In talking here recently of the idea of autonomous (or at least semi-autonomous) cities within larger jurisdictions, I’ve intentionally ignored the differences between the ideas of “free cities” and “charter cities.” Zach Caceres reminded me Sunday that it would be a good idea to explain the similarities and differences between the two. (Watch Zach’s seven-minute TED talk about free cities here.)
Charter cities are the better-known concept, so let’s start with that. Economist Paul Romer originated the idea. He’s no starry-eyed libertarian dreamer. In fact, he’s much more in the mainstream of the modern social/economic/political structure than I am. Regardless, I believe his concept can be a springboard for something much bigger than what he has in mind.
You can see Romer’s original TED talk proposing charter cities here. (That’s Romer in the photo above.) More recently, he’s given another TED talk specifically talking about the progress of setting up such cities in Honduras. (If you missed it, I had a brief item over the weekend with news and links about the Honduras project, too.) Economist Russ Roberts interviewed Romer on the charter cities concept for the EconTalk podcast. (To subscribe to the EconTalk podcast — which I highly recommend — click here to get it free on iTunes.)
The idea of charter cities is great, but it doesn’t go far enough. What if we take the notion of charter cities and specifically set out to make them freer cities? That makes it far more interesting for those of us looking for freedom. I’ve learned the most about the free cities concept from Michael Strong, so I’m going to just point to his article outlining how his notion of free cities compares to Romer’s original concept. It’s a detailed comparison of the concepts, but it’s worth the read if you’re truly interested in the idea.
The era of the state system having a monopoly on power is coming to an end. Charter cities and free cities have a role to play in helping bring about the post-statist world. If you want to be part of build that world, these are important developments to keep up with.