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neocolonial OCP-like company towns: changing the rules (in a good way)
June 10, 2010 7:28 AM   Subscribe

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty In the 1990s, Paul Romer revolutionized economics. In the Aughts, he became rich as a software entrepreneur. Now he's trying to help the poorest countries grow rich—by convincing them to establish foreign-run "charter cities" within their borders. Romer's idea is unconventional, even neo-colonial—the best analogy is Britain's historic lease of Hong Kong. And against all odds, he just might make it happen. (via cc) posted by kliuless (92 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Colonialism, Free Trade, Fair Trade, and Charter Cities: Westerners simply do not have a plan for interacting with the Third World that does not involve economic exploitation. Were we interested in truly helping the poorer countries, we would work to make them more self-sufficient and capable of providing for their own needs, so that they might develop their own economies. Instead we simply find ever more ways of getting them to prostitute themselves to us- their resources, their land, their people, their labor.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:36 AM on June 10, 2010 [32 favorites]


When the cold war started, The U.S. wanted Japan (which we occupied) to serve as an exemplar for capitalism. Something that would show the world how great capitalism was. And as we all know Japan's economy took off. But the way we did it was to allow the Japanese access to our markets while the Japanese were allowed to deny us access to theirs. What people don't understand is that the U.S. actually made economic sacrifices to help the Japanese economy recover from the war.

But on the other hand modern "free trade" allows competition both ways, which of course floods their markets with our stuff. Instead of helping those countries grow economically, they just become customers for us.

This charter cities thing. It seems exploitative. But the interesting thing here is that would allow experimentation in government again. If we were going to setup charter cities based on different economic philosophies, we could see how they ended up working out. But I think what we'll see is a bunch of Chicago school bullshit that lets the rich basically make a ton of profit off these places without creating much benefit for the poor.

Of course, the government officials have everything to gain from creating vast wealth for the upper classes in those countries, so I suppose it makes sense from their perspective.
posted by delmoi at 7:43 AM on June 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


And by 'politically incorrect' we really mean 'patriarchal, exploitative and offensively wrong in a way that totally disregards the ACTUAL best interests of the populace', right?
posted by FatherDagon at 7:52 AM on June 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


"Politically Incorrect" is from the article title.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:53 AM on June 10, 2010


WesternersCapitalists simply do not have a plan for interacting with the Third Worldpeople that does not involve economic exploitation.
posted by DU at 7:55 AM on June 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


I think I prefered it when all the rich pseudolibertarians were going to live on one huge, easily sinkable boat.
posted by Artw at 7:56 AM on June 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


Mumbai (Bombay) also comes to mind, basically a colonial artifact. It would be an interesting experiment to compare countries that had colonialism versus those that didn't. Sort of like comparing how countries that were conquered by Napoleon turned out better in the long run that those that were not, they modernized economically and politically faster for a number of reasons. It's a "natural experiment" which Jared Diamond recently wrote about.
posted by stbalbach at 7:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's annoying to see the words "Politically incorrect" being used as a shorthand for "Correct, but something those dirty hippies don't want you to know!!"
posted by delmoi at 8:00 AM on June 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


But the interesting thing here is that would allow experimentation in government again.

Because using developing nations as our own political petri dish has worked out so well in the past?
posted by JaredSeth at 8:14 AM on June 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Capitalists simply do not have a plan for interacting with people that does not involve economic exploitation.
Yeah, our models should be all those successful economies that have soundly rejected capitalism.
posted by planet at 8:20 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because using developing nations as our own political petri dish has worked out so well in the past?

Well, I gave an example, Japan, where it worked out well. Hong Kong and Singapore are also examples of individual cities that did well. There are a lot of countries that were impoverished at the start of the 20th century, or totally undeveloped at the start of the 19th which are doing well now. The thing is they were developing, and now they're developed.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 AM on June 10, 2010


Yeah, our models should be all those successful economies that have soundly rejected capitalism.

Yeah, it's almost as if having capitalist countries constantly trying to destabilize your economy or funding insurgents trying to over throw your government could cause economic problems.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 AM on June 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


takes one quick glance, swallows bile back down and heads out the door for a stiff one on the rocks
posted by infini at 8:42 AM on June 10, 2010


10 JUNE IS INTERNATIONAL ALLCAPITALISM DAY!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:43 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The thing about economic growth is that we don't have a really great idea of what works. In the 20th century a handful of countries have grown pretty dramatically, moving in 50 years from amoung the poorest countries in the world to just below the richest countries in the world. I think the big lesson you can take away from this is that the way to grow rich is by being next to a threatening communist country and to have rich countries have a large stake in your success. If south vietnam existed today it would likely be amazingly prosperous. Either that or have a lot of oil per capita.

I think charter cities would work fairly well but I don't think it would be terrribly informative. Powerful stakeholders would be willing to invest resources into proving that they're way of running things was the best and the investment.
posted by I Foody at 8:44 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "....Were we interested in truly helping the poorer countries, we would work to make them more self-sufficient and capable of providing for their own needs, so that they might develop their own economies..."

But, but... "rising tide... all boats... 'n all o' that..."
posted by symbioid at 8:45 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's annoying to see the words "Politically incorrect" being used as a shorthand for "Correct, but something those dirty hippies don't want you to know!!"

I'm not sure they've ever been shorthand for anything else, really.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:46 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Other uses:
* left-of-center talk show, Pollitically Incorrect
* being racist/sexist/etc when you're "just saying what everyone is thinking"
posted by filthy light thief at 9:02 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a fascinating idea. It's interesting how for some, the immediate response is that it can't work because Western governments will exploit these areas into the ground. My first instinct is that it is unlikely to work because places ripe for such development have already been plenty exploited by local, home grown governments, and might not be willing to allow development in good faith. Basically, their ruling classes are interested in protecting their kleptocracies (which keeps economic development at bay in the first place) and are unwilling to allow foreign run development unless they can funnel the cream to their personal interests. It might cut into their action, and create competition by enriching others.

Importing good ideas (in Romer's sense) can't happen unless a ruling class is civic minded enough to allow it to happen. Not to mention the kind of demagoguery and grass roots nativism that this sort of thing can stir up. I suspect it will be hard to find many places willing to allow the kind of autonomy to foreigners. Hell, I couldn't see it flying here in the US, where folks often falsely pride themselves on being economic realists. Imagine if South Korea offered to charter Detroit and develop it into prosperity. The left would cry about union busting unfair labor practices and such, and the Sarah Palins would be crying about selling out America's sovereignty to furriners. All parties get to protect their interests, and the places like Detroit get to resume collapse, and the rest of the world gets to miss out on the fruits of economic development that could have happened.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:04 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


So... we're going to charter out detroit?
posted by ennui.bz at 9:20 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting, but it's difficult to separate cities from states nowadays. Logistically, where would they get electricity - from a shambolic national grid. What about the transport links, or any of the rest of the infrastructure? Who would pay for the infrastructure's maintenance? What currency would they use? Who would provide security?

Also, the countries Romer's talking about tend to be pretty poorly governed. You'd have all the existing problems of FDI in countries - random nationalisation, a request for additional 'duties' to be allowed to continue to operate, interference in one way or another. It might work if the main man got a good cut of the profits, but how would they avoid the next demagogue along saying 'these nasty foreigners are taking all our water, what are you going to do about it?' - it'd be a very tempting plum to pluck. It seems like your basic resource curse.

It would probably have to be a port city, like Hong Kong - but basically, I wouldn't touch the idea with a barge pole.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:20 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]



Pope G:
Were we interested in truly helping the poorer countries, we would work to make them more self-sufficient and capable of providing for their own needs, so that they might develop their own economies. Instead we simply find ever more ways of getting them to prostitute themselves to us- their resources, their land, their people, their labor.

Prostituting (kind of a loaded word, no?) themselves to us, themselves, and the world, seems the surest way to develop economic self sufficiency. The problem with places like these is that they are usually barred from access to the world's markets. Usually be their own governments, which impose tariffs or worse, on imports, and restrict foreign investment. This is typically justified by claiming that development needs to be home grown. The result instead stifles economic development, restricting competition and capital from places that are in the best position to provide it. And this presumes their governments actually have good intentions. Add in corruption, not an alien concept in many third world underdeveloped countries, and the atmosphere for economic development becomes extremely stifling.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:20 AM on June 10, 2010


I wish the [!] link underneath posts did the opposite of 'add to favorites'.
posted by clarknova at 9:22 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


My first instinct is that it is unlikely to work because places ripe for such development have already been plenty exploited by local, home grown governments, and might not be willing to allow development in good faith. Basically, their ruling classes are interested in protecting their kleptocracies (which keeps economic development at bay in the first place) and are unwilling to allow foreign run development unless they can funnel the cream to their personal interests. It might cut into their action, and create competition by enriching others.

your first instinct could really use some history lessons...
posted by jammy at 9:23 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note: the "via" link is from Paul Romer's own organization promoting Charter Cities. To harp on the guy some more:

But Romer stressed a fourth driver of growth,* which he termed simply “ideas,” a category that encompassed everything from the formula for a new drug to the most efficient sequence for stitching 19 pieces of material into a sneaker.

* He's expanding his earlier well-regarded idea that an economies growing output was due to 1) the number of hours worked, 2) the skills of the workforce, and 3) the quantity of machinery and other physical capital.

So his big idea is that with new-found freedom, Charter Cities will foster new ideas. Except his examples are typically the domain of Big Business, who want to patent and protect their Big New Ideas. Also, new drug formulas require understanding of drug formulas, which I can't imagine is common knowledge among the people of "dysfunctional nations" (so called in the article). And while sneaker-making could be improved by people who do it every day (see: underpaid laborers), you're not elevating the city with new jobs, you're just making the factories more efficient, improving the well-being of the Big Business. Or does every improvement to the assembly line production result in an increase in wages for the laborers on the lines?

I actually think Elliott Sclar (a professor of urban planning at Columbia University) is onto something with this notion: "Romer makes it sound as though setting up a charter city is like setting up a fairground," but instead of his notion of a magical empty field, the Big Businesses who would support this Charter City movement would be the carnival folk, drawing in the rubes and draining their pockets with fixed games and fake wonders. The host country would get some pay for the use of their land, but not much more. Would these "dysfunctional nations" really be ready to deal with the externalized costs of Big Business appearing suddenly? Would these businesses pay for infrastructure improvements as people flock for jobs? Would there be any way to ensure safe building practices are used with building the houses for the new workers, that their effluent and the factory output is handled properly, or will there be environmental and health hazards that haunt the nation for decades to come?

I know this is only an initial thought piece, and that my questions are the more the fine-grain details, but it's a different world than when Lübeck flourished. We've found new ways to ruin things for others, while perpetrators are safe from the consequences. If nothing else, I expect will be something along the lines of Fiji Water.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


But, but... "rising tide... all boats... 'n all o' that..."

A rising tide lifts all boats, but some craft are better suited to sail stormy seas. There's a huge difference between a raft of logs and RMS Queen Mary.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:26 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've often thought that all it would take for many countries to prosper economically would be to have a free press, an independent and efficient judiciary, an efficient and accountable bureaucracy/tax service, transparent public budgets and some kind of transparent public accountability over the police. Those five things would solve about 80% of the problems associated with developing nations, regardless of the govermental or economic system native to the country.

A good example of this would be my current home of San Antonio, Texas. The nation of Mexico is a political and economic basketcase -- something that our Tea Party friends would like to blame on the racial or cultural inferority of Mexicans -- but San Antonio is 60% Latino and is (comparatively anyway) a safe, prosperous and dynamic city.

So, it's not the people that make a country poor, but it's defective institutions. If this project can transplant effective public institutions into developing nations, without economically exploiting them (a longshot, I know) then I can find my liberal self getting behind it.
posted by Avenger at 9:27 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm Canadian, have international experience, and work in the businesss world. So I fit the profile of "governor". I would not take the job.

I think the article supplies valid examples of charter cities, but I am not sure those examples apply to today's world. Hong Kong, Sinapore etc could only exist because they supplied a very closed system.

To replicate the Hong Kong model in Cuba or Madagascar (to lift examples from the article) one would need a really effective and probably brutal legal system -- medieval cities (like the one quoted in the article tended to hang criminals for things like breaking into homes and stealing livestock). I am not sure a charter city governor could just "kick out" troublemakers or those who didn't respect the charter. The Japanese model was done under a military occupation.

The amount of soldiers, police, and judges one would need to carry out one of these projects would be off the charts. Consider that most of the cities discussed in the article where founded before the concepts and tactics of guerilla warfare were all that well-developed. Paying all of this security would eat up a lot of profit. The profits of say The British East India Company had the Imperial Army to provide basically free security.

The lack of say electrical hookups in parts of Africa isn't a problem with rules (and probably not even a problem with capital). It is a security problem. Poor parts of Africa that have cell phones but no landlines, have them because the landline wires tend to get stolen, while cell phones allow for a more contained, more easily secured infrastructure.

The Cuban example is also flawed. Cuba is in some ways a well-developed country (though seriously lacking in some areas), but it is not a consumer society. I don't know that people would accept foriegn domination as a trade off. Cuba does have a problem with rules - the rules of the United States - which make it nearly impossible to trade with its biggest neighbour and most natural trading partner. So these charter cities also require favourable foriegn relations... totally outside the control of the governor.

Foriegn relations is another concept that may be lost on the analysis in this article. Even a well-developed area of Africa like South Africa has 11 official languages -- sub-national groups are a bigger problem on the African coast than an island like Hong Kong.

So what I am saying is that we've reached something approaching "peak trade". All the areas where it was easy to trade, are full of trade already. To make places like Cuba and Madagascar big, consumer, trading centres one needs to make a lot more effort than one did to make say Hong Kong an important trading area. I am not sure that contemporary society with 24 hour news channels would tolerate the level of brutality a charter city would take to implement.
posted by Intrepid at 9:32 AM on June 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


The devil is in the details. These "charter cities", if executed correctly, could be amazing opportunities for the natives in the area, especially if they were fully integrated at an equal level in governance and development. We ought not let ideology (even if its based on experience, fact and historically accurate assumptions) allow US to choose for THEM. If whomever invites these cities makes the choice to have them and populate them, then allow them to live in that experiment. There would need to be serious checks against the abuse of power and serious monitoring that they weren't deviating from their goal of development and eventual autonomy though.

As a note on the BONUS section though, that Unqualified Reservations article is a fascinating, intelligent and absolutely absurd read. The author veers rapidly from medical terminology-as-adjective to detailed attack on anticolonial ideology to allusions to 1984 and Star Wars to attacks on capitalism, democracy and autocracy to postulating a zombie cagematch to settle disputes of scholarly plagiarism to calling Romer both a "nigga" and a "faggot".

In between all the references to classical literature, personal email correspondence between Professors of Medevial History and the obscure writings of prominent imperialist, I was really hoping for a reference to this Derrick Comedy sketch.
posted by Chipmazing at 9:36 AM on June 10, 2010


So, it's not the people that make a country poor, but it's defective institutions.

But there's no money in improving institutions, unless you're one of those idealistic long-range planners. Sure, some wealthy folks could try to improve a host country or city, and hope their business ventures prosper there, but that's a lot of trust in the goodness of other people. Treat everyone like they're out to get ya, that's how you prosper.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:43 AM on June 10, 2010


Surely Cuba already has a walled-off foreign enclave in the form of Guantanamo?
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on June 10, 2010


all it would take for many countries to prosper economically would be to have a free press, an independent and efficient judiciary, an efficient and accountable bureaucracy/tax service, transparent public budgets and some kind of transparent public accountability over the police

That's quite some 'all it would take'. We've been trying that for years (genuinely in some cases, notwithstanding filthy light thief's remarks), and haven't got anywhere close, in most of the countries the international community have been working in. Neither organisations nor institutions exist in a vacuum. It's all neopatrimonial state, politics of the belly and wall to wall militias, far as the eye can see.

So, it's not the people that make a country poor, but it's defective institutions.

We've known this for ages. It's just about impossible to change them as an outsider, and the problem with them is that the insiders normally have no incentive to change either. Still, the positive changes that do happen always come from insiders.
posted by YouRebelScum at 10:04 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


i am glad for the modern tech that allows me to browse this directly from the park holding a drink in one hand
posted by infini at 10:08 AM on June 10, 2010


"It follows that the workers in Romer’s charter city wouldn’t be citizens in the full sense. They would be offered whatever protections the founding charter might lay down, and they would have to take them or leave them. Rather than getting a vote at the ballot box, Romer is saying, the residents of a charter city would have to vote with their feet. Their leaders would be accountable—but only to the rich voters in the country that appointed them."

It is this kind of reasoning that makes me think economists are just giant idiots making up fairy tales. The entire problem with being poor is that you DON'T have the freedom of mobility and the money to "vote with your feet" whenever and however you want. That is a privilege of the rich.
posted by yarly at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


>
your first instinct could really use some history lessons...

Such as...?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:18 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


yarly:
It is this kind of reasoning that makes me think economists are just giant idiots making up fairy tales. The entire problem with being poor is that you DON'T have the freedom of mobility and the money to "vote with your feet" whenever and however you want. That is a privilege of the rich.

This is one of the most radical ideas Romer proposes. And one of the significant ways it differs from traditional ideas of colonialism. Freedom of mobility is something even a place like the United States, which prides itself on individual freedoms, can't bring itself to accept. Turn on the news, and almost daily you'll be treated to how much Americans are all about denying freedom of mobility to folks outside the US. Once again, it's hard to see how such a proposal would fly even in a place that is largely friendly to the notion of a free market economy.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:27 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is this kind of reasoning that makes me think economists are just giant idiots making up fairy tales. The entire problem with being poor is that you DON'T have the freedom of mobility and the money to "vote with your feet" whenever and however you want. That is a privilege of the rich.

This is the problem with non-economists. They don't recognize a marginal improvement when they see one. Romer's point is that the rich do move at considerable expense, while the number of people who would if they could afford it is very high (70-ish percent, but I can't find a cite right now). If you want to help the poor among that 70 percent, marginal reductions in the costs of moving seems like a good way.
posted by pwnguin at 10:27 AM on June 10, 2010


Prostituting (kind of a loaded word, no?) themselves to us, themselves, and the world, seems the surest way to develop economic self sufficiency. The problem with places like these is that they are usually barred from access to the world's markets.

A really big problem that these countries have is that since foreign goods are so available, they simply buy things from overseas instead of buying local. This leads to situations where their resources and labor are being exported and what they're receiving in return is money... which will mostly be spent on foreign goods.

Every acre of land used to grow coffee for export to America is an acre not used to grow food to be sold to one's fellow citizens. (This is, incidentally, why "fair trade" is bullshit- it's just NyQuil, treating the symptom of poverty caused by an economy focused on exporting its resources to the First world instead of treating the disease of an economy focused on exporting its resources to the First World. Exports are a fine thing, but only when you have a fully functioning economy.) Every factory built to make cheap electronics for export to Europe is a factory not being used to make things to sell to one's fellow citizens. By keeping the actors within these economies focused on providing goods for the First World, it keeps these economies (and their members) dependent upon the First World for the means of life.

Which is, of course, exactly where the First World wants them.



So his big idea is that with new-found freedom, Charter Cities will foster new ideas.

Well, it worked in Rapture.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:30 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


some acknowledgment of the profound devastation and destabilization wrought by five centuries of colonialism, imperialism and outright genocide upon Third World countries might be nice

It's interesting how for some, the immediate response is that it can't work because Western governments will exploit these areas into the ground.


these "some" who have this response? it is because of the historical record of Western governments doing precisely that, over and over and over again
posted by jammy at 10:31 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Western ideals are good at creating prosperous economies, but they're not the only ones. China and UAE have done quite well at stimulating rapid growth in select areas. And they're not afraid to get some bad PR or impose some brutal security in the process.

I think the solution to no country wanting to operate a charter city is to pitch charter Dubais and Shenzhens in impoverished areas, rather than charter Torontos.
posted by jetsetlag at 10:47 AM on June 10, 2010


Pope Guilty:
A really big problem that these countries have is that since foreign goods are so available, they simply buy things from overseas instead of buying local. This leads to situations where their resources and labor are being exported and what they're receiving in return is money... which will mostly be spent on foreign goods.


You say that like it's a bad thing. They slave away making stuff, and all they get in exchange is... money? What you propose seems like a fallacy of self sufficiency, that one must be able to natively produce everything one needs and wants in order to be prosperous. Does this actually work in any prosperous First World nation? On a local, regional, or personal level?

Why would one want to deny some economic improvement (exports), until a "fully functioning economy" can develop? Whatever that is. Trade seems essential to economic well being, from an individual to a global level. Self sufficiency is a survivalists fantasy.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:48 AM on June 10, 2010


>

Unfortunately, quite a few post colonial governments never did any better. Some, much worse. And I suspect any country considering Romer's proposals would probably not be a current colony of some Western imperialist. History lesson appreciated, but unneeded.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:56 AM on June 10, 2010


what would china do?
posted by infini at 11:03 AM on June 10, 2010


Ctrl + F
"Baghdad" not found
"Kabul" not found

i imagine this article would be enriched by including the successes of our current "charter cities" program, already in progress.
posted by eustatic at 11:06 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


jetsetlag:

I presume you're snarking, but you make a very good point that Romer addresses, the notion that economic development and free societies somehow must emerge in lockstep. This is a major issue with many folks in the West. I think this is an ideal, but not always realistic belief. Few currently prosperous countries were able to follow that path. The US included. I'm not sure it's fair to force or expect an undeveloped economy to evolve in such a way. Furthermore, if one is to predicate economic development on personal freedoms, in an all-or-none fashion, is that really the best outcome for the population of such underdeveloped economy? Would one really want to deny Chinese people their increased prosperity because their government hasn't allowed them the kinds of personal freedoms we in the US enjoy?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2010


2N222: I am not snarking, or at least only mildly. It's a chicken and egg problem and if someone wants to try to solve it by letting the economic freedoms necessary for growth precede the personal freedoms, I'm cool with that.

We in the West find that idea extremely threatening, that a place can be prosperous without personal freedom. But poverty makes those personal freedoms effectively nonexistent anyway.
posted by jetsetlag at 11:20 AM on June 10, 2010


Unfortunately, quite a few post colonial governments never did any better. Some, much worse.

good point! i guess they just aren't very good at running their own countries effectively - i wonder what's wrong with them?
(incidentally, what exactly is "much worse" than slavery, genocide, and environmental devastation?)

History lesson appreciated, but unneeded.

this word "unneeded" - i do not think it means what you think it means
posted by jammy at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2010


Jammy:
incidentally, what exactly is "much worse" than slavery, genocide, and environmental devastation?

Slavery, genocide, and environmental devastation at the hands of native governments. Especially when those things didn't take place under colonial rule. C'mon, you can try harder than that.

Seriously, does you think that poorly developed Third World countries have nothing to gain by modern, free market rule as proposed by Romer?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2010


Prostituting (kind of a loaded word, no?) themselves to us, themselves, and the world, seems the surest way to develop economic self sufficiency. The problem with places like these is that they are usually barred from access to the world's markets. Usually be their own governments, which impose tariffs or worse, on imports, and restrict foreign investment.

This flies in the face of the historical record - all the later developing major economies were protectionist in the early years of their take off, precisely to avoid becoming mere annexes of the liberal trade empire Britain forced on the world at gun point having got her industrialisation in early and being in a position to rig the rules of the game. The particular players may now have changed but the same strategies work (insofar as capitalism works).
posted by Abiezer at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


What you propose seems like a fallacy of self sufficiency, that one must be able to natively produce everything one needs and wants in order to be prosperous. Does this actually work in any prosperous First World nation? On a local, regional, or personal level?

Why would one want to deny some economic improvement (exports), until a "fully functioning economy" can develop? Whatever that is. Trade seems essential to economic well being, from an individual to a global level. Self sufficiency is a survivalists fantasy.


I'm not anti-trade. I'm against the system of forced parasitism in which we fucked up a bunch of countries' ability to provide for themselves and have ever since been insisting that the only thing for it is for these countries to make their economies subservient clients of ours.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


They slave away making stuff, and all they get in exchange is... money?
Albert Schweitzer, who knew well the economic situation in the colonies of Africa, wrote nearly sixty years ago: “Whenever the timber trade is good, permanent famine reigns in the Ogowe region because the villagers abandon their farms to fell as many trees as possible.” We should notice especially that the goal of production was “as many…as possible.” And Schweitzer makes my point exactly: “These people could achieve true wealth if they could develop their agriculture and trade to meet their own needs.” Instead they produced timber for export to “the world economy,” which made them dependent upon imported goods that they bought with money earned from their exports. They gave up their local means of subsistence, and imposed the false standard of a foreign demand (“as many trees as possible”) upon their forests. They thus became helplessly dependent on an economy over which they had no control.
posted by weston at 11:47 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ok, what - look, forget the free-market triumphalism for a second - he's talking about setting up cities as social experiments. I see where he's coming from with the idea, but politically these are long long term & extremely untenable:

- you really need rich societies with strong rule of law already present to implement charter cities in the first place, unless we are talking about pure-and-simple colony-making

- a colony is a whole lot more than modern multinational corporations are going to be willing to invest

- spawned from whole cloth within a democratic society, the project will get mauled to bits for being wasteful, and in certain places, "socialist", ironically given the focus of this particular project

- an autocratic society is not generally going to be interested in "social experiments that increase freedom"

- most countries just don't have tons of spare useful space to shit new cities wherever. From the site: "All it takes to grow a charter city is an unoccupied piece of land and a charter." Hahaha good luck!

You can sort of see China doing this sort of thing, but not necessarily focusing on the kinds of changes Paul Romer would like to see.
posted by furiousthought at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have this sinking feeling that my "worldview" is very different from "theirs" - could it be due to being plugged into what's happening on the ground in rural africa, india and elsewhere?

also,

We in the West find that idea extremely threatening, that a place can be prosperous without personal freedom. But poverty makes those personal freedoms effectively nonexistent anyway.

I am a resident of Singapore. In 30 years Lee Kuan Yew took an impoverished war ravaged fishing village and turned it into the *only* officially "developed" economy in Asia. There's a tradeoff for safe subways at night, clean streets, hygienic food at the hawker stall and smoothly running systems. Perhaps that's the next goal - how to imbue chaotic innovation and energy while keeping the foundations safe from falling through quicksand... just my 2 currency units worth
posted by infini at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2010


Abiezer:
This flies in the face of the historical record - all the later developing major economies were protectionist in the early years of their take off, precisely to avoid becoming mere annexes of the liberal trade empire Britain forced on the world at gun point having got her industrialisation in early and being in a position to rig the rules of the game. The particular players may now have changed but the same strategies work (insofar as capitalism works).

I'm not sure I understand. Earlier developing countries were protectionist because of military threat? How does that apply to the idea of charter cities? Some places are certainly more paranoid than others. Sometimes with good reason. But as proposed, it seems like a voluntary action.

Pope Guilty:

I'm not anti-trade. I'm against the system of forced parasitism in which we fucked up a bunch of countries' ability to provide for themselves and have ever since been insisting that the only thing for it is for these countries to make their economies subservient clients of ours.


"Forced" doesn't seem a part of the charter city idea. Parasitism is a nativist concern I suspect prospective charter cities might be fearful of.

You keep on using terms that have negative connotations. Everyone prostitutes themselves to their employers. If I prostitute all my time working in a factory, sure, I'm kinda forced to use my earnings to parasitize the market for food I might have otherwise grown myself. Few people, cities, nations are capable of fully feeding and equipping it's people with all the necessities, let alone all the cool stuff. We all parasitize one another, in a sense because we're forced to, but mostly, because it's a much more efficient way to do things, bringing us goods and services from the sources best suited to providing them. In that way, we all get to be subservient of some things, and boss of something else.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:05 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Forced" doesn't seem a part of the charter city idea. Parasitism is a nativist concern I suspect prospective charter cities might be fearful of.

You're missing the point. The First World has spent the last several decades, stretching back in the 1800's, ensuring that smaller, poorer nations become dependent upon us for their income. Read that goddamn Schweitzer quote if you skipped it, as he explains it quite clearly. The idea that smaller nations should organize their economies around exporting to larger, richer nations is neo-colonialist. You can pretend that perfect self-sufficiency is what I'm advocating for, but that's a lie and I wish you would engage my argument instead of lying about what it is and focusing on deliberately misconstrued semantics.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:15 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Infini: Singapore was one of the places I was thinking of, having spent a lot of time there myself. But of course it's much farther along the curve of what Romer is proposing. Even so there are huge trade-offs, Singapore is no paradise, I know that.

That said, leaving ideology aside and thinking about the human impact - humans could benefit quite a bit from charter cities, both the ones who live in them and the ones who live in neighboring areas. After all, the places where Romer proposes placing them are places that are in terrible shape, places where almost everything else has failed.

We're not talking about a choice between being a factory worker in China and an office worker in Canada. We're talking about factory worker vs subsistence farmer subject to famine and violence. Would it be nice for people to retain their ethnic culture and national (though that's often a joke anyway, since national identities can be dubious in former colonies) economic autonomy? Sure. But being able to live securely, work productively, and make enough to live on is probably a bit more important for now.
posted by jetsetlag at 12:36 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You keep on using terms that have negative connotations. Everyone prostitutes themselves to their employers.

This isn't about "connotations." There's a genuine spectrum of possibilities in every economic bargain, from highly symbiotic ones where both parties get not only what they're looking for but derive roughly equal value, to highly parasitic ones where the gains for one party are marginal at best and may even be temporary desperation measures that are actual setbacks.
posted by weston at 12:52 PM on June 10, 2010


Everyone prostitutes themselves to their employers.

fundamental assumption. begin by questioning its universality
posted by infini at 12:55 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Would it be nice for people to retain their ethnic culture and national (though that's often a joke anyway, since national identities can be dubious in former colonies) economic autonomy? Sure. But being able to live securely, work productively, and make enough to live on is probably a bit more important for now.

is it 1740 in here or is it just me
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Schweitzer quote seems an inadequate argument against the idea. What were the conditions? Were the natives too dumb to know better? Were the colonists too "compelling"? Did Schweitzer really get a full picture, much less present one?

Getting poorer countries dependent on us seems odd in this context, because the charter city idea presumes a voluntary decision. What is the alternative on the part of those of us in the West? Not engaging in trade with poorer nations? Aid packages? Is that helpful, or create any less dependence? If working in a foreign owned factory is a better prospect than working the farm, the people will do it. We see this in Dubai and Shenzhen. Not that those places are working class utopias. But because conditions back home sucked so bad. These are people willingly becoming dependent. And the truth is, we're just as dependent on such underdeveloped economies as they are on us. If being freely able to partake or ignore the opportunities presented by a charter city, makes subsistence farming unattractive in comparison, that's probably for the better.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This makes sense. Consider the case of the United States, a squalid slum known as the "land of famine", until in the 1830s, the Scottish landowner and entrepreneur, Lord Gentlemunny, siezed control of New York City and patiently explained to its people how to use money, not to bribe judges, but to purchase goods and services from equals in a free marketplace. Now, of course, the whole nation is a thriving superpower! Or even more recent examples, like Sweden and France, both of them mainly famous for endemic cholera and 40%+ unemployment until their respective capital cities were purchased by Donald Trump, who invented the welfare state for them.

The only problem with implementing such tried-and-true methods is that for some reason Asians, Africans, and South Americans have, like, this weird superstitious aversions to letting European and Americans run their local governments. I don't know why. Either it's a religious thing, or, more likely, it's because some of their own crappy people tried to be entrepreneur-dictators before, but didn't know how to do it, and now they think the whole thing is a bad idea!
posted by stammer at 1:32 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Other uses:
* left-of-center talk show, Pollitically Incorrect
* being racist/sexist/etc when you're "just saying what everyone is thinking"


Precisely what I'm talking about - the talk show presented itself as "Correct, but something those dirty hippies the mainstream media don't want you to know!!", and racist/sexist/etc speakers view themselves as saying something that is "Correct, but something those dirty hippies minorities don't want you to know!!"
posted by FatherDagon at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2010


-Does this actually work in any prosperous First World nation?
I think the problem with this is expecting to go from 0-11 in one second, in one 'jump', or by one decree.
Besides Western nations are not exactly in positions to say "hey, you, eh, be like us, or you're gonna be poor"... Ex. the U.K. seems to have a "deficit as a percentage of GDP of "-11.5%", beaten barely by Greece, which has "-13.6%"

Think of the domination of Hong Kong by the British after the treaty of Nanjing; is this a model for an economic Boom? The cost? Nearly 1/4 of the Chinese population becoming hooked on Opium... yes, that "liberalization of trade"... is that the "modern cool things" that 'you' (we?) want to bring this time? Or is it 'truly' different stuff this time?
Time, development, and evolution... the idea of a "punctuated equilibrium" approach to development seems pretty unrealistic, maybe if it were to be thought of like a series of gradations... shades, tiny variations and experiments (as others have said, 'institutions, institutions').

-Unfortunately, quite a few post colonial governments never did any better. Some, much worse.

I wonder if anyone sees a common-denominator in those described governments?

-Few people, cities, nations are capable of fully feeding and equipping it's people with all the necessities, let alone all the cool stuff. We all parasitize one another, in a sense because we're forced to, but mostly, because it's a much more efficient way to do things, bringing us goods and services from the sources best suited to providing them. In that way, we all get to be subservient of some things, and boss of something else.

So, to paraphrase, to establish understanding- We all parasitize each other equally, but some of us can parasitize others MORE equally?
Outsiders "ruling" insiders; never works.
Always leaves resentment, think of, to borrow China again, the ruling Qing, they ruled for a long time, but they were forcing the Han to adopt the Manchu hair-styling, and other restrictions on "being themselves"... this did not endwell (for the Qing).
As a bonus, there is a new surplus of Opium from the latest version of the most recent "regime experiment". Who wants to recreate the opium wars? There is a reason we still think of MLK, or Gandhi's achievements, and try to emulate them, and promote their ideas, and are symmetrically disgusted by The Hitler.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Schweitzer quote seems an inadequate argument against the idea.

Which idea? The charter city idea? Or the idea behind your question "all they get in exchange is... money?" Because it's addressed primarily at the second, at which I think it's a pretty effective refutation. Berry and Schweitzer are essentially pointing out that money is not the same thing as wealth, and that it's especially not the same thing as a sustainable plan for a community or nation to be able to take care of itself.

As a refutation of the charter city idea, it's certainly a less thorough counter, but I don't mean it to be one. The questions it raises about what constitutes real wealth for a community or a nation are quite applicable, though.
posted by weston at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slavery, genocide, and environmental devastation at the hands of native governments. Especially when those things didn't take place under colonial rule.

if you really think that slavery, genocide and environmental devastation did not take place under colonial rule, then i really don't know what to say to you - we must be from different planets &/or alternate realities

Seriously, does you think that poorly developed Third World countries have nothing to gain by modern, free market rule as proposed by Romer?


seriously? no.
mostly because the absurdity of the phrase "modern, free market rule" makes me laugh
posted by jammy at 3:04 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


* It is this kind of reasoning that makes me think economists are just giant idiots making up fairy tales. The entire problem with being poor is that you DON'T have the freedom of mobility and the money to "vote with your feet" whenever and however you want. That is a privilege of the rich.

There are tens of millions of immigrants (legal and illegal) in the USA alone that would like to have a word with you about mobility being a privilege of the rich.
posted by falameufilho at 3:15 PM on June 10, 2010


All I know is that when I enter the country as a resident alien I don't get a bunch of cops hounding my ass like a brown skinned person in Arizona.
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2010


what would china do?

I was thinking about the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen (the one with the suicides). It's a massive compound with 420,000 people who basically live there. Considering that Foxconn is a Taiwanese company, this concept is already working there, basically.

Anyway - I think the idea could be positive. But, yes, could go very wrong. Of course the subject is so charged and the discussion gets derailed by knee-jerk reactions against trade and globalization. Regardless, this could be a positive thing if it creates other Hong Kongs and Singapores where now there's nothing but kleptocracies that serve few and enslave many. But then again, we could end up with a bunch of Foxconns.
posted by falameufilho at 3:32 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are tens of millions of immigrants (legal and illegal) in the USA alone that would like to have a word with you about mobility being a privilege of the rich.

yeah, there's nothing like the privilege of crossing miles upon miles of desert on foot compared to the oppression of having to take a Learjet...
posted by jammy at 3:41 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I lived in Manaus for a couple of years in a work assignment. It is a free trade zone (FTZ) in the middle of the Amazon jungle, a city of 2M basically isolated from the rest of country. It has one of the lowest unemployment rates of Brazil and is one of the reasons why the state of Amazonas has a pretty good record in nature preservation, because the FTZ provides an economic alternative to mere extractivism as a survival strategy. Considering that most of the companies based there are foreign, this is an idea that resembles the proposal. Of course, Manaus is not a charter city and it is still Brazilian soil under Brazilian law. Question is, that step (transfer of sovereignty) needed? The concept of FTZs seems like a nice compromise.
posted by falameufilho at 3:48 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seventy comments in and no Snow Crash jokes? I'm impressed MeFi - You have what it takes to be part of Mr Lee's Greater Hong Kong.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:51 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


* Jammy - I am not talking about the quality of the journey. I am saying that regardless of poverty, people still get up, gather their possessions and go somewhere else looking for better conditions - economic, social, etc. By saying mobility is a privilege of the rich, yarly sounded like poor people are chained to their place of birth.
posted by falameufilho at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2010


privilege=quality

e.g., watching your daughter be handed a glass of chilled natural spring water by a wonderfully gracious & manicured individual vs. watching your daughter succumb to the first symptoms of heat stroke in a remote gully on the border

of course, poor people aren't chained to their place of birth - travel is a right

people will exercise their rights regardless of the obstacles - it's what they do
posted by jammy at 4:46 PM on June 10, 2010


watching your daughter be handed a glass of chilled natural spring water by a wonderfully gracious & manicured individual

BT WHAT IF MY BLOODY MARY IS JUST V8 WITH VODKA? WHAT THEN?
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


BT WHAT IF MY BLOODY MARY IS JUST V8 WITH VODKA? WHAT THEN?

well, duh: ask for their papers!
posted by jammy at 5:02 PM on June 10, 2010


Damn straight!
posted by Artw at 5:03 PM on June 10, 2010


The wealthy travel at will. The poor put themselves at risk and give up massive proportions of their meager wealth, or in some cases all or more than all of it, in order to relocate to a better place; this does not always work out at all well, and a not-insignificant number die in the process.

To claim a similarity is, well, falameufilho-esque.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2010


Seconding eustatic's comment: this has been linked multiple times on meta since 2004 but it still makes good reading 6 years after the fact. Baghdad Year Zero by Naomi Klein. While Romer tells us about what can go right, it's also instructive to see what can go wrong.
posted by xdvesper at 5:38 PM on June 10, 2010


The wealthy travel at will. The poor put themselves at risk and give up massive proportions of their meager wealth, or in some cases all or more than all of it, in order to relocate to a better place; this does not always work out at all well, and a not-insignificant number die in the process.


Pope Guilty, you obviously don't know a whole lot about Brazil.
posted by msali at 6:49 PM on June 10, 2010


* To claim a similarity is, well, falameufilho-esque.

Pope, you have the remarkable ability of reading things I haven't written.

I never said there was a similarity. Let's recap. Yarly said that "freedom of mobility (...) is a privilege of the rich". I said that it's not, because poor people frequently get up and go somewhere else.

I never said that the experience of a Yemenite immigrant laborer who goes to Dubai to toil on the construction industry is in any way comparable to, say, a British banker who goes there to work on the financial industry. Those two are completely different journeys. However, the freedom of mobility that made the journey possible was available to both, and one can argue is the only thing they have in common.
posted by falameufilho at 7:30 PM on June 10, 2010


And so my point is demonstrated.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:08 PM on June 10, 2010


Romer fails to appreciate that we already have established this system, but unfortunately have bared people from voting with their feet. If we truly allowed unimpeded migration, countries that had failed systems would find themselves losing their population, while countries with open and prosperous systems would find a boom in population that would lead to a stronger economy. To add to this, the rule of law is already well established in these countries, as are property rights and a strong judicial system.

If I follow his logic correctly, we simply need to abolish immigration controls and the good will follow.

(I say this only half facetiously. If this idea of charter cities works to inspire the elite of a country to change their ways, wouldn't a massive migration, on a scale never before seen truly inspire them to mend their methods? Or am I missing something crucial here?)
posted by Hactar at 12:48 AM on June 11, 2010


since national identities can be dubious in former colonies

I find something faintly disturbing by the whole thread that tends towards this kind of thought as one of the axes of debate. just those few words negate over four decades of my passport and my current ability to pay taxes on three continents simultaneously

I also negate the concept of mobility as an "option" for the poor

choice is picking up a stroller and getting on a flight halfway around the world without a second thought

OR

what could be considered "forced migration" due to social and economic conditions usually falls under UNHCR type bodies or some such

that is not a privilege. instead its survival

the implication that one would move to a charter city due to economic pressure and thus give up even the basic right of residing in one's own land is extremely disturbing and feels a lot like indentured labour that the British sent around the colonies from the masses of India - hence your local diaspora in as far away as Trinidad & Tobago, British Guiana, South Africa, Malaysia and more...
posted by infini at 2:53 AM on June 11, 2010


that was a point of empire (pdf) by hardt & negri -- "the right to global citizenship: basically if capital is guaranteed certain rights, freedoms and protections across borders then so also should people be put on the same footing as citizens"

Were we interested in truly helping the poorer countries, we would work to make them more self-sufficient and capable of providing for their own needs, so that they might develop their own economies.

um, that's what romer is trying to accomplish -- he's trying to help the poorest countries grow rich -- of course whether charter cities are the means to achieve that is the question, but in general i think it's hard to argue with his main point that implementing better rules thru institutional change is a precondition for social progress:
If you have stuck with Romer thus far, you are ready for the last part of his argument. If good rules are the key to development, it follows that the big development challenge is to grasp how to reform bad rules—and to accept that conventional approaches are not terribly successful... The standard response to this obstacle is to advocate democracy and hope that voters will force change... But Romer argues that this way forward is too slow... we are better off starting a new experiment with brand-new rules—a charter city that stands outside the ministry's authority. Rather than going at an obstacle head-on, Romer is saying, sidestepping it is frequently a better option.
now maybe he is willfully downplaying charter cities' ability to overcome existing institutional arrangements, cf. the madagascar setback...
But the largest obstacle Romer faces, by his own admission, still remains: he has to find countries willing to play the role of Britain in Hong Kong. Despite the good arguments that Romer makes for his vision, the responsibilities entailed in Empire 2.0 are not popular. How would a rich government contend with the shantytowns that might spring up around the borders of a charter city? Would it deport the inhabitants, and be accused of human-rights abuses? Or tolerate them and allow its oasis to be overrun with people who don't respect its city charter? And what would the foreign trustee do if its host tried to nullify the lease? Would it defend its development experiment with an expeditionary army, as Margaret Thatcher defended the Falklands? A top official at one of Europe's aid agencies told me, "Since we are responsible for our remaining overseas territories, I can tell you there is much grief in running these things. I would be surprised if Romer gets any takers."
in any case, i think it is a novel approach that at least helps us rethink why things are, well, the way they are :P

Mr Lee's Greater Hong Kong

scroll down!
posted by kliuless at 8:00 AM on June 11, 2010


* Jammy - I am not talking about the quality of the journey. I am saying that regardless of poverty, people still get up, gather their possessions and go somewhere else looking for better conditions - economic, social, etc. By saying mobility is a privilege of the rich, yarly sounded like poor people are chained to their place of birth.
posted by falameufilho at 3:56 PM on June 10 [+] [!]


Agreed - the poor do move, but because they're forced to do it by poverty, not because they think they'd like living by the ocean better than living in the mountains or experience living in another culture. What I despise about economic reasoning is that it fails to see this moral dimension and instead frame it as "choice" and "freedom".

Further, the classic problem with company towns (which is basically what's being proposed here) is that once a worker gets there she may be trapped by the company itself. (Remember, the "citizens" won't have any say over their rights in these charter cities. The viceroy might just mandate that "citizens" aren't allowed access to transportation to leave.) Or the viceroy might decree that she's too far in debt to the company to leave -- because she'll have sold her soul to the company store: rented a house from the company, shopped at the company store, sent her kids to the company school. She may have been payed entirely in company script instead of in cash, thus unable to save any useful currency to move. In other words, this could easily turn into a kind of debt bondage, and glib references to the "freedom to vote with their feet" is a shocking kind of ignorance of history.

***

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store
posted by yarly at 8:35 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yarly - you can't have it both ways. Mobility can't be at the same time a privilege of the rich and something the poor are forced to do. Do you really believe every, say, illegal Latin American immigrant in this country was FORCED to come here due to conditions beyond his control? If you actually talked to some of them, you would find out that many of them came here by choice, for a mix of economic and cultural reasons, and do not consider the alternative (going back to Mexico) to be an absolute tragedy.

Of course coming to the US is a bad example because there's no unalienable right of mobility into the US due to the harsh immigration laws, but that doesn't invalidate the example.
posted by falameufilho at 9:34 AM on June 11, 2010


As for "selling your soul to the company store" - completely agree that it is a very real risk. That's what I meant with the Foxconn example I mentioned above.
posted by falameufilho at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2010


piffle
posted by infini at 10:39 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mobility can't be at the same time a privilege of the rich and something the poor are forced to do.

Why? It seems evident that what one person may choose to do another may be compelled to do by circumstance.

I've slept in my car while I had more than enough money to get a place to sleep. I've also slept in my car because I didn't. Prerogative in one case, pressure in the other.
posted by weston at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yarly - you can't have it both ways. Mobility can't be at the same time a privilege of the rich and something the poor are forced to do.

It seems obvious that they are morally and qualitatively different choices. I chose to live abroad after college on a lark - because I could afford to, because I knew I could easily find work both abroad and when I returned home, because I knew I had the money and legal status to leave whenever I wanted, and because it was fun. A Salvadoran mother who leaves her small children behind to come to the US and work as a nanny because she has no other way to support her family and then can never get back home because she can't save enough money or is worried about getting back in is making a totally different kind of choice. To call those both "freedom to vote with her feet" is obscuring the substantive differences. Just like the old saying that "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
posted by yarly at 11:47 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Romer's Charter Cities: A Really Witless Approach to Development

To Save Africa, Reject Its Nations: A global effort to derecognize failed African states will force their rulers to adopt the necessary reforms to gain domestic support

Lighting Africa: Outstanding Products and Distribution Issues

A magic moment: Proper policing, better government and a stronger economy are making a difference in Rio

Rethinking the 'third world': The poor world has changed fundamentally. Others are barely coming to grips with the implications

Socialist workers: Is China's labour market at a turning-point?

The Indian census and caste: The perilous arithmetic of positive discrimination
posted by kliuless at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Larger Struggle: A rivalry is growing between democratic capitalist and state capitalist systems.

The Wild, Inhumane Market Rules Our Lives — Here's How to Fight Back: Is there a Global War between Financial Theocracy and Democracy?

What Is Political Capitalism?

Corporatism vs. Plutocracy
posted by kliuless at 5:44 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


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