Tech moguls plan new city in Solano County
"hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco"
>The specific utopian city is going to look like this:
Their images are AI generated. Wrong number of stripes on the American flag, leaves floating in mid-air, bricks/vinyl siding that doesn't match, nearly a perfectly square aspect ratio, etc, etc, etc.
Kind of funny to see The Guardian analyse the details of the images ("a series of sunny renderings showing Mediterranean-style homes and walkable and bikeable neighborhoods") like they're not Midjourney sludge that means absolutely nothing.
"Although her concerns seem kind misplaced, her name makes her sounds like a powerful and majestic opponent."
I'm pretty sure the Kerguelen islands thing isn't real? I can't find any legitimate sources repeating the claim.
"France offers to sell Kerguelen Island" this is against the French constitution, completely impossible.
I suppose if Tom Monaghan can do it with Ave Maria City, there's no reason tech very rich people can't do it in California:
Though I'm looking at the "artist's impressions" of the New Garden City and then the real landscape and going "No [expletive deleted] way that is going to translate into reality".
I *can* see what they mean about some farmland, but I have a notion they might go for commercial forestry, that kind of scrubby land is best suited for it. As for the rest of it - mmm, well. Maybe? I'm wondering about where they're going to get the water for all those tree-lined streets and boating and marinas and so forth. Is there a river nearby?
(Mostly I'm going "What the hell are the Collinson brothers doing involved with this? Too rich and grand and posh now for Tipp, are we?")
(Also, "Gosh amighty, is there no limit to the brazenness of artist's impressions? You are not going to recreate a Tuscan or Umbrian village on the banks of the local whatever river or lake is there, no matter how many red-roofed houses sloping down to the shore with cypresses on the skyline you paint in").
Dormitory town for the tech workers needed by the various employers putting money into this is the most likely result, I'm thinking.
"Three months ago, Flannery sued a group of local farmers who wouldn’t sell to them, accusing them of “conspiring to inflate the value of the land”."
Well, yeah. You'd think a company with a name like "Flannery" would be well familiar with the concept of 'road frontage' 😁
Re: Prospera and its legal troubles - well well well. I am shocked, shocked! I tell you. Who could possibly have foreseen this would happen? I mean, I never expected that if you head off to South America in order to build your own little company town because of weak governments that won't meddle with you so long as you pay off the right ministers and people in power due to political instability meaning everybody wants to line their pockets while they're in power, that this would come back to bite you in the backside when there is rapid turnover due to said political instability and the opposition party comes into power which then decides to soak the rich foreigners even more or boot them out because they made a deal with the last lot, not with them? Never expected that at all!
Is this one too many zeroes, or from rural Missouri am I misunderstanding what a "town" is: a few "~100,000 person towns scattered across the county." 100,000 is big city where I am from.
I think a reasonable HIGH LEVEL model of what they are trying to accomplish is Celebration, Florida.
in *theory* I might want to live in a place like this. In practice ... well, it depends on the actual city/town.
> Building progress: last I heard Duna Residences were supposed to be ready Q2 2023, but a recent video shows them still under construction.
Yeah, they're delayed a bit, but deliveries are happening over the next 4 months (they're doing it in phases as they get them finished), starting with the commercial units this month and finishing with the top floor in December.
"who has already demonstrated willingness to spend 11-figure sums on horrible places that it will ruin his life to own"
How'd it ruin his life? It got him bad press in the NYT, that's for sure.
Anton Bakov, a Russian monarchist, had various schemes of trying to buy land for his own country which always fell through for one reason or another:
I see those pics and all I think of is...where do you park your car?
I’m sure I’m not the only person who loves California but hates the standard model of development in California, so this looks great.
> So once 10,000 people live in their town, what’s to stop those people from becoming NIMBYs and voting against further growth?
Part of it would probably also be which people you have. Palo Alto nimbys are mostly people who moved to Palo Alto because they like having one-story houses with big yards and lots of roads. Presumably the sort of people who move into smaller high-density apartments in an area advertised as high-density would be more okay with keeping that level of density?
(Or even if they eventually change their minds and start objecting, this takes time and within a decade or two you've already probably built or at least zoned for a lot of the density you want).
> The specific utopian city is going to look like this
The street scene looks fairly retro, like some children's book from the 1950s. Maybe that is deliberate, to look reassuringly familiar to potential investors and buyers. But, among other things, where are the solar panels on the roofs, and the flat roofs to park all the hydrogen powered flying cars?
With a couple of hundred square miles at their disposal, the land footprint is sufficient to build a giant ziggurat, or "pyramid", with sides maybe a couple of miles wide at the base and with say fifty ascending terraces each bounded by an outer wall tall enough to ensure privacy for residents round the outside by preventing them being overlooked by the levels above (Or one could design terrace outer glass walls that are transparent when looked through fairly horizontally, but opaque when looked at with a downward or upward slant). I assume most residents would value privacy when out and about on their terrace gardens.
Shopping malls, public areas, lower value private accomodation, and hydroponic growing areas with artificial UV light, could occupy the interior, and it could be truncated at the top to allow a large park. There could also be a large water storage area near the top, to supply the inhabitants, water the plants, and for emergency use in fires, and to stabilize the temperature throughout. Also, the whole thing could rotate on giant bearings, so that all residents round the outside would get their fair share of sunshine, and to help equalize the temperature.
Given a few weeks I'm sure I could plan the whole thing down to the last detail! :-P
On the water question for the California Forever city, would desalination be a viable approach? Assuming they have access to the Bay, and assuming copious solar power and lots of money to spend on desalination equipment, would it be plausible to provide enough water for a city of say 100k people? I seem to recall reading that this is being done in various places in the Middle East (?)
(I expect there would be environmental lawsuits. I'm mostly just curious about the technological feasibility.)
WRT the 2.7 billion: the most important thing to understand about large piles of wealth is that they always have a huge imaginary component, money that can't be withdrawn without crashing the value of the rest of it. So loans are taken out against the assets instead of just spending the money. This is also the reason for the weird behavior you see from the wealthy. There can be 100 fold difference in how liquidity constrained two billionaires with the same nominal wealth are. If you nominally had a billion dollars but could only do anything with 10 million you'd feel pretty poor compared to your buddies.
I pointed this out in another thread, but the PR campaign for this city (in preparation for the eventual referendum) has been going on for a long time, and you've probably been part of it in one way or another.
Marc Andreessen has been writing articles like this https://a16z.com/its-time-to-build/ since 2020, and slowly buying up land since 2017 (while also campaigning against densification in actual Atherton where he actually lives).
Patrick Collisson has been donating millions to "California YIMBY" groups since 2018, and slowly buying up land since 2017. Reid Hoffmann too.
And that's just the above-water portion of the submarine. How many articles have you read in the last six years about how there's a housing crisis in Northern California and how someone somewhere desperately needs to just build a whole lot of new housing? How much of that conversation is downstream of this project?
That's not to dismiss all the arguments in favour of it. To the extent it's a good idea, it's still a good idea. But it's a bit disturbing when you realise that a giant conversation you've been part of has all been engineered behind the scenes.
Whoa, building a city and only inviting people to come live there once it’s built up is a brilliant way to avoid the vetocracy!
I'm the author of the last link about Christiania Freetown, happy to answer any questions here or on the post comments! That post was mostly from the lens of evaluating how "free" Freetown really is and contrasting it the rest of Denmark, an opposite sort of freedom.
I appreciate the link, Scott :)
A belated update from our friends in The Black Hammer Party bodes poorly for the prospects of Hammer City. Apparently their leaders were arrested and are facing charges for “kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit a felony, and taking part in street gang activity,” and one of them for sexual assault.
Wildly, they also are under fire from the Justice Department for spreading Russian propaganda in exchange for payments from a Russian influencer, who has since been arrested by the FBI and was allegedly bankrolling Hammer City.
I don't know man. I'm no socialist, but don't the Hondurans have the right to do what they want with their country? If some Chinese company had bought up the land around San Francisco and was doing stuff we didn't like we'd be pissed.
(A Japanese company would of course distract the nerds with anime so there wouldn't be a problem.)
> Solano County has a so-called “Orderly Growth Measure” saying that new building should happen in existing cities and not on empty land.
It's insane that these are legal. This is just an enforcing an oligopoly on cities, when the whole point of federated government is that you can move to a different place if you want. Hospitals have the same bullshit, where you have to get a "certificate of need" because apparently we're just overflowing with a surplus of health care right now, it's so darn cheap.
Scott, I don't know if you'll ever see this. But... how the hell did you ever write that thing about tacitus and stillness.
"The timer read 4:33, which is the length of John Cage’s famous silent musical piece. 4:33 makes 273 seconds total. -273 is absolute zero in Celsius. John Cage’s piece is perfect silence; absolute zero is perfect stillness. In the year 273 AD, the two consuls of Rome were named Tacitus and Placidianus; “Tacitus” is Latin for “silence” and Placidianus is Latin for “stillness”. 273 is also the gematria of the Greek word eremon, which means “silent” or “still”. None of this is a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence."
What was your process?
I often look at other's writing and think "This is something I could do if I just polished things enough." But this passage is, frankly, beyond my current abilities.
This article made me think of a Youtube video I saw recently about The Villages, a "master-planned age-restricted (55+) community" where a developer bought up 34 square miles, built thousands of houses, sold them to people, and charges them a $189 amenity fee.
It's not quite like a model city in that it a. doesn't appear to have a real ideological bent and b. actually exists, is financially solvent, and has residents. However, it is encouraging to me that the only obvious differences between it and the Solano build are that it is in Florida (laxer regulations?) and that it was never billed as a technoutopia. It seems like starting up a city from scratch can be done, and done profitably.
I think model city builders in general should be spending more time looking at successful new cities and adapting a model to match them, rather than starting with an ideology and trying to build a city to fit it.
If I were the cynical sort, I might point out that raves are an *excellent* venue for charlatans to recruit dumb money to nonsensical causes...
"But you would think scammers would be extra careful not to invest their own money in scams!"
You would think! And you would be wrong!
David W. Mauer's "The Big Con" is a history and dissection of classic confidence games, as practiced in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. It was the source book for "The Sting" (every twist and hidden curve in that movie is described and classified, with historical examples, in Mauer's book), and it still explains such things as the "Nigerian prince" scam today.
And one of the things the book makes clear is that confidence men ALWAYS feed on would-be crooks. They, in fact, are the marks that the con man's pitch was honed to seduce: "If you help me out with this plot to cheat that fellow over there, you and me is gonna get rich!" And so it was always the slightly crooked, just-clever-enough man with money that the con men targeted. And their BEST victims, the ones who fell most easily for the patter, and sometimes came back to the same scam again and again, were the would-be crooks convinced they were too smart to be taken in by a scam. Disarmed by a vain over-appreciation of their own shrewdness, they sometimes wouldn't realize they had been rooked even after it was all over. "How can I have been cheated?" they would bluster. "I'm too smart to be conned!"
Nor were the con men themselves immune. Even the most talented of the breed, Mauer writes, were frequently broke, and most ended up in poverty, because they were inveterate gamblers who tended to quickly lose their scores at crooked games of chance. Even when they were raking in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a scam, many of the best confidence men were still living hand to mouth, scrambling to set up new cons on the heels of the old, because they were hemorrhaging money at the tracks and gaming tables. (Again, "The Sting" borrows from Mauer's research: early in the film, Redford's character blows a big payday on a single spin of an obviously rigged roulette wheel.)
Maybe some are. But it's a dangerous bet to make.
There's multiple lawsuits in Honduras, not just from Prospera but from multiple corporations. Prospera is demanding that the government not proceed with disestablishing them. They said it could be billions of dollars if they lose all of their investment or if the disestablishment proceeds. But they are seeking to block the disestablishment, not to get paid. The logic behind the $11 billion is they're calculating over the original 50 year agreement.
Meanwhile several other companies which have suffered similarly have collectively asked for about half a billion with more on the way. But these are mostly normal companies. The largest is a Mexican firm, JLL Capital, which is suing for $380 million. Previously some Scandinavian firms sued for even more.
If you ignore the World Bank then you get suspended from the World Bank which makes getting loans and international aid harder. Honduras has paid in the past. As Honduras receives between $500 million and $1 billion in aid each year it's doubtful they could do without. But perhaps the left wing governments of the US and so on will ignore it? Not entirely sure.
The Public's Radio article has a map in it that gives a better idea of the location. It looks like most of the land is closer to Rio Vista and does include a good stretch of riverfront. The land close to Travis is probably intended as industrial park rather than residential.
I wonder if there is a bigger plan here, because a 10x upside is not that impressive by VC standards.
And to think that the smart people used to envision a moratorium on pavement.
Yesterday I heard something about how rufous hummingbird numbers are down 50% since 1970 and the explanation gave equal weight to cats and habitat loss. When did we decide to, collectively, act dumb?
I would be shocked in Proposition 13 related tax shenanigans are not underlying a major part of the Solano "new city" development. Having valuations increase is great - but having to pay almost no taxes on it is a major force multiplier. As I have noted before: people who bought property in Pacific Heights in the late 70s and early 80s now pay annual property tax that is less than 1 month's rent for a 1 bedroom in SF - and there are many ways to make this intergenerational.
This is recreating the land bits of feudalism.
It’s interesting how much a radical departure this is seen as - founding a city.
But starting a city from scratch is common in the history of the US. A few bleary eyed pioneers cross a mountain, find a nice river, pitch tent and call it Sheldonville.
It was probably not even reported that much in the national media. On the founding of SLC, the NYT reported:
“Religious pioneer Brigham Young has created a new city, called Salt Lake City, on the shores of what I assume is a salt lake in the Utah territory, or out west somewhere if that hasn’t been incorporated yet. That’s right, it’s named after an attribute of a local lake. Hopefully the city planning is more innovative than the naming department. That’s the umpteenth city to be founded this month, barely even news. Don’t know why I’m writing this, I’d prefer to be a theatre critic”
Civilisations grow old, don’t they.
"When Elon Musk buys a company, its value goes up"
Erm. I mean it's private now, so it's not like there's a market, but does anyone really think there would be a buyer for not-Twitter at $44B today? I mean how much has the value of the company gone down _just_ because of the loss of intangible value (what accountants call "goodwill") from scrapping a well-liked brand in favor of something that is only liked by crypto-scammers and right-wing trolls?
I don't mean to entirely condemn the man, he clearly is brilliant in some ways, and has been instrumental in making Tesla and SpaceX successful, which is of immense value to tall of humanity. (Worth remembering though that while he finagled the title "founder" at Tesla as part of a bargain for rescuing the company when it went through a crunch ahead of the Model S release, he really wasn't -- Eberhard and Tarpenning were the actual founders, before he came in as an investor. It was honestly a heroic thing to do, he put up virtually everything he'd made off of PayPal, and if the DoE loan hadn't come through he stood to end up reduced to being merely well-off instead of unfathomably rich, back to trying to make a fortune from scratch, like a zillion other smart strivers.)
But in any case, it's not like he has a magic touch. He's pretty much been feeding $44B into an immense bonfire in SoMa. I still think Yishan's take on the Twitter acquisition is one of the smarter things published about it.
I think this attempt is a great example of why/how Georgist LVTs would mess up incentives. Were a LVT to be put in place, positive spillovers from joint development of an area would be impossible, preventing such groups from coming together to develop land.
I am an international lawyer, expert in investment arbitration, and write for the main news source in that field; hopefully I can clarify a few points here.
The first thing to understand is that all investment arbitrations involve independent, one-off tribunals, whose arbitrators are appointed by the parties. For a tribunal to rule, it needs jurisdiction, typically under an investment treaty (here, the multilateral CAFTA-DR, but most cases take place under bilateral investment treaties, or BITs). These treaties basically says: "investment disputes can be arbitrated".
In this context, some tribunals are overseen by an administering institution, which provides some logistical services, a set of procedural Rules, and appoint arbitrators when a party does not participate - that's what ICSID is. But the final decision (the award) is not rendered by ICSID (let alone the World Bank): it's rendered by the BIT tribunal, under the ICSID Rules.
Now, ICSID is a very special administering institution: not only is it associated with the World Bank, but it has been set up by its own multilateral treaty, the ICSID Convention. A tribunal administered by ICSID needs to have jurisdiction not only under the investment treaty, but also under the ICSID Convention. Respondent states ALWAYS argue that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction under either treaty, to toss the case out before it reaches the merits, and there are many arguments that can be made in this respect. A good third of investment arbitrations fail for lack of jurisdiction. (This being said, the article linked above is right that the arguments made by Honduras so far are non-starters.)
As for why the 100x in penalties, I regret to say that international lawyers have not waited for the developments of behavioural science to discover anchoring. You typically ask for an enormous amount (as "lost profits"), with the hope of securing a big pay-out. "Lost Profits" is indeed a basis for compensation, if you can prove it, but most tribunals in the jurisprudence tends to be very sceptical of big amounts, and would tend either to award the investor its sunk costs, or to land on something more reasonable given the parties' submissions - but that's again why you want to anchor them high.
As for enforcement, the ICSID Convention notably provides that ICSID awards should be recognised as judgments of the highest jurisdictions in every state party to the treaty (in exchange, ICSID provides a dedicated, high-quality challenge mechanism to ICSID awards). That's how the investors will hope to collect on whatever award they obtain. Although the respondent state will typically find a reason to ignore their ICSID obligations to enforce, the play is to find non-immune sovereign assets in friendlier jurisdictions. Enforcement lawyers can be very creative.
Final note: other arbitral Rules and institutions exist, and investment treaties typically provide options, so denunciating the ICSID Convention is often done more for domestic headlines than anything else. (Rejoining it, as Ecuador recently did, is done for international headlines, as in "we are open for business".) As the article notes, the ongoing arbitrations would not be impacted by the denunciation.
Now, given all that, what to do of the Prospera case ? In my view, and having not seen anything else beyond what's publicly available, it's a typical investment dispute, could fare relatively well (they have good lawyers), but they won't get 11 billion USD (though that depends a lot on the arbitrators).
Unless you work for the state government in Sacramento, all the jobs are to the southwest. But there's a big river/estuary between there and the jobs, with a limited number of bridges inconveniently located for this planned metropolis. If you could build a bridge to the end of the BART line in Antioch, you could get commutes down to something reasonable, but this looks pretty nightmarish for commuters otherwise.
'But in fact, they’re talking a lot about “walkable, liveable, sustainable communities”, all of which are code words for “dense”.'
This tells me that urbanists (of whom I am one) have completely failed to communicate what we're advocating for. None of these three things require density (although walkability *does* correlate with it, it just doesn't necessitate it), but apparently when people hear us say these things their brains just interpret it as mostly noise rounded off to "mumble, mumble, skyscrapers". As if traffic calming, mixed zoning, and greenery somehow required you to build fifty story buildings first.
I've had this reaction before when reading Scott's ribbing of urbanists in his Bay Area House Party posts – somehow the impression is apparently that people like me want to pave everything over, throw up a bunch of concrete cubes, and call it a day, which is almost diametrically opposite of what I'd actually want. I have some guesses about how this came to be, but the overarching lesson is that we screwed up, in many people's case.
"How would ICSID collect against Honduras if they lost? I don’t know, but I assume the global financial order has some way to make your life worse if you defy it."
Yes, it has, and much worse. Something similar happened to Argentina. In 2001, Argentina defaulted. Esentially they said that they can only pay back part of their debt (about 30%), and that they won't pay back the rest.
Most creditors accepted that in two rounds in 2005 and 2010. But a small number of hedge funds and vulture funds refused. Argentina's opinion (both government and Argentine courts iirc) was that they don't have to pay back, and that they could ignore foreign court decisions on this.
The creditors first tried to seize all kind of abroad Argentian properties. Famously including a training vessel of the Argentine navy, the presidential airplane, and their bank deposits in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. This only partially succeeded (some things were frozen for some time, but not confiscated).
When this wasn't enough and the creditors were backed up by some courts, Argentina was essentially excluded from the international financial markets. Rating agencies like Fitch and S&P declared Argentine to be partially defaulting. Argentina could no longer borrow international money. Argentina's shares were excluded from indices like the MSCI index.
Finally, Argentina gave up in 2016 and the creditors won. The impact on Argentina was pretty dramatic. The Argentine Peso dropped by a factor of 100(!!!) in the last 15 years and local markets crashed. The interest rate increased to 60%. In total, the 20 years until this was settled turned Argentina from one of the most successful South American countries to a zombie kept alive (barely) only by the IMF. This is not *only* the result of having lost to the creditors, after all Argentina had to default in the first place. But the crisis would not have been nearly so hard without them.
> Prospera announces another $36 million in recent investment, which I take as evidence that VCs with good lawyers and research departments also think its case is very strong.
I'm skeptical that they researched it all that much since it's a hit-driven business where one winner pays for a lot of losers. So it seems like odds of winning the lawsuit don't need to be all that great to invest? But sure, it's a vote for them having a chance.
Never mind the detail, stuff like this is what has got to happen if we want people to have any sort of basic quality of life. The internet seems to think California (pop 40m/housing deficit 3.5m) has an even worse crisis than the UK (65m/4m). Why the state is not doing it via eminent domain is the real question.
>Although her concerns seem misplaced
Jan Sramek is a good salesman:
"California Forever was founded in 2017 by our CEO, Jan Sramek. After moving to California a decade ago, Jan spent time in Solano County during fishing trips on the California Delta and fell in love with the area. Having previously lived in many of the world’s most walkable, livable, and sustainable towns and cities, Jan became interested in fusing what he learned about those livable communities with those old plans for eastern Solano. He became committed to a vision for the future of Solano County. Jan and his wife Naytri recently purchased their first-ever home in Solano, and they are excited to live here with their toddler daughter, her soon-to-arrive little brother, and golden retriever Bruce."
Sramek is a Czech. Americans with 3 digit IQs admire Czechia. Prague is one of the few cities in Central Europe to not get flattened in WWII, so it offers lessons in Austro-Hungarian Empire city planning that are worth paying attention to.
He sounds like he'd be a good neighbor. He has two kids, a wife, and a golden retriever, not a pit bull.
Just on the Saudi Arabia loan - it's something that companies do all the time, probably for some combination of (1) cash flow reasons; (2) maximising leverage; and (3) the pricing works out.
Pricing: If Saudi Arabia's existing investments give it a return of 6% a year, and the interest it owes on the loan is 4% a year, then it can pay off the interest using its investment returns and keep an additional 2% of profit. It wouldn't want to liquidate its existing investments and lose out on those returns.
From the top of the Sierra in eastern California, this thread looks truly terrifying.
These are the same people whose politics have cratered an entire city so badly that no one even want to try and fix it. They want to start over from scratch. Just think about that.
I moved from Almaden Valley in the SF Bay Area (2 cars, 90 minutes to work, 2 miles to nearest shops, 4 miles to the nearest pub & Costco) to Bristol, England (0 cars, walk to work, grocery 100 yards away, 100s of pubs and restaurants within a mile).
This is not just a city vs suburbia thing. It's about designing a place where you can accomplish most things without getting in your car. As soon have the city planners have decided that most people will drive to get their groceries, all the other decisions about parking, walking, zoning are decided for them and sprawl is inevitable.
Gotta say, I did not realize that "conspiracy" was a cognizable cause of action against land-sale holdouts. It sounds facially like a demand that zero-sum surplus allocation go to the buyer rather than the seller, and thus basically like Flannery are clearly the bad guys here engaging in a pure SLAPP lawsuit -- sue these guys under antitrust or go home.
https://zuzalu.city/ is another one -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAeMr3Xyb08&
That rendering is just a bunch of single-family homes it looks like. Even as rowhouses that's not sufficient for walkable dense urbanism. What I want to know is: what is the plan for density that doesn't just involve a bunch of hideously ugly five-over-ones? That is the real innovation US urbanists so desperately need.
I've spent too much of my life around both praxis and milady people... I can promise you they have nothing smart to say or anything good planned
I've spoken to the Praxis people and it doesn't seem mysterious to me.
It's fundamentally a real estate development. "Let's build a new town in your country, bring lots of foreign investment and high-human-capital expats, and maybe you'll give us some kind of limited business-friendly perks or help us fast-track things somewhat." That's it.
The "innovation" is that they've done some community building and are trying to get "preorders" from people making a (not legally binding) commitment to move there, and they think that this can be used to get more favorable financing.
They are still in the process of working out agreements with host countries (i.e. they've had any meetings but nothing has been secured to the point they're ready to announce it).
I think this is the kind of thing where it's not obviously dumb that well-known VCs invested a few million dollars...but also maybe a <20% chance that it gets as far as Prospera (a real place with buildings where at least some people actually live full time).
"I think everyone is hoping Honduras realizes that cancelling a flourishing economic zone that’s bringing lots of investment into the country at no cost to them - just isn’t worth taking an $11 billion loss, cancelling international treaties, and scaring off future investment. But who knows how these people think?"
Never underestimate the willingness of socialists to destroy prosperity on purely ideological grounds.
>Local congressman John Garamendi noticed the weird land purchases, saw they were close to a military base, and spent years raising the alarm that it must be some sort of Communist Chinese conspiracy.
Adding this to my scrapbook of "capitalists seeing other capitalists doing Very Capitalist Things and calling it communism". (But seriously, the irony is tangible)
Hey Scott, Trey Goff from Próspera here: just FYI Gabriel published some more updated pictures of Duna this morning, here https://x.com/gabrielhdm/status/1699052860833509670
This is NOT the Bay Area. Why do people keep saying that.
> I think everyone is hoping Honduras realizes that cancelling a flourishing economic zone that’s bringing lots of investment into the country at no cost to them - just isn’t worth taking an $11 billion loss, cancelling international treaties, and scaring off future investment. But who knows how these people think?
It should be fairly obvious why a lot of people think that company towns are bad.
On Neom wanting loans - I have a guess. Part of why Aramco IPOed was to create proper financial records - not because selling a few percent of Aramco meaningfully diversified the holdings of the Saudi royal family. By being a publicly traded company, there were forcing mechanisms to get the company to do proper financial reporting.
A question for our host, you are generally pro SEZ have you considered doing a analysis/review of one of the ones that have been flagged as highly problematic?
To give you an example of one that is infamous is the Golden Triangle SEZ.
To start with its within Laos and on the border of Laos and Thailand. It is 3,000 hectares on a 99 year lease and is owned by triad head Zhao Wei who is under US sanctions.
There are multiple casinos on in the SEZ and it is a locus for wildlife trafficking. There is a tiger farm in the SEZ, where tigers are produced for food and medicine.
Due to covid many of the businesses in the Golden triangle SEZ pivoted away from casinos to being Fraud Factories. Fraud factories are a name for scam call centres, where often the workers are human trafficked in and are basically slaves. There are apparently significant numbers of people being held, with 700 Malaysians being reported as for ransom in the SEZ.
To link the above with the Honduras SEZ, the current Laotian government is in bed with the Golden Triangle SEZ like the prior government. If a new government comes in ala Honduras (potentially after that president is extradited to the US for drugs and arms trafficking as was the Honduran president who promoted the SEZ), what would the host want the outcome to be?
"One strategy is something like: buy some land somewhere. Build some houses and streets. Convince digital nomads to move there on the grounds that you are very cool and visionary. Do some cool and visionary seeming things, or at least throw some really good raves. Other digital nomads get jealous and move there too. Sell parcels of land to these people, get rich, pay back your investors. And then who knows, maybe create a new civilization that redefines what it means to be human"
No idea what you think a digital nomad is. I'm a digital nomad. We're poor people who left the west because we couldn't afford to live in it. Digital nomads can't afford to live in Cali and don't want to.
This is a very strange and nonsensical thing for you to say.
To add to the list at the bottom, China has been actively building Xiong'an New Area:
a major urban area in the southwest of Beijing that, once completed, is supposed to host most of the government agencies that currently reside in Beijing. Their ambition, apparently, is to build the Washington DC of China.
"But you would think scammers would be extra careful not to invest their own money in scams!" - this is the opposite of what I'd think, scammers are notorious for getting scammed themselves
This makes me think of an elegant way to implement land value tax on undeveloped land: the owner has to annually publicly declare a price at which anyone can buy them out, and they're taxed a few percent of that declared price. This obviates the need to infer land prices for tax purposes on very illiquid/sparse markets where there might not be enough data to model the prices, and makes it much easier for developers to acquire large contiguous lots of land from holdouts who would otherwise conspire to raise prices to the stratosphere.
Beyabu won't look like that. They have decided against building in the swamp.
My understanding is that "charter city" in California merely means that the city's bylaws are written to order, instead of following the standard package the state sets up. It still has to be democratic and legal. There are corrupt cities in California, and there are industrial cities that bribe and manipulate their tiny populations to vote how the industrialists want, but those are 1) small and 2) mostly in Los Angeles County. A big city like this one would have little room for the developers to dictate the charter, which the state would have to approve.
"What’s the strategy that both involves both" - "both" twice is, of course, ironic, given the meaning of the word, but still probably wrong?
> The government’s other option is to have the Supreme Court declare ZEDEs unconstitutional. This would be a bold strategy, since they were passed through constitutional amendment and it seems like the constitution should be constitutional by definition.
You would be surprised then by the idea of an unconstitutional constitutional amendment. To my knowledge, this has been most notably used in India, but also Germany and Italy, Taiwan, and notably, Honduras. In Honduras it was even stronger, in that it wasn't that a constitutional *amendment* was ruled unconstitutional, but rather a clause *from the original text of the constitution*. (This was in 2015, overruling part of the 1982 constitution.)
I have no idea how likely this is to succeed, but it's hardly unprecedented.
That Angel video is really great though. I’d almost invest just based on that video alone. But have they not seen Wild Wild Country? That’s prob their future.