Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two Libertarian Cities On the Drawing Boards

Many previously planned libertarian countries have failed. Now, two libertarian cities may emerge in the Honduras, with the blessing of the government of the Honduras.

Economist magazine reports:
Now, for the first time, libertarians have a real chance to implement their ideas. In addition to a big special development region, the Honduran government intends to approve two smaller zones. And two libertarian-leaning start-ups have already signed a preliminary memorandum of understanding with the Honduran government to develop them.

One firm goes by the name of Future Cities Development Corporation. It was co-founded by Patri Friedman, a grandson of Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate in economics, and until recently executive director of the Seasteading Institute, a group producing research on how to build ocean-based communes. The other is called Grupo Ciudades Libres (Free Cities Group) and is the brainchild of Michael Strong and Kevin Lyons, two entrepreneurs and libertarian activists.

Both share a purpose: to build “free cities”. Last April all three spoke at a conference organised by Universidad Francisco Marroquín, a libertarian outfit in Guatemala. In September they and Giancarlo Ibárgüen, the university’s president, launched the Free Cities Institute, a think-tank, to foster the cause.

As so often with enthusiasts, divisions within the cause run deep. The two firms hail from different parts of the libertarian spectrum. Mr Friedman is an outspoken critic of democracy. It is “ill-suited for a libertarian state”, he wrote in an essay in 2009—because it is “rigged against libertarians” (they would always lose) and inefficient. Rather than giving its citizens a voice, he argues, they should be free to exit; cities should compete for them by offering the best services.

The second firm’s backers appear to be less radical. A founder of several charter schools, Mr Strong is now the force behind FLOW, a movement that claims to combine libertarian thinking “with love, compassion, social and environmental consciousness”, says its website. He too prefers exit over voice (meaning that he thinks that leaving and joining are better constraints on executive power than the ballot box). But he also believes that democratic consent is needed in certain areas, such as criminal justice. His goal in Honduras is less to implement libertarian ideals than to reduce poverty and to speed up economic development.

Some in the Honduran government have libertarian leanings, which is one reason why the authorities have moved so quickly. But when the master developers for the new zones are selected next year, strong political credentials will not be enough—and may even prove to be a drawback. Mr Friedman is stressing a difference between his political beliefs and his firm. “Ideology makes bad business,” he says, adding that Future Cities Development wants to focus on the needs of the people who live in the city.

Yet the biggest hurdle for the libertarian start-ups may be that the transparency commission, which will oversee the development regions, is unlikely to give them free rein. The “constitutional statute” for the development zones, which the Honduran national congress passed in August, does not leave much wiggle room in key areas, not least when it comes to democracy: ultimately their citizens will vote.


  1. This sounds a lot like the attempted compromise by the statists with John Galt in Atlas Shrugged.

    Mr Friedman is right about Libertarianism being incompatible with Democracy. They are competing ideologies. Libertarianism rejects the initiation of force. Democracy enshrines into law the initiation of force as it's fundamental principle.

  2. I'm not sure that this libertarian would want to sign a memorandum of understanding with government. Maybe I'm just too libertarian to do business with the thieves.

  3. I love projects like this. I think one of the possible better future alternatives for the world will be for nations to break down into small, much more governable countries like Liechtenstein and Monaco. This may be the first step towards creating that world.

  4. There is no problem with force when its scope is very limited and pre-agreed to as it used to be here in America.

    The problem is democracy given a free reign, but Aristotle knew that 5000 years ago...

  5. A political Limerick by Sid Greenberg, called "DEMOCRAT-ICK":

    There were once those who claimed "Right" can be
    Determined only by Democracy--
    That for men to denote
    What is "Just" they must vote
    And arrive at a majority.

    There were those, though, who couldn't agree,
    Who held that, to "Right," the real key
    Wasn't just more than half--
    That amount was a laugh--
    It was two-thirds at least, obviously.

    So a survey was taken to see
    If a vote could be used validly
    To decide on what's "Good"--
    The consensus: it could--
    And proved it through plurality.

    Hence all values held singularly
    And by others of the minority
    Were implied politically bad,
    So the majority just had, to
    Punish them all (naturally).

    And so those who thought right did decree
    That those not P.C. can't be free
    'Til they ( who thought wrong)
    Gathered numbers so strong
    They became right by might--rightfully.

    Thus one's recourse in Democracy
    Is to build one a gang of degree
    Large enough to elect
    One's own rights and reject
    All past rights held less numerously.

    The result, though's, no less than a spree
    Of gangs fighting for the guarantee
    That all others obey
    What it has to say
    In laws it makes populacely.

    Thus, can a righteous system not be
    When "Right's" based on popularity
    For "Right" ruled by the many
    Leaves man rights not any
    And so everyone subject to tyranny.

  6. A good start; many loser govts in the world should look into these little "Hong Kongs", as a way to attract money and talent from abroad.

  7. It is crazy to attempt to establish a free country WITHIN any existing country. The better idea (short of getting off planet earth) is to establish floating cities on the ocean.

  8. The problem with Democracies is

    "Only a few prefer liberty, the majority seek nothing more than fair masters."
    - Sallust,