September Commentary

A summary of events in the charter cities space in September.

Updates

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Titus Gebel, a German entrepreneur just had his book, Free Private Cities, published in English. He was kind enough to thank me in the acknowledgements! He presents a radical libertarian, Rothbardian inspired case for free private cities. I am less radical than he is, and fear that such a strict property rights regime is unworkable in practice. However, he lays out the best case for it, and is worth grappling with. Further, he is interested in implementing his vision, and given his successful history as an entrepreneur, I wouldn’t bet against him.

Tyler Cowen discusses Chinese urbanization and economic development. I remain continually surprised by how underdiscussed these ideas are. At the World Bank Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference last Friday, the opening panel spent about 5 minutes discussing China. Tyler is a welcome corrective.

“Disney World is what it looks like if you give a corporation full control over an area of land as big as San Francisco.” Not only does Disney have full control, it also has a medium degree of autonomy from Florida. That being said, Disney’s attempts at creating communities, not amusement parks, haven’t been as successful, though they weren’t unsuccessful either.

The Economist has been the most prominent institution supporting Georgism over the last 5 years. Here’s one of their longer pieces.

McKinsey Global Institute is catching the new cities bug, but their article is a bit dated. Masdar is generally perceived as a failure, having spent about $20 billion to develop and area of 5 square blocks. Songdo is still relatively underpopulated.

There’s a lot of reporting on African cities. Here is the Financial Times on the fastest growing cities, which are African. Here is CityLab on urbanization without development, which is unfortunately common in Africa. Here and here are two articles about how Addis Ababa is beginning to resemble a Chinese city. Here is a new city project in Senegal, which my Senegalese friends tell me is mostly overhyped.

One of the challenges in building a charter city is protecting it from future state expropriation. International laws can help limit the risk, as Dubai Ports World successfully sued Djibouti over a port seizure.

Lastly, One Belt One Road marches on. Here’s a Sri Lanka project. Here’s an Omani project. And there’s pushback in Malaysia against OBOR.