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No to Charter Cities in Haiti

January 18, 2010

Jonathan Wilde and Alex Tabarrok asked. Romer replies:

Contrary to what some have suggested, a charter city in Haiti is simply not an option at this time. A charter city can only be created through voluntary agreement. Under the current conditions, the government and people of Haiti do not have the freedom of choice required for any agreement reached now to be voluntary…

There is a natural complementary approach that is a much better bet than giving colonialism another chance—letting Haitians migrate somewhere with better governance and rules…

Competitive pressure from emigration might also speed up progress toward better governance in Haiti. Demonstrated successes for Haitians who live together in other places with better rules might offer a model for reform that people in Haiti could follow. Even then, good governance may not emerge there. But if there were places where all Haitians could go, no one would have to be trapped by this failure.

There are clear limits on the number of Haitian immigrants that nearby jurisdictions are currently prepared to accept. But if nations in the region created just two charter cities, they could accept the entire population of Haiti as residents. There are many locations close to Haiti where these new cities could be built, but for now, Haiti itself is the one place we should not consider.

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