Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong
May 21, 2009 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Prelude to Federation - Like a neocolonial SEZ (or TAZ) Paul Romer, not to be confused with David, posits "less developed countries contract with capitalist nations to set up Hong Kong's for them... that we rethink sovereignty (respect borders, but maybe import administrative control); rethink citizenship (support residency, but maybe import voice in political affairs); and rethink scale (instead of focusing on nations, focus on cities—on city states like Hong Kong and Singapore)." cf. neocameralism [1, 2, 3] posted by kliuless (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some weird orthogonal-maybe-good stuff here. I'm digging.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:02 PM on May 21, 2009


Ah... no:

In my ideal neocameralist state, there is no political freedom because there is no politics. Perhaps the government has a comment box where you can express your opinion. Perhaps it does customer surveys and even polls. But there is no organization and no reason to organize, because no combination of residents can influence government policy by coercion.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:24 PM on May 21, 2009


what anotherpanacea said. It starts off in the typically wankish libertopian vein but is not entirely uninteresting.

The main issue one can look at in any economy is where is the wealth creation, who is laboring to produce it, and who is pocketing the quasi-rents [econ-speak for "profits"] from it.

Contrary to the assertions of neo-classicals, the "pie" cannot be infinitely expanded; we can't have 10,000 trading megpoleis between Berlin and Hong Kong each adding value as entrepôts.

What will it take for the world to be uniformly healthy, wealthy, and wise? How do we get there from here?

I am an elitist because I consider most people in this country miseducated idiots, and I have the polling to prove it.
posted by toroi at 5:40 PM on May 21, 2009


^ non-sequiturs FTW.
posted by toroi at 5:42 PM on May 21, 2009


On the other hand... there's this:

When we were describing the broad sweep of human history, we talked about how hard it was for people to get used to the idea of freedom. There was another kind of adjustment that we had to make as well: We had to get used to the idea of the market, and especially market exchange among anonymous strangers. People often contrast this with the institutions of the family, where you've got notions of sharing and mutual obligation. Many of us have a deep psychological intuition rooted in our evolutionary history that makes us feel warmly toward the family and suspicious of large, impersonal, anonymous market exchange. I think that emotional impulse is part of what some of the environmental ideologues draw on when they attack the whole market system and corporations and modern science and everything.

This is a case where human psychology that was attuned to a hunter-gatherer environment is just a little bit out of touch with a new world that's much more interconnected, much more interactive, and in many ways a much more satisfying and rich human experience. You can idealize life in a hunter-gatherer society, but nobody wants to go through the frequent death of a child -- a very common experience for almost all of history that has been reduced a phenomenal degree within human memory.

posted by anotherpanacea at 6:44 PM on May 21, 2009


One thing to take away from this is that more people are recognizing that the era of nation-states that we've been living in since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia is coming to end. The solution of falling back to city-states & imposing an oligarchist class that rules over a population granted a reduced set of civil rights is not an equitable one, but it's sure to be given a try somewhere or other. I remain optimistic about the potential for finding a balance between stability & political equality in a post-Westphalian world, which this clearly isn't.
posted by scalefree at 6:56 PM on May 21, 2009


I think that emotional impulse is part of what some of the environmental ideologues draw on when they attack the whole market system and corporations and modern science and everything.

I don't know how someone can fold their brain that way to be able to have that thought come out.
posted by toroi at 7:21 PM on May 21, 2009


Romer suggests that we rethink sovereignty (respect borders, but maybe import administrative control); rethink citizenship (support residency, but maybe import voice in political affairs); and rethink scale (instead of focusing on nations, focus on cities—on city states like Hong Kong and Singapore.)

Romer may be on to something, but it sometimes seems like people gaze at Hong Kong and Singapore and see them as accidents. They both feature a highly motivated immigrant stream based on extended family connections, who bridge untapped Chinese markets (and others), combined with their naturally efficient deep water port cities, with rich warehouse taxes and tourism to support constant growth. It seems like several ripe conditions all at once. I'm having a hard time seeing how ideas alone could jump start these successes elsewhere, especially in Africa, where diverse natural resources are the main opportunity.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Port of Singapore is not a mere economic boon, but an economic necessity due to the fact that Singapore is lacking in land and natural resources. The Port is critical for importing natural resources, and then later re-exporting them after they have been refined and shaped in some manner, for example wafer fabrication or oil refining to generate revenue. Only then can the service industry such as hospitality services typical of a port of call, for example, restocking a ship's food and water supplies, take their role.
posted by Brian B. at 7:58 PM on May 21, 2009


I recently discovered that Singapore isn't as small as I'd imagined -- you can overlay the island over the Tokyo Metro area and it covers most of my old stomping grounds, from around Atsugi to the Sumida, and down to Kawasaki.

What it lacks in economic hinterland it makes up for by being perfectly situated between East Asia and West Asia. And once you have positive income from trading, you can invest in buying your economic hinterland.

like people gaze at Hong Kong and Singapore and see them as accidents

If I may sound on my usual economic rant, both states have implemented a LVT regime rather thoroughly. I read somewhere that the only privately-held land in HK is under the Anglican church there.
posted by toroi at 8:54 PM on May 21, 2009


If I may sound on my usual economic rant, both states have implemented a LVT regime rather thoroughly. I read somewhere that the only privately-held land in HK is under the Anglican church there.

Good point, toroi. LVT explained here, and proposed and defended here. Main point here, quote:

But land values in town centres, round train stations, where there's a nice view etc will always be much higher than at the margin. It is these much more valuable areas that are by definition restricted in supply, where the landowner makes windfall gains through no effort of his own. So by taxing those values, you do not depress productive economic activity - simply owning land is not an activity.
posted by Brian B. at 9:27 PM on May 21, 2009


It is interesting that Hong Kong and Hawaii have something in common--a large powerful country took over a smaller country (England over Hong Kong, US over Hawaii, and even Portugal over Macau). In each case, the country was not so much owned, as leased, with 99 year leases. Then, as the article says, they are allowed to run as economic zones.

There is little likelyhood of fairness when a large powerful country takes over a more defenseless one, but this looks like the best of a bad lot. I often wonder if something like this could be done with Israel and Palestine. Set up 99 year leases for all land taken over so far and for any new land. The Palestinians get paid for their land and eventually get it back in a generation or two. Initially expensive, but much cheaper then blowing each other up.
posted by eye of newt at 9:38 PM on May 21, 2009


I would think the ideal archetype of this model not as England with Hong Kong, but rather Hong Kong with Shenzhen. A great portion of everything you buy that is made in China was probably created in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong & Shenzhen is an interesting model — it's a city created out of whole cloth by Hong Kong entrepreneurs, with its factory-working population entirely out of outside migrant workers, building roots in the city (it was a backwater town before development). Developing a city with factories requires a lot of expertise that only first-world countries have, financing of factories, legal incorporation, and business management is ridiculously hard and non-trivial. A city-state like Hong Kong, who has previously gone through the development cycle of manufacturing center to service-sector has the experience to reproduce their model.

One could argue that a Shenzhen could be anywhere, and it seems as though the PRC is one step ahead in building these special zones in Africa (Zambia-China Economic Zone), which has significant geopolitical implications that isn't getting enough play in the mainstream press.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:07 PM on May 21, 2009


Hawaii was rather quickly taken over by some very sharp oligarchs. And what they didn't acquire outright, masses of real estate apparatniks successfully chiseled their way into ownership of.

I've been to Maui several times and am struck each time by how suckfull the island's development is, compared to what it could be given its income streams from tourism and abundant access to solar, wind, and perhaps geothermal energy. I blame A&B and the Realtors® who predate and artificially limit that real estate market like the human rent-seeking rot that they are.
posted by toroi at 10:13 PM on May 21, 2009


The Palestinians get paid for their land

"To prove a legal title to land one must trace it back to the man who stole it." -- David Lloyd George.
posted by toroi at 10:17 PM on May 21, 2009


Many of us have a deep psychological intuition rooted in our personal history that makes us feel suspicious of the family and warmly toward large, impersonal, anonymous market exchange. I think that emotional impulse is part of what some of the free-market ideologues draw on when they promote the whole market system and corporations while ignoring the antisocial impulses of those entities.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:29 AM on May 22, 2009


Romer's ideas are interesting, the "neocameralist" ideas are insane.

It's, just, like, a litany of wrong and begged questions, to the point where it's hard to even articulate all the fundamental problems. First off, despite his straw man of democracy, it's helpful to think of democracy not as the best system of government, but as the least-worst. Once you have a least-worst framing, you can understand why it's insane to posit migration as the only check on political power (and politics is inherent—any time you have finite resources and more than one person, you have politics), because the opportunity cost would largely outweigh benefit. You can see this with intra-state migrations, where people stay in places like collapsing small towns because it's less costly to stay than to leave. Emotional costs are costs too.
Then there's the problem that if you assume that personal and political freedoms can or should be decoupled, the political freedoms are the way that we have to defend our personal freedoms. It's fine to say that everyone has a right to contract, man, in the absence of a state, but who enforces those contracts? He keeps assuming laws without justifying.
Further, it's indisputable that personal self-interest does not always correspond with mutual self-interest—see tragedy of the commons. Quantifying this through profit only leads to the point that if it were profitable (net) for me to dump toxins in my neighbor's water I would.
Fundamentally, he's engaging in totalitarian thinking and dressing it up with some sort of minarchist libertarian bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 4:11 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


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