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September 1, 2014 1:38 PM   Subscribe

"'I'm not here to defend or condemn a law that I didn't make or a project that I don't know about,' Cruz tells the crowd. 'But we need to be open to investment.'" "In May, the Supreme Court of Honduras ruled in support of a constitutional amendment and attendant statute that allow for the creation of 'zones for economic development and employment'. These are "quasi-sovereign entities built on Honduran soil with backing from foreign investors".

The idea grew from a TED talk given by Paul Romer.

"Critics worry that evidence to date -- the government's opaque approach, the ZEDEs' undemocratic features, the cast of characters backing the scheme, and the vulnerabilities of people likely to be affected by development -- indicate that charter cities would be little more than predatory, privatized utopias, with far-reaching, negative implications for Honduran sovereignty and the well-being of poor communities. "

The inspiration for the idea is Hong Kong, but one commenter points out "mainland China had other areas that were so dominated by foreigners they too might be described as Charter Cities. Shanghai in the early 20th century had signs reading: No Dogs, No Chinese – and yet it didn't boom like Hong Kong did."
posted by TheProudAardvark (23 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like a plan Hyman Roth would approve of greatly.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:43 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Planet Money covered this a coupla years ago when it was still in the "Hey, what if we..." stage. I'm astounded that it's actually happening.
posted by Etrigan at 2:04 PM on September 1 [4 favorites]


It'd be great if we could give libertarians the petri dishes they want for their radical experiments without harming real people. Of course when the experiments fail, they'll blame the outside world rather than the policies.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:10 PM on September 1 [5 favorites]


Capital wins smore.
posted by anthill at 2:19 PM on September 1


If these are "quasi-sovereign" int he way the article describes them, they aren't even libertarian, really; they're corporate city-states built through a government selling off land. Granting that plenty of self-described libertarians support stuff like this, there's plenty of room for it to be blamed on outside forces *and* hurt lots of people before it ends.
posted by kewb at 2:20 PM on September 1


OK, but since there is no such thing as a pure libertarian experiment in a global and connected economy (leaving aside edge cases like a moon colony) I see this as a distinction without a difference. Libertarians (well, the ones who lean in the Rothbard/Hayek/Rand direction, anyway) cheerfully support things like this as stepping stones to a pure libertopia.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:26 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Planet Money covered this a coupla years ago when it was still in the "Hey, what if we..." stage.

That Planet Money story was also adapted into a segment of This American Life.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:27 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Who doesn't throw rotten eggs at some fucker who handwaves away the DPRK's reasons for their lack of modernization as "regulations"?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:28 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Wasn't Romer the guy in the dotcom bubble who claimed that merely having ideas (no matter how stupid or unworkable) was a valid asset and measure of wealth?
posted by PenDevil at 2:49 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


In my terse reading, these zones just appear to be municipalities - able to make their own regulation, but subject to national regulation. What's missing is how the regulations are made. Do the residents of these zones have any say on the laws that govern them?
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:02 PM on September 1


The CAMP is stacked with free-marketeers, mostly non-Honduran: Barbara Kolm, the libertarian president of Austria's Hayek Institute; Cato Institute senior fellow Richard Rahn; Ronald Reagan's son Michael; Mark Skousen, producer of the libertarian FreedomFest conference; U.S. anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist; and even a member of the Habsburg family.

Sheesh. Who gets the eyepatch and the Persian cat on their lap?
posted by gimonca at 3:08 PM on September 1 [10 favorites]


tonycpsu: "It'd be great if we could give libertarians the petri dishes they want for their radical experiments without harming real people. Of course when the experiments fail, they'll blame the outside world rather than the policies."

We gave them Chile, with mixed consequences.
posted by pwnguin at 3:51 PM on September 1


Same old lame jokes over and over on an endless loop.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:30 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Ah, the Special Economic Zone. So friendly to foreign investment. What could possibly go wrong over the last several decades.

Ooh. Cheap clothes and electronics! Gimme!
posted by clvrmnky at 5:14 PM on September 1


This is the next step toward the neoliberal endgame, in which capital isn't simply the master of the government, it is the government. This is a direct, open assault on the health, wellbeing, and ultimately lives of the working people the perpetrators of this crime are planning to employ. When the hands of capital aren't tied by regulation, people die- quickly in preventable accidents caused by unsafe working conditions or a lack of product safety regulation, or slowly from chronic conditions caused by hazardous and unhealthy working conditions. And this isn't about creating places where health and safety regulations exist. Heck, don't believe me, check out those backers:
The CAMP is stacked with free-marketeers, mostly non-Honduran: Barbara Kolm, the libertarian president of Austria's Hayek Institute; Cato Institute senior fellow Richard Rahn; Ronald Reagan's son Michael; Mark Skousen, producer of the libertarian FreedomFest conference; U.S. anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist; and even a member of the Habsburg family.
If this wasn't about making a ton of money by being free from the obligation to not shorten a lot of lifespans and damage a lot of bodies that regulation places on capital, these vermin wouldn't be interested. That's a mini-rogue's gallery of people who've spent decades advocating for the right of capital to destroy human health, wellbeing, and lives in the pursuit of profit, and that they're advocating for the ZEDEs is the surest sign anybody could ask for that the ZEDEs are straight from Hell. It's only ignorance, naivete, or active malevolence that can make the ZEDEs look like a good idea.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:36 PM on September 1 [8 favorites]


Or since this is the internet, let me rephrase that with a nerd reference: If you think Rapture is a good idea, you either need to be jailed or committed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:37 PM on September 1 [2 favorites]


Evidence of recent months indicates that people who live in Central America would much rather live in the United States.

Given that, why not bring some United States to them?
posted by Hatashran at 6:01 PM on September 1


We gave them Chile, with mixed consequences.

This is the problem with neo-liberal experiments: they never give the result the experimenters are looking for, so they keep conducting the experiments over and over, tweaking the parameters a bit, hoping that one day their policies will produce something other than a complete fucking disaster, at least once. At which point the experiment will be deemed a success.

Though it never has produced anything other than a complete fucking disaster and they declare it a success anyway, enthusiastically rolling it out all over the world.

With any luck, the people of Honduras are the kind of motivated, spirited types who will ultimately give us the Libertarian heads on sticks that we're all aching for.
posted by Grangousier at 1:13 AM on September 2


So how long until you can buy people

Or buy "contracted labor" or some shit like that
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:10 AM on September 2


That quote at the end is asinine. Yes, Shanghai did boom like Hong Kong in the era of the concessions. So did some of the other concessions like Tsingdao. It's worth considering the cost, but pretending there was no benefit is absurd.
posted by datadawg at 3:34 AM on September 2


This needs to be packaged as a reality TV show: Like Utopia, but with more Galt's Gulch. I would definitely pay to watch this. Endemol, are you listening? The TV rights would defray some of the operating costs, and those people would at last be of some value to other people, through sheer entertainment. The TV contract, of course would stipulate that nobody leave for two years.

Or I could just wait for "High-Rise" to come out.
posted by bjacques at 3:35 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


This is the problem with neo-liberal experiments: they never give the result the experimenters are looking for, so they keep conducting the experiments over and over, tweaking the parameters a bit, hoping that one day their policies will produce something other than a complete fucking disaster, at least once.

Don't forget Iraq. In 2003, just a few months after the invasion, while the entire country was a sea a chaos -- daily bombings, sectarian murders, looting, no electricity, no water, etc -- Bush's clueless appointed administrator, Paul Bremer, as his first official act instituted a flat income tax with the stroke of a pen, something they had dreamed of for decades in the U.S.
posted by JackFlash at 8:34 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


"That quote at the end is asinine." datadawg is correct about the booming Shanghai economy.

I will have to search for another example of this type of colonialism not always leading to economic benefit for the local population.

I am still inclined to agree with this quote of Arundhati Roy that I found. “Debating Imperialism is a bit like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we really miss it?”
posted by TheProudAardvark at 4:35 PM on September 2


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