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Will They Speak Esperanto In Charter Cities?

April 21, 2010

Of course not. But Sandy Ikeda offers some misgivings:

Yes, urbanization is crucial for economic development, as it always has been (despite the radio, the telephone, the car, and now the Internet).  But there is a disturbing lack of appreciation, at least on the official website, of how the design of public spaces impinges on city life and economic activity, especially via the formation of social networks that facilitate entrepreneurial discovery.  There is a certain “if you build it they will come” faith in the charter-city rhetoric that seems to discount what scholars such as Henri Pirenne and, more recently, Jane Jacobs have taught us about the evolutionary and emergent character of vital cities throughout history.  It’s no more possible to construct a living city than it is to construct a living language, and for the same reasons.

Read the whole thing. Ikeda raises a host of concerns including commitment and incentive problems.


  1. April 27, 2010 8:37 pm


    Good point. You’d want the local sovereign to put up a performance bond in escrow in a Swiss bank. Something like “violate the bill of rights and forfeit your bond.”

    Perhaps high-net-worth immigrants could negotiate side performance bonds. So Jim Rogers puts $100m in an escrow account, and Thailand matches. In which case any country not offering such escrows would seem risky.

  2. April 27, 2010 8:32 pm

    Singapore? Hong Kong? Disney Celebration? Philadelphia?

    I disagree with Sandy. You can build a city, but there’s a risk you won’t be successful. This risk seems lower if a company is doing it. My understanding is Romer’s agnostic on the public-private split on city-building.

  3. kurt9 permalink
    April 25, 2010 2:13 am

    I think Ikeda’s first argument is a real issue. Once a “charter city” becomes successful, it would be quite tempting for the host country to “take it back” or place other kinds of limitations on it. The political elites in the host country, parasites by definition, would feel threatened by a successful charter city, especially when that success comes from being free from those same parasites.

  4. Mike Gibson permalink*
    April 23, 2010 12:33 am

    Enrique, I stand corrected! But I didn’t say it was impossible to construct a living language, that’s Sandy Ikeda.

  5. April 23, 2010 12:07 am

    It seems that Mr Mike Gibson didn’t bother to check the facts, when he said that is not possible “to construct a living language”. About 120 years ago, Dr Zamenhof published his language that later took the name “Esperanto”.
    Today Esperanto is spoken in more than 100 countries, and facilitates the contact among people that doesn’t have any other common language. Searching the word “Esperanto” in Google, reports about 43 million hits … without counting pages in languages written with different alphabets, or use a different spelling for Esperanto, or pages written in Esperanto which don’t mention the word “Esperanto”.
    There are many advantages for people that use Esperanto. You can search the web, or start with this page
    Best wishes
    California, USA, who has been speaking Esperanto for more than fifty years.

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