Where would you expect to see the first free city of the modern era? When people turn to economic freedom, it’s usually because there’s great need — and there’s great economic need in Honduras.
Economist Paul Romer has been talking about “charter cities” for some time now, and Honduras is taking tentative steps toward allowing the establishment of one or more of them. The country’s constitution has recently been changed to allow charter cities. There’s a lot that still has to happen before it becomes reality, but it’s a huge first step. (Here’s another Wall Street Journal story about it.)
For some background, read this page at Romer’s CharterCities.org website: A New City in Honduras
I learned about this project from Michael Strong, who’s been a passionate advocate for the idea of free cities. I strongly recommend watching his 18-minute talk at a recent conference in Honduras about free cities as an excellent introduction to the subject. Strong believes that free cities are a key to dealing with global poverty, and I agree. (The rest of the video from the conference is full of interesting ideas about the future of free zones around the world.)
One only has to look at Korea and see the very different ways a country can go when there is relative economic freedom. Even though South Korea isn’t the most free country in the world, it’s much freer than North Korea. In the south, people are living decent lives and their lifestyles are getting better. In the north, people are starving under a planned economy.
In Honduras today, there’s rampant poverty and great need. Could the establishment of zones of economic freedom turn the tide for the country and bring hope to those — like the young girl above — who need brighter futures? I believe so. It’s something worth working for, both for the people of Honduras and for those of us in the rest of the world. If it can be a proving ground for bigger projects, this could be the start of something big.