Seasteaders Take to the Land in Honduras


Seasteading guru Patri Friedman has stepped down from the Seasteading Institute (which still promotes the creation of floating new nations to experiment with different governance systems) and is now running Future Cities Development, Inc., dedicated to creating charter cities with their own governance systems within the borders of Honduras. 

Fast Company has a report on the effort, which:

aims to create new cities from scratch (on land this time) governed by "cutting-edge legal systems." The startup may have found its first taker in Honduras, whose government amended its constitution in January to permit the creation of special autonomous zones exempt from local and federal laws. Future Cities has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to build a city in one such zone starting next year….

Future Cities follows this approach, describing its mission as bringing "Silicon Valley's spirit of innovation to the implementation of cutting-edge legal systems in new cities," most likely in the role of the cities' master developer. Citing laissez-faire entrepots such as Hong Kong and Singapore as examples, the company's founders believe that strong property rights and business-friendly regulation are key to creating jobs, stimulating investment, and lifting millions out of poverty, a la China's special economic zones….

…Future Cities is modeling itself on "charter cities." The brainchild of New York University economist Paul Romer (read his thoughts on FCI here), a charter city combines a host nation's vacant land (in this case, Honduras) with the legal system and institutions of another (e.g. Canada) and residents drawn from anywhere. Romer's central insight is that good governance is transplantable—rather than wait for a basket case nation to come around begging, a charter city could help show it the way, as Hong Kong did for Deng Xiaoping.

Do check Michael Strong in the comment thread of Fast Company's article correcting some errors and misapprehensions in the full original piece (not the parts I quoted above).

Reason's Ron Bailey interviewed charter city mastermind Paul Romer back in December 2001.

I have been reporting on Seasteading world doings in Reason early and often, as per this 2009 feature on the idea, and on-the-scene reporting on the first and second Emphemerisle festivals, launched originally by Seasteaders.

Tate Watkins blogged last month on another former Seasteader's business venture, Blueseed, aiming to build floating tech and business complexes in nonterritorial waters off the coast of San Francisco.