Liberty! Prosperity! Giant gold golf balls!
For the record I don't quite know what to think of Telosa either, and a bunch of my Georgist friends are kind of confused about it. If I had $25-400 billion to throw around for the movement I could think of a lot more practical bang-for-buck ways to live out the philosophy's goals (and generate real-world empirical tests of whether it lives up to its claims) than building a super city in the desert.
Model Cities (and the "meta verse" too) make me think of Fredrick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis as well as the great Eagles song, The Last Resort.
I continue to be skeptical that siting a charter city in one of the poorest, most violent countries on Earth is a fantastic idea, sorry for being negative. My impression of Latin America as a whole is that it gets convulsed every decade or so by waves of left-wing populism. Sometimes it swings a little right..... only for leftist populism about wealthy elites to rear its ugly head again. If Prospera's successful is any way, I just don't see how a future Honduran demagogue isn't going to ride a wave of popular envy & frustration at the wealthy, mostly non-native folks. That's without even getting into security issues. Developing countries are perpetually 'developing' for a reason.
I'd put a charter city's odds of success as being much greater within a 1st world country. The Nebraska story (it's from 2018) is really interesting! My take on US politics is that during a future recession, at least 1 of the 50 states would be open to such a thing- especially if it offers some immediate tax revenue, a Thiel-type could pay off the legislature that way. Other options could include a remote outpost of a developed country. Most people aren't aware of how many tiny remote islands or random pieces of land major countries control.... from the British Isle of Man to various American outposts (Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, some smaller uninhabited islets) to French Suriname or Polynesia. Australia has a bunch of small islands. I'm sure there's many others I'm not thinking of.
Lots of small island countries in the Caribbean are much more politically stable and capital-friendly. Bermuda, Bahamas, Antigua, Trinidad, Saint Lucia..... you're also within the US sphere of influence, so I doubt the security situation could get too bad.
Another option would be to buy a used cruise ship and use it as a perpetual floating platform. Would certainly be expensive! But comes with the benefits of no national laws whatsoever
It might be cool for Scott to review Boom Town by Sam Anderson. It tells the story of the founding and growth of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City started as basically a charter city being founded in one day after the Oklahoma land run. https://www.amazon.com/Boom-Town-Fantastical-Basketball-World-class/dp/0804137315/ref=nodl_
I've seen towns and villages founded. Governments incorporated. All that. Not grand visions of social engineering. Just the normal operation of people settling land. Wouldn't it be easier to start on a small scale? Most American colonies started with a few hundred people. So do most new towns. If you want to build a city you need government level resources. But if you want to claim a bunch of land and start your own little utopia you really just need some cheap land a few hundred people. (In the US you can still get free land, by the way.)
It seems to me most of these grand social visions/communes/whatever fail because the people who want to make them lack the actual experience they need. As larius said, if I were a committed Georgist and I had a billion dollars to spend on Georgism this is probably the last thing I'd do. Or maybe they're not really committed to their ideals. They'll move to manifest them but only if it's to another part of Manhattan, effectively.
This also isn't how I'd found any city at all. A lot of times they seem like people who are really good at one thing and think that means they know everything about urban planning or whatever. I note the people founding these cities are almost never real estate professionals, architects, general contractors, whatever. I'm reminded of Bloomberg's comments about how farming is just putting seeds in the ground.
I've generally been pretty tough on Georgism. And I do think Georgism's wrong. But I respect George's theories and the movement's tax lobbying much more than whatever this guy's doing. I think Georgists are wrong on rather technical grounds. I think this guy's got too much money and too little sense. On the other hand, I look forward to another Youtube video about failed utopian communities founded in the American west.
I was a lot more skeptical of pictures like the first one until a week ago, when I saw this link:
Up until now I've never seen these solarpunk-bird's-nest-type towers in the wild, only in visualizations. And technically I still haven't, since this one isn't built yet. Still, it's scheduled to be completed by 2025 and a major tech company is paying for it, so presumably it'll actually happen. Also it's partly made of wood, which seems neat. Lore really could afford two or three of them if that's what he wanted to put his money into.
These guys keep looking out in my direction, the American West, I guess because there's a lot of open space here. But one there isn't enough of is water. There isn't really a sustainable supply of water in the West to support the people who are already here.
I don't understand why Georgism is incompatible with investors earning money. Just because all property wealth goes to the government doesn't mean the government can't then turn around and give money to investors. It's actually extremely common for governments to give tax money to private investors. It's called paying bond interest. You could also sell equity type bonds where you get a set percentage of tax revenue as a dividend. With normal cities, you'd be at the mercy of voters changing the tax rates, but with Georgist taxes, you'd be guaranteed to make a good return if property values soared. I'm saying any of this is a feature of Telosa, or would be a good idea, but I just don't see how there's a contradiction between Georgism and enriching investors.
>. Right now we can’t create big cities at will.
The inefficient and disorganized American economy cannot but the Chinese are managing it very well, they're building cities so quickly that people do not even have time to move in.
Why do governments seem so much more friendly toward charter like city entities (ie don't actively squish them) if there is a cult involved.
Religion seems to give such respectability...
The Prospera drama sounds like an indictment of the entire concept, regardless of who captured whose water supply. If Prospera was all that it's advertised to be, then all the surrounding communities would be begging to get in. No one would care about water payments, they'd only care about bumping up their place in line; and anti-Prosperan local tycoons would find themselves with zero support.
But that is not what we see (apparently). We see people treating Prospera as an invader at worst, and an alien neighbour at best. Virtually no one wants to join the utopia.
Beyond the surface level competence issues, I feel these projects are all lacking any kind of meaningful analysis of why people come to hold the views they do. There's just this ambient assumption that people are born leftist authoritarian or libertarian and the only way to create a society with lots of libertarians is to take a bunch, separate them and let them breed. As if libertarianism or the lack of it is genetic.
My guess is the outcome of these projects, in the unlikely event they were to ever get that far, would be that they'd very rapidly start to have problems with 'infiltration' by people who turn out to be leftists. If you look at the history of Bitcoin, one of the few large scale (supposedly) libertarian communities online, after about 5 years it rapidly degraded into a bad remake of Animal Farm, complete with rampant forum censorship, dictators railing against the demands of what they called "the mob", denunciations of the evils of democracy, self-destructive economic policies and even "violent" (DDoS) attacks on anyone who opposed the inner party. A whole bunch of the people who were most loudly proclaiming their devotion to libertarian ideals turned out to, in fact, be some sort of communists-in-denial. It just wasn't obvious until the turn of events forced them to reveal their true natures. Thus a bunch of Bitcoiners are perhaps the worst possible choice to create a floating libertarian cruise ship utopia. They couldn't even sustain a libertarian subreddit!
There are other examples, perhaps of most relevance being tech firms. Google, Twitter etc were once very libertarian organizations. Over time they were successfully hijacked by the authoritarian left to the point that they now treat their platforms as a sort of hunting ground for wrongthink and heresy.
This is especially true because the tendency towards authoritarian leftism is perhaps strongest amongst people with specialized skills who have been, um, "educated"/indoctrinated by the university system. Life experience can take the edge off it, but young+educated are the sorts of people you would need to set up a new city from scratch and the sort of people most likely to sign up without really understanding what it entails (because they are young so have no attachments).
To truly create a stable libertarian society, buying a boat and trying to secede from the world isn't ever going to work. Even if you assume a sci-fi scenario in which they manage to create a self-sufficient and even large community, it would end with lots of shocked pikachu faces when it was put under pressure of some sort and very suddenly devolved into a dictatorship of whoever was best at bullshitting.
What they need is not a factory for sea pods or waste water treatment. What they need is an educational and ideological factory designed to create Thatchers and Regans, but in volume. They need deep analysis of what creates un-libertarian mindsets so they can teach a new generation of leaders how to resist the arguments or calls for leftism and defend themselves against the inevitable (but bogus) attacks on their character or morality. If you don't have this then no amount of sea-steading will create a libertarian society.
A few decades ago I spoke with a Brazilian man who was very upset with the telecom liberalization in Brazil (I was visiting Brazil at the time).
According to this gentleman, big private companies were gouging Brazilians and making billions. I asked, innocently enough, "did you pay less before?" and the answer came without any awareness that it may be seen as undermining his previous rant: "Oh no, I didn't have a phone before; in the old system, it was so expensive only rich people could afford it."
I think we should take a look at real new built cities in the desert for a model of what they might be like - hey, just so happens Dubai has a programme of building absurdly grandiose projects to attract tourism and well-heeled investors.
And it runs on what some might describe as slave labour. They need a ton of foreign labour for the construction work, as well as working in service industry jobs, and if you're not a Western ex-pat in a white-collar job, the conditions are not so nice:
And that's what I wonder about projects like these. Telosa *sounds* extremely well-intentioned, but good intentions aren't enough. To make it work, frankly, I think you have to select your proposed population so that they're generally all of the same socio-economic class (you can be as racially and sexually and gender diverse within that as you like) so that everyone is starting off from pretty much the same level. That means you'll avoid sorting out into the 'nicer/better' areas of the city and the less nice ones.
But if everyone is an investment banker or IT whiz, who is going to work in the shops and drive the bin collection lorries and so on? Well, while I would love to think the kids of the janitor and the investment banker are all going to go to the same school and be in the same class with the same access to the best teachers and resources, I don't see that happening. Either there will be schools for the (diverse) investment bankers' kids and schools for the (diverse) janitors' kids, or there will be one set of schools for all, the well-heeled parents will go "How nice", and then hire private tutors for their kids outside of school.
So you have (1) the low-level workers living in the city, which is going to lead to that kind of sorting out into neighbourhoods for the better-off and for the lower middle class or (2) letting the shop assistants and cleaners and janitors and so forth come in to work for the day/night shifts from elsewhere and go home after they've done their day's work, but not live in the city proper.
As for Próspera, yeah, I'm dubious. There probably is a local power struggle going on, but whoever controls the water supply is going to control the area. Whatever they say, if Crawfish Rock is depending on Próspera for water, and paying water bills to Próspera, then eventually they will be absorbed into Próspera. As for the rest of it - the promised economic upturn due to an influx of new jobs not turning out that way, as outsiders are getting the contracts? Again, I'm not surprised, because this is usually how such matters turn out. It happened in Ireland, where big projects were announced by government with promise of X many construction jobs while the thing was being built, then turning out that a British or other firm got the contract.
Honestly hearing the state of things in Prospera makes me optimistic they'll *succeed.* It indicates that they're not afraid to get down and dirty to secure their future, and also don't fold at the first public criticism. Which like it or not, is imo a good indicator of success.
On the subject of building utopian cities in the American desert, have you considered looking at the Mormon tradition of city building?
Brigham Young is by far the most prolific American city planner, with hundreds of cities and towns across the western US. The most successful ones have been Salt Lake City (obviously), Mesa AZ, and San Bernadino CA.
> I’m probably biased here, but I trust Devon more than I trust some anti-tech e-zine.
Based on context, I assume that e-zine is Rest of World. But their "3 minutes with" series https://restofworld.org/series/3-minutes-with/ with the pitch "Get to know the people at the forefront of the global tech industry." is basically a channel for tech startups to promote themselves; and their listicles https://restofworld.org/series/lists/ seem clearly aimed at wannabe tech entrepreneurs who want to make it big in, y'know, the rest of the world.
So what gave you the impression they're anti-tech? That they published an article critical of Próspera? That seems like self-serving reasoning: you dismiss the article because you dislike the source because they published the article you want to dismiss. Maybe you shouldn't trust your friend to be a good judge of character either, because he's probably not immune to the same kind of bias.
> their only condition was that the city officially say they wanted it, which sounds like a pretty reasonable demand with the news coverage being what it is.
When you're in a position of power, using that power to try and force a symbolic display of submission might be a very human desire, but actually doing so makes you look like a tyrant who'll do anything for an ego boost. Don't expect it to lead to better news coverage.
If the issue is a possible water monopoly, then the patronato's plan to restore the old water supply would lead to market diversification and retaliating against that isn't reasonable at all. If they cut off Próspera afterwards, it would reveal the patronato's motivations to be unambiguously selfish. (That's also what it sounds like in Devon's telling of the story.)
That isn't to say that the patronato's refusal to submit is reasonable either. If I were in their position, I'd have accepted Próspera's terms, while making clear to the other locals that the ultimatum shows that depending on Próspera's water is too risky, and we should restore the old water supply as soon as possible.
they claim to be building open utopias, but is this some weird cover story to create gated communities and keep out the riff raff?
Is China implementing Georgism in its own way? IIRC in China, much like in Singapore, almost all land is owned by the government. What you get when you “buy” a property is a 99 year lease. Interestingly, out past something like 50 years, leasehold property and freehold property sell for the same price.
In the case of China, the vast majority of local government revenue comes from selling these leaseholds. That seems sorta Georgist is a way.
I want to recommend "Oath of Fealty", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Fealty_(novel) as a vision of how a 'model' city might work.
"In late October, Cárdenas and Connor received an unsigned letter from the Próspera Foundation, a new name for the charitable organization Monterroso oversees. The foundation had heard that the pair were looking at ways of restoring Crawfish Rock’s old water supply. The letter said that the foundation assumed that meant they no longer wanted to access water from the ZEDE’s well, and was going to cut them off in 30 days’ time."
What set Prospera off was Crawfish Rock just *talking* about setting up its old water system. So Prospera cut off the water, presumably before Crawfish could build its own supply. At this point, if I lived in Crawfish Rock, I would view Prospera as an enemy, and any supply they offered as unreliable.
As for why cities form, I assume it's favorable trade conditions. Delany's theory that cities attract people from sexual minorities is at least plausible, and might have political implications.
I don't know if I have mentioned it on these threads before but there are some examples of successful start up cities in the US that might be a model for a place like prospera. I am posting from one right now.
The Woodlands TX https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Woodlands,_Texas was started by oil investor George Mitchell and has grown from 8000 in 1980 to 100,000 population today. It is still not an official city but instead is run by the Howard Hughes Development corporation.
Just remembered my youth. There was enough place for chaos. For my kids too, I hope. I wouldn't want any of my grandchildren lack that.
What I like about Auroville is that it seems very bottom-up. It’s likely that Auroville-like foundings happen periodically, with a few becoming empires one day, the rest being absorbed by the mainstream. I was impressed by what the Rajneeshees accomplished in a short time in Oregon (See Netflix).
I don't have much to say other than I do enjoy learning about these. They are fascinating.
If we're talking about planned communities/new cities/cult towns, then what about Ave Maria, Florida?
Built (inspired and developed by) Tom Monaghan of "Domino's Pizzas", it's built around the Ave Maria university, which Monaghan moved to Florida after he was denied planning permission to extend the college he built in Michigan.
"Ave Maria, Florida is an unincorporated community that was founded in 2005 by Ave Maria Development Company, a partnership consisting of the Barron Collier Companies and the Ave Maria Foundation led by Roman Catholic philanthropist Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and the leader of Ave Maria University at the time. Monaghan served as chancellor of Ave Maria University until February 2011. The development of the town was made possible when the Florida legislature created the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District, a limited local government whose purpose is to provide community infrastructure, including community development systems, facilities, services, projects, and improvements. In 2015-16, it was ranked the 40th top-selling master planned community in the United States, out of 230 such communities tracked. It earned the "Community of the Year" for seven consecutive years (2015-2021). In 2020 it broke its previous record for new home sales - selling 507 new homes during the year and ranking 38th on the list of Top Master Planned Communities in the USA. In January 2021, 77 new homes were sold in Ave Maria - an all-time monthly sales record for the town. Ave Maria was most recently names in the Top 25 Master-Planned Communities in the USA and is over 450 home sales for the year as of September 1, 2021."
It's conservative, it's Catholic, I have no idea what it's like to live there but it's survived for 16 years and I haven't yet heard any major scandals about it (there have been some ruffled feathers around the university). So it is possible to found a small city/town and get it to work.
"I like Georgism as much as anyone else, but I’m not sure a new city in the desert is the right place to try it. Land in the desert is already really cheap."
I suspect that there may in fact be a reason why you can buy desert for so cheap.
Telosa sounds a lot like Tabula Ra$a from the Zoey Ashe books by Jason Pargin?
A girlfriend of mine in college studied abroad in Auroville. She mentioned the cult-like atmosphere and failed cashless economy, but didn't seem to have any issues with safety. I do remember that their internet was good enough to support Skype calls, and in 2012 at that.
(Aside: I never studied abroad and always thought of it as a kind of indulgent rich-kid thing to do. Of course, going to Auroville pretty much maxes out on the "find yourself" model of study-abroad.)
It is probably just me, but when I read the Telosa's diversity and inclusiveness statements I just assume this is code language for:
"We will use the natural and inevitable diversity in outcomes between people and cultures as an excuse to totally social engineer anything and everything we would like."
This leads me to a hard pass.
> “how terrible, eh? To live in this modern age and lack running water.”
If he actually said this - they need to hire a professional spokesperson and forbid him from ever speaking to the public again