Paul Romer: He's Kind of a Big Deal

I suspect that the majority of readers of the DR are also interested in seasteading and related matters, so this is probably old news to most of the people here. But I think it's important enough to warrant at least a passing mention.

Stanford's Paul Romer recently launched a project very related to seasteading that he's calling Charter Cities. The basic idea is that governments in Third World countries should contract with other countries to manage parts of their territory. Think Hong Kong being run by the British but staffed by the Chinese. True, governments are still involved, so it wouldn't satisfy the ancaps here. But it has the advantage of (maybe) being more acceptable to governments and more likely to take off, and (definitely) easier from an engineering perspective.

(Which is easy for me to say I suppose. Although I'm quite enthusiastic about seasteading, I'm probably not nearly as radical in my beliefs as the average interested person. Singapore + drug legalization/end of conscription is probably good enough for me.)

Now, I'm not sure what Paul Romer thinks of seasteading, although I see that he's speaking at the Seasteading Institute conference this fall. But Charter Cities would be a major step in the direction of "intentional government", and strikes me as one of the most hopeful methods for helping the global poor that I've heard in a long time. I'll probably have more to say about that in some later posts. That alone bodes well for seasteading.

But here's my elitist reason for why I view this as such an incredibly positive development for the seasteading movement. As I see it, seasteading suffers from the view that it's about rich people evading taxes or smoking dope. But even more than that, it suffers from a overall weirdness factor that's difficult to overcome.

But Paul Romer is not some random grad student blogger like yours truly. He's not some kook railing about the evils of fractional reserve banking in 10000 word screeds. He's one of the more important economists alive today, a man who fundamentally reshaped how we think about economic growth. He's mainstream, and he's certain to win a Nobel Prize, probably in the near future.

The engineering challenges of seasteading are high, but perhaps more difficult is developing the idea that the government you live under should be a competitive choice. To the extent that mainstream, respected people promote this view, seasteading becomes more probable. Having people on your side like Paul Romer is a major step in that direction.

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heh

I'm very fond of the 10,000 word screeds that a certain kook writes about the evils of maturity mismatched banking, but I see your point. Credibility helps, for sure.

As you may have seen, I compared and contrasted seasteading & charter cities at A Thousand Nations. That was based on my thoughts after having coffee w/ Romer.

Not sure what you mean about "seasteading suffers from the view that it's about rich people evading taxes or smoking dope":

:)

Charter cities will

Charter cities will definitely be criticized as neo-colonialism.

I found this cool* article arguing that every decade of European colonialism in Atlantic and Pacific island increases modern GDP per capita by 5 to 6%.

The benefit of outsourcing your legal institutions can be quite large.

* being so not PC contributes at least 50% of the coolness factor

Colonialism

The basic idea is that governments in Third World countries should contract with other countries to manage parts of their territory.

Given the history of colonialism, has Romer addressed the image problem this might have for Charter Cities?

Ah ! Beat you to it.

Ah ! Beat you to it.

He talks about the

He talks about the difference between Charter Cities and colonialism a fair bit in his TED talk. There's no way that would satisfy everyone, although he's fairly explicit in wanting to set up the cities in empty land, which I really think should render the colonialism argument moot.