PA with NYC through a network of farms, coworking facilities and a gaming scheme.

      We need lots of help, including a ‘world-class’ legal framework to this system. Almost done with an explanatory presentation that I can send to you if you’re interested.

    16. O.T. permalink
      September 8, 2009 7:54 pm

      Brilliant, Michael! Always brilliant. Thank you. I’d love some links to relevant reading.

    17. O.T. permalink
      September 8, 2009 7:51 pm

      Brilliant, Michael! Always brilliant. Thank you.


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