555 Comments

Fyre Fest, or just The Free Town Project 2.0?

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Porque no los dos ?

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Galt's Gluch Chile? That was a clownshow.

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Axtually, I was thinking of Grafton, New Hampshire, but similar experiments in minarchist government have been tried in other cities here and there, with comparable results.

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Are they promising a ball pit? Because that made DashCon so successful! 😁

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>So for example, when you buy land in Próspera, you’ll have to sign a Covenant Restricting Vice Industry Uses - ie you can’t turn your house into a joint brothel+casino and do unethical medical experiments in the basement. Even the strictest libertarian has to admit this is fair; if you sign a contract, you’ve got to follow it.

What about slavery contracts?

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See section 10.1, on human rights.

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For human rights, as with a lot of the more complicated and controversial areas, it seems like the answer is basically "we promise we won't do anything bad" and Honduran law still applies. Which seems a problem when the original problem this was seeking to solve is endemic corruption in Honduras.

More gerenally a lot of these things seem to rely on it being written into the law/founding documents that they won't do bad things. But what the law says is not particularly relevant when the people who decide how the laws are enforced are the same people who would profit off corruption. So it essentially relies on a group of unelected leaders being ethical enough to not do things that are in their own self interest

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It's definitely true that a key failing of laws is that they mean nothing if people don't actually follow and enforce them. But I think your concern has already been addressed in the article.

One of the key points is that law enforcement isn't supposed to rely merely on the the ethics of the leaders. It's also a business proposition. "We have good government" is the product the company is selling. "Profiting from corrupt government" is the business model they're trying to replace. It's what Honduras is already doing. They're trying to create an alternative to that, where the business model is "profit from good government" instead.

Now, maybe it's the case that corruption is always more profitable than good government. If so, then you're right, law enforcement would rely wholly on ethical leaders ignoring their economic incentives. And then, I suppose, the experiment wouldn't last very long: the company would realize they're not profitable, then they'd do something corrupt to try and turn a profit. And every time that happens, their core business proposition evaporates a little more, or becomes more fake, and they get less and less different from Honduras, and eventually vanish as soon as the VC dries up.

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I mean, the obvious argument regarding those is "and why would you do that to yourself?"

The obvious counterarguments are leonine contract and 5000-page-fine-print contract, but outside of those situations there are decent arguments for allowing it.

(I will note that "enforceably leasing yourself into servitude" is to a restricted extent practiced in all countries with a military.)

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> You could tell similar stories about the success of Hong Kong and Singapore, two other polities with little to recommend themselves other than a different and more competent regime than the surrounding regions.

I had to stop to comment here - I think both have something very important to recommend them. They're both Alpha+ gateway cities which control massive trade flows. Singapore is at the tip of the Malacca straits, which means absolutely massive shipping volumes flow past it, from which it can derive huge amounts of wealth. Hong Kong is at the mouth of the Pearl River delta and sees a similar dynamic. They were both already extremely important cities long before they had interestingly different governance regimes. I think the arrow of causality is pointing the wrong way here - it's not that interesting governance allowed these uniquely important cities to spring up ex nihilo, it's that when your city has such a massive natural advantage, it ends up with interesting political structures.

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Not to mention that Hong Kong has one of the best deep water harbors in the world.

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Right, and they're both inherently defensible islands which can more easily resist external regime change (although those days appear to now be over in Hong Kong).

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It didn't go so well for Singapore in 1942 either.

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You couldn't exactly call it an "external regime change". HK only existed at the behest of the CCP.

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They're also a prime example of survivorship bias. Nobody remembers Dertu, Kenya, which was presented just as glossily as this was...until the VC money dried up, and Dertu was left worse off than it was before.

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Yeah. Hong Kong and Singapore grew up organically because they were serving needs. Unless you manage to call back the ghost of Stamford Raffles to get your new city off the ground, I think just plopping one down next to a golf course and crossing your fingers and hoping "shiny tech!" will work miracles is asking a lot.

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It is asking a lot. On the other hand, the rewards for getting it right are so high that I'm happy to see this kind of thing tried over and over again until someone discovers the recipe to get it right.

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The only recipe that comes to mind is eugenics. A polity is made of people, and you can no more build Utopia out of the stock H. sapiens model than you can build the Burj Dubai out of bricks made of sun-dried mud.

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Stock H. sapiens can at the moment build Burj Khalifa or similar in some places, and not others. Genetic stock is not everything.

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The extreme end here is China in 1970 vs China now. Same people, very different outcomes.

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or the default example of N and S Korea.

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Not a great example, because neither is anywhere near equilibrium. If I took Germany in 1945 (a smoking ruin) and compared it to 1955 (in the middle of the Wirtschaftwunder) one would naturally say wow! but neither was anywhere near an equilibrium state. Same idea.

Anyway, it's not a good counterexample because China now is nowhere near utopia, only (at best) approaching what has already been achieved in many other places and times. Extrapolating China's improvement 1970-2020 -- or for that matter that of the US 1930-2020, or Britain 1970-onward -- says approximately squat about the plausibility of a *further* hypothetical tripling of the humanity and success human civilizations can enjoy. You would need entirely different evidence.

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there is a funny "long term share of global GDP by country" chart i saw once that basically shows China recent economic rebound is just bringing them back to where they were 200 years ago. I.e. China in 1970 was the outlier and today is the reversal to norm. A lot easier to do (can build on underlying human and cultural capital and natural country advantages that even communism and a century of war couldn't wipe out) than to work your way up from bottom to a place you've never been before.

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No, it's not everything, but it is the ultimate limit to everything. You can never build a machine better than the quality of its components. And I suggest that building the Burj Khalifa is at least one order of magnitude easier than building a utopian society.

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Hong Kong was an unimportant backwater island when the British took over in 1842, all they wanted out of it was a safe place to drop anchor and store cargo near China.

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founding

This. Hong Kong is a *decent* place to put an international trade hub; Guangzhou/Canton is better in every respect but legal. Hong Kong's legal advantages made it worth the trouble of building out the port facilities, mainland rail connections, etc. If Prospera prospers to the same relative extent (scaled to Honduras rather than China), something similar could happen. Though the bit where it's an island rather than a peninsula means you can't just build some railroads and turn it into a transshipment point for low-value bulk goods from the interior.

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Yes, I was about to say - how is this not simply a tax haven? Of course 10% won't be enough to fund any sort of health or education system, say, and of course people in high income brackets in Central America wouldn't be caught dead using state-provided services in either categories. But what happens to lower-income people living in Próspera? And how is this system supposed to scale up at all? If the best argument is that, as you say, the wealthy in Honduras are extremely successful at tax evasion anyhow...

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"But what happens to lower-income people living in Próspera?"

Do we really need three guesses?

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Alternatively- what lower income people?

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My guess would be as happened with other similar plans if it ever gets off the ground the majority of the blue collar labour will be provided by people who aren't officially Prosperan citizens, living in slums on the other side of the border. (See guest workers in dubai and Singapore). Might still be a net benefit if its giving jobs and economic growth there wouldn't be otherwise, but but as utopian as it sounds

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That's pretty much my take on it as well. You'll have the very wealthy (if you can entice them) living in the deluxe areas with their VTOL runabout, you'll have gradations from that down. There have to be 'service' categories along with the smart rich people, and those include the professions like doctors, nurses, teachers and so on. Whatever about doctors and lawyers, the nurses are not going to be rubbing elbows with the rich and hoity-toity in the same neighbourhoods.

It may become necessary to introduce something like the London Weighting - an allowance to cover the cost of living in an expensive region in order to make sure certain classes of employees can afford to live where they work (or at least relatively near to it): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_weighting

And then you keep going down the line: the people working in retail and customer service jobs. Maids and housekeepers and groundskeepers for the nice "Zaha Hadid"-style buildings, be they the gleaming towers of the commercial and financial quarters or the modular dwellings on the hillsides. After all, you can't expect the high-value, creative, wealth-producing smart citizens to scrub their own bathrooms or clip their own hedges!

And those are the people that will, as you say, be living in the rest of Honduras and coming in by public transport to work in Próspera. Unless the notion of "servants' quarters" is re-introduced and you have the room under the eaves for the maid, and I don't know if that is appealing to the rich smart folks. Maybe we'll get the revival of "company towns" or "model villages" - parts of Próspera set aside for 'the workers' to live, which can be paternalistic benign areas like the Quaker mercantile families set up https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bournville or the bad versions like some American models https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_town "I owe my soul to the company store" but most likely I think it will be service and low-paid workers commuting in and back out once their working hours are done.

Like every city, there is going to be inequality baked in - unless they truly mean that only the high-worth people are going to live in their shiny dream, and unless you have complete automation and robots, those high-worth people will want someone to work in the coffeeshops and fashion outlets and be on hand to tend to their teeth and so forth. That's going to (a) make Próspera attractive for criminals, from the opportunistic muggers and pickpockets to the organised provision of sex and drugs and other illicit pleasures and (b) foster resentment - it's all very well telling the low-paid workers "hey, you are earning more than the average Honduran manual worker", but the comparison between "I am working for people getting a million a year and a flying car on top of that" is still going to be evident.

No more poverty! Opportunity for all! is a lovely slogan, but the fact of the matter is that unless you have androids doing the servile work, not every single person in Próspera can be a merchant banker or movie producer or fancy high-tech something or other.

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There is a ton of inequality already baked in. But it's worth noting that very corrupt places with a lot of crime and the police mostly on the take (like Honduras) are usually especially bad places to be poor. Living in a small apartment with little extra income in a place with little crime and honest police and judges is probably a lot better than living at the same material standard of living in a place with lots of crime and dishonest police and judges.

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Regarding (a): As long as they have effective police, I doubt crime will be much of an issue, especially given how small the community will be in the beginning. As for (b), being paid what your labor is worth shouldn't foster resentment as long you are treated well, and have at the least the opportunity for upward mobility.

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Alternatively - things stay the same and they all remain poor?

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"Ireland will get its freedom, and you still be breaking stones"

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> Interested parties who don’t want to move to Roatan can seek “virtual residency” / “e-residency”, a concept pioneered by Estonia in 2014. This mostly allows virtual residents to set up companies in Próspera, governed by Prósperan law.

Or more specifically, a front for a tax evasion scheme.

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Like all the shipping that gets registered under a Liberian flag? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_convenience

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10% is plenty to fund a health and education system and a lot besides, provided that your country is populated mostly by people whose incomes are high enough that they're keen to move to a tropical resort to avoid paying tax in their home countries.

Monaco and Liechtenstein seem to have a functioning healthcare and education system.

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Monaco made its money off the back of gambling and has attracted an influx of migration, from the wealthy trying to use it as a tax haven to the usual migrant workers:

"Monaco has the world's highest GDP nominal per capita at US$185,742 GDP PPP per capita at $132,571 and GNI per capita at $183,150. It also has an unemployment rate of 2%, with over 48,000 workers who commute from France and Italy each day. According to the CIA World Factbook, Monaco has the world's lowest poverty rate and the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world.

One of Monaco's main sources of income is tourism. Each year many foreigners are attracted to its casino and pleasant climate. It has also become a major banking centre, holding over €100 billion worth of funds. Banks in Monaco specialise in providing private banking, asset and wealth management services. The principality has successfully sought to diversify its economic base into services and small, high-value-added, non-polluting industries, such as cosmetics and biothermics.

The Blancs [casino operators that the royal family sold the licence to operate gambling to] ...quickly petitioned Charles III to rename a depressed seaside area known as "Les Spelugues (Den of Thieves)" to "Monte Carlo (Mount Charles)." They then constructed their casino in the newly dubbed "Monte Carlo" and cleared out the area's less-than-savoury elements to make the neighbourhood surrounding the establishment more conducive to tourism.

The Blancs opened Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo in 1858 and the casino benefited from the tourist traffic the newly built French railway system created. Due to the combination of the casino and the railroads, Monaco finally recovered from the previous half-century of economic slump and the principality's success attracted other businesses. ...By 1869, the casino was making such a vast sum of money that the principality could afford to end tax collection from the Monegasques—a masterstroke that was to attract affluent residents from all over Europe in a policy that still exists today."

Basically, Monaco is a Mediterranean Las Vegas. Attracting the rich to have a good time resulted in support industries - from jewellers to banks - following along and setting up. This is certainly a successful business model, but you can't eliminate poverty by setting up multiple new cities based on gambling. And as noted, the very wealthy live on the hillsides with their yachts in the bay, while the blue and pink collar workers trek in daily from France and Italy.

Liechetenstein picked itself up off the ground after the Second World War by deliberately turning to financial enticements and setting itself up as a tax haven:

"Despite its limited natural resources, Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens; it has developed a prosperous, highly industrialized free-enterprise economy and boasts a financial service sector as well as a living standard that compares favourably with those of the urban areas of Liechtenstein's much larger European neighbours. ...Liechtenstein has previously received significant revenues from Stiftungen ("foundations"), financial entities created to hide the true owner of nonresident foreigners' financial holdings. The foundation is registered in the name of a Liechtensteiner, often a lawyer. This set of laws used to make Liechtenstein a popular tax haven for extremely wealthy individuals and businesses attempting to avoid or evade taxes in their home countries."

Your examples certainly work, but they work by "if you attract lots of already very wealthy people to come live here and bring their money with them, and then you cater to them becoming even wealthier, your area will do well" which may work for Próspera *if* they can attract and retain already very wealthy people. If they can't, their shiny model housing won't do a damn thing towards success. I think a lot of comment on here is justifiably sceptical that it may turn out to be, like Liechtenstein, run on a "brass plate company" model for any success: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass_plate_company

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"asset and wealth management services"

So tax evasion and money laundering?

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Basically, yes, although why rich people couldn't just move to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Panama, the Caymans, etc. is left unsaid.

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Singapore and Hong Kong also have robust state-owned business sectors and universal healthcare.

If that were not enough, the government provides something like 85% of the housing in Singapore.

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Singapore does not have universal health care, employees are forced to pay into a savings account which can then be used to pay for healthcare.

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Thanks for the correction, and I say that without snark.

Still not a libertarian scheme.

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I don't see a principled reason why 10% isn't enough to fund the basic services you need from government, particularly when your charter city isn't likely to be providing anything like welfare payments.

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I briefly looked at their labor code. It looks like, by default, 25% of an employee's salary would go into a withholding fund, from which one can draw for certain purposes, such as medical expenses or pension. One could sign an opt-out where it would go down to 10%.

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Is this withholding fund sensibly invested? If so, that seems like a really good default for most people. See also libertarian paternalism. Although the actual libertarian paternalist in me wants people to be able to opt out entirely. Plus I'm worried that it's not invested at all or else is invested in "prospera" which seems downright evil.

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It says that opportunities to invest up to 90% may be offered.

On the other hand, it seems like it could be used for quite a lot of things, including 13th and 14th month (vacation) pay (for those who don't sign the opt-out), so the 25% may be insufficient.

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> Of course 10% won't be enough to fund any sort of health or education system

Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahaha.

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By saying "how is this not simply a tax haven?" aren't you ignoring the several dozen paragraphs where it discusses other features? Can't it be a tax haven AND a bunch of other cool stuff -- in which case, it would be "very complexly a tax haven".

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Prediction: this will be a great success on its own terms, and a bad thing for Honduras. It is pretty much the reference implementation of a tax haven, will all the obvious negative externalities it employs, and it will also drag down Honduran wages and labour standards through competition.

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The required minimum wage within Prospera is 10-25% above the Honduran minimum wage. See labor section here, https://prospera.hn/business/

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What kind of libertarian paradise has a minimum wage? I thought libertarians hated that sort of thing.

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The kind that is only vaguely sort of a government and only vaguely sort of libertarian.

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I'd say most of the talk about a "libertarian paradise" was written by hostile and/or opportunistic journalists. From the inside, it was never intended as a "libertarian paradise." It was intended as higher quality law and governance in order to create broad-based prosperity. Certainly Octavio Sanchez only wanted to see his country become prosperous.

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Provided ZEDEs draw in capital investment and creating jobs, why wouldn't wages and labor standards rise broadly under this framework? As any economy liberalizes, the gains are broadbased and the standards of living rise. Generally, the more free markets, the higher the standard of living.

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"Liberalize" sounds weird in context. Honduras seems never had had any kind of attempt at non-liberal / socialist bloc style of economy (unlike Venezuela or Nicaragua), but rather seems to have been relatively free export market oriented country; Wikipedia article tells "banana republic" was coined to describe Honduras. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honduras

Quote:

"Banana-exporting companies, dominated until 1930 by the Cuyamel Fruit Company, as well as the United Fruit Company, and Standard Fruit Company, built an enclave economy in northern Honduras, controlling infrastructure and creating self-sufficient, tax-exempt sectors that contributed relatively little to economic growth. American troops landed in Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925."

Wikipedia article turned out very interesting.

True to name of "banana republic", according to same Wikipedia article and clicking at the presidents, since the United Fruit they have had military coups, leftist presidents (with land reform and other leftist agenda) elected then deposed by military coups (halting the said reforms), a Football War with El Salvador, more coups, including one coup president ousted by another coup in 975 after U.S. SEC found out the firstly mentioned president had taken bribes from United Fruit Company to deduct banana export taxes, a return to evidently chaotic democracy, US military and CIA presence to help fight a war Marxist militias and support Contras in Nicaragua in 1980s, military , drug cartels in 00s, US military presence to fight said drug cartels, and another coup in 2009.

Today Honduras exports also textiles, coffee and ores in addition to bananas (production of bananas was seriously hurt by hurricane Mitch in 1998, which was significant, or no one has updated the Wikipedia page on Honduran economy since 00s). The economy Wikipedia tells me that textile industry is based on system of "Maquiladoras"; related, the government opened tariff free trade zone in Puerto Cortés (a major port and railway connection since the banana company era) already in 1975 and then elsewhere, followed by privately run "Export Processing Zones".

No doubt one country's history is more complicated than summary of its Wikipedia summary, but countries that are dysfunctional often also have a dysfunctional history. A couple of things stand out: People with guns historically seem to have lots of sway in Honduran politics: this has some implications on running a governance experiment without monopoly of violence. Honduras seems to have a history of many independence proclamations and constitutions. It could make the investors less confident in Prospero written in Hondurasian constitution or the safeguard of lots of promised human rights.

Another more striking thing, according to Wikipedia, Honduras has seen various versions of publicly and privately run enclaves and free trade zones for over century: bananas since the 20th century, textiles in 1970s. So maybe one should not be surprised to see a charter city initiative there of all places. On the other hand, while the preceding economic zones probably have helped to create the manufacturing economy that exists in Honduras (or existed in 00s when the Wiki was updated), they have not been stellar success to the effect of Hong Kong. Maybe iterative development works, and now they got it right when they have the zone set up its own kind of legal and investment framework in this one particular way that targets medical tourists?

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You definitely know more about Honduras's history than I do.

Re: Liberalisation, my understanding (I spent 25-30 hrs in due diligence on this project) is that with combination of positive opportunities gives this project a very strong chance of success: supermajority approval of the zones, affirmed by the supreme court, approved by CAMP, supported by various treaties, 12% revenues to Honduras, best in world laws/regs/taxes/ownership, none of the perverse incentives of traditional govt, low labor costs, locations near shipping lanes, supply chain disruptions leading to repatriation near/within US, draconian reactions to pandemic elsewhere, decentralization movements, etc....

And at $3k/GDPperCapita, it doesn't take much upside to make this have a dramatic effect on this country.

All make this iteration of attempts at new govt models pretty attractive. Risks still clearly remain but there's lots of high impact reasons for this to be successful and all incentives for stakeholders are aligned.

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12.0.1 - Did they consider naming it something that doesn't sound like a brand name prescription drug? "Ask your economist if Próspera is right for you."

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Próspera means "prosperous" in Spanish. It's basically just naming the city Prosperity.

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I am having *terrible* Shadowrun: Hong Kong flashbacks.

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Diaspóra? Utopitorol?

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Outside of medical tourism or possibly finance, I don't see how they're going to generate income or jobs.

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founding

Oh, just those things? No way that'll work.

You do know that the entirety of London these days pretty much depends on the financial industry? And that's one reason for all the hand-wringing over Brexit, that it might completely annihilate the finance industry in London and therefore the entire British economy. I'm less well-versed in the value of medical tourism, but given how healthcare is exploding as a percentage of GDP here in the US, I'm thinking it's primed for growth.

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Financialization makes for fragile and corrupt democracies, so maybe Brexit will end up being a good thing to correct for the over-reliance on financial services.

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Dubai seems to be turning towards medical tourism to help stimulate its economy (one of the reasons I snorted when I saw the picture of Dubai alongside Shenzen in the "then and now" photos was because I never thought all the artificial islands and luxury hotels rash of building was anything more than a vanity project to add some glitz to the image of the UAE and cover over the less savoury aspects of life there): https://skift.com/2020/01/20/medical-tourism-emerges-as-a-bright-spot-for-flagging-dubai/

Trying to appeal to extremely wealthy people has a limited possibility of success: there are only so many days in the year and so many very very rich people, and if they're only popping in for a day or so in your snazzy new locale that's not helping for the rest of the year. Thus you end up providing plastic surgery for Irish single mothers: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/dubai-two-to-persist-withlegalchallenge-after-their-quarantine-spell-40283263.html

It's not about generating income or jobs (after the initial construction work provides temporary jobs boost), it's about attracting rich people to come park their wealth there, use it as investment opportunities (like the London property market), companies to headquarter there (we here in Ireland know all about that https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/double-irish-with-a-dutch-sandwich.asp) and become a hub for financial trading and high-tech R&D in various industries. I don't imagine there will be traditional manufacturing industries, but what do I know? Maybe they will set up business parks where the pharma companies, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, can happily engage in creating new drugs and letting Jack sit on sixteen boards with no conflict of interest where he can sign off on Greg getting 500% bonus and Greg, by virtue of the fifteen boards he sits on, can sign off on Jack getting 600% bonus for the hard work they are doing.

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The pictures of Dubai and Shenzhen next to each other also help make clear how much Shenzhen has actual urbanism, while Dubai just has the "skyscrapers-in-an-interchange" version of Le Corbusier's old "towers-in-the-park" idea.

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This really stuck with me - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/09/business/medical-tourism-mexico.html - Before reading and researching the basis of the article, I had heard of medical tourism but had a hard time imagining doing something like this but no more. Yes, there's a market for it and quite a large one.

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Why not the same way as any other town, just hopefully a bit more efficiently than the average Honduran town?

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....Manufacturing, logistics, maintainance, building large aircraft/ships, agriculture, software, near-shoring, infrastructure, various supply chain service businesses, and more

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“ In the original plan, charter cities would be governed by some respected and competent foreign power like Switzerland.”

Or maybe you could get the UK to do it? Huh...that sounds vaguely familiar.

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I know a Belgian guy named Leopold who has made a really convincing case to numerous world authorities as to why he should control underdeveloped land.

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Micro-focused comment on the home prices:

These home prices are astonishingly expensive by US standards (which in general has a fairly low cost of construction). $3750/m2 is about $350 per square foot. For reference, outside of very expensive metro areas, typical single family home construction in the US comes in around $110-$150 per square foot, and apartment construction is even cheaper, perhaps $90-$100. A mobile home comes in even cheaper, at maybe $40-$60 a square foot.

Even their "affordable" beta residency comes in shockingly expensive - they look like they can't be more than 200 square feet or so, which isn't a great deal for $40,000.

This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for the removal of overly strict building codes as a mechanism ushering in low-cost construction.

(the obvious caveat here is that the US makes it hard to build really small homes, which is true to some extent).

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Hey Brian,

Trey here (from the article). That is the price of our most premium/lux offering. Our lower cost co-live units which will launch next year are less than $2,000/m2 construction cost, and will be sold and built in far greater numbers.

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Hi Trey-

Thanks for the reply. That still seems expensive, but I remembered you're building on a small island - am I right in assuming that just getting stuff to the island is a major cost driver?

Scott mentioned the building code briefly, I'd love to know more about it/your construction plans in general, if there's anything you can share. briancpotter@gmail.com

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Hey Brian--you hit the nail on the head. Shipping is expensive! I'll email you today or tomorrow at the latest with more details.

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I have no localized knowledge of the shipping costs in the Caribbean, but I'm painfully aware that bulk shipping costs, especially delay-sensitive shipping costs, that remotely touch any point between, oh, let's say Shanghai and Penang, are on average roughly double what they were eighteen months ago. One guess as to the root cause.

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Hello Trey, my father's company has a building solution that might allow you to produce much of the building material on the spot and in light-weight while being very suitable for your needs and a great isolation material (making costs of cooling for example much lower). Reach me at work ( a t ) dnesic ( d o t ) com if you'd like to discuss a bit more. I'm also curious about the educational systems there, although I'll read up on your website first before asking you more questions!

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I am piggybacking on this random comment just to say that I think this idea is awesome, I want it to succeed and I wish there was a way I could contribute! Just the fact that you're trying stuff like this is so heartening. Good luck!

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Given the normal wages for construction workers and similar professions in Honduras it seems you'll have to subsidise housing or pay then significantly more if the plan is for them to also live in Prospera. Or is the plan that they live elsewhere?

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When I visited Roatan about 15 years ago there were lots of shanty villages. Its possible that it has changed to be completely covered by resorts but when I visited most of it was still pretty poor. I would imaging that most of the laborers would not live in Prospera.

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No idea where you can build right now for as little as $110/sf unless you're doing it yourself and even then it would be only the cheapest of materials and not including land costs. Builders in way upstate NY are quoting $250/sf right now (not including land costs) which yes, our higher labor rates are hurting us but the cost of materials is affecting everyone, everywhere right now. Sheet of standard grade plywood at the local Lowe's just hit $50.

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Sure, building material supply chain issues have driven all these numbers way higher for the moment.

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Regardless of whether the city's COVID restrictions were dumb or pretextual, the CEO flouting them does not bode well for Próspera's outlook as Honduran Sovereignty Respecters. You yourself seem to be seeding this in the article rather ham-fistedly at the end of 10.2 with some "if they do, it's not that bad!" hand-waving. You are ultimately trusting their judgment to only flout the bad laws and not the good ones. This trust does not seem to have been earned.

Also, there is a big contradiction between 10.1 and 10.4. It sounds to me like if workers are being abused, they CAN'T just walk 500 feet and be back in regular Honduras, since as you point out regular Honduras isn't made up of five-star resorts or golf courses. Suppose an employer pays a domestic worker to move to their house under false pretenses and then refuses to return their passport (a situation which I imagine was pretty rare in Irvine but happens every single day in Dubai). How long to get to regular-regular Honduras?

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What part of 10.2 are you interpreting that way?

Roatan is like Hawaii - lots of resorts, but also real people who live there and normal towns. There's also a $30 ferry to the mainland, which is only a few days' wages even for poor Hondurans.

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The part where you sarcastically say the territorial integrity of Honduras is the most important thing ever, foreigners shouldn't have an hand in the institutions, etc. Well, the CEO apparently feels that accomplishing the Randian feat of constructing three buildings entitles him to break COVID restrictions. How is he going to act when there's actual businesses there?

Please note that the example I gave was a foreign worker, not a Honduran. So if there isn't some consulate on the island, or if they need to show the ID their employer seized to use the ferry, they're SOL. Again, this is an extremely common happenstance in Dubai, where the slave laborers are mostly south Asian migrants and not natives. You talked up the Dubai experience of the principals. If you're really going to steel-man the case against it you could probably start there.

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There's pretty unlikely to be substantial foreign labor - the law says they need 90% Honduran labor, and the remaining 10% is probably going to be highly skilled First Worlders they can't find a Honduran replacement for. Also, I think UAE just didn't have very many people and the people were too rich from oil subsidies to work - usually you don't have domestic labor shortages in developing countries.

I also found stucchio's observations after talking to Indians who worked in Dubai helpful: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/by3vns/addendum_to_enormous_nutshell_competing_selectors/eqdwkf1/

I am not sure how ultra-nationalism about letting foreigners choose a legal code is related to Brimen seeming kind of like a loose cannon. If Brimen violates regular Honduran law while in regular Honduras, he should get arrested like anyone else. How does that relate to whether letting some parts of Honduras have different laws than other parts is a good idea?

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stucchio's anecdotal observations are an incredibly weak defense of the kafala system. He admits in a sibling comment how vulnerable his observations are to survivorship bias - the people who actually manage to come back to India are not the ones who are being abused after having their passports stolen. He's not talking to people with no options who have been tricked by traffickers with lies about their prospects and working conditions. In contrast, the evidence that systematic abuses take place is overwhelming. See eg this academic report https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1302&context=jss or this popular article https://aeon.co/essays/are-the-persian-gulf-city-states-slave-societies

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Who is Nicholas Cooper? Why are most of the citations from a single BBC news article plus a smattering of articles from Human Rights Watch?

It looks like this is a conference paper for the IAFIE noted as being lightly edited. Why can you find nothing about his copanelists online?

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author

I'm a little concerned about that paper - it's not itself a primary source, and the linked source for most of the most serious allegations is an article by Johann Hari (cited six times, almost 20% of the total citations of the article), who got fired for committing various types of journalistic fraud, but who is more famous in my circles as one of the most egregious psychiatric crackpots.

I will look into the other sources to see if they are any better.

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Nobody who's looking to minimize costs is going to import much labor someplace with wages as low as Honduras has.

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"Well, the CEO apparently feels that accomplishing the Randian feat of constructing three buildings entitles him to break COVID restrictions."

He broke COVID restrictions because people were complaining that he allegedly hadn't explained what he was doing adequately to the locals. So he held a session to explain, which automatically broke COVID restrictions regardless of the manner in which he conducted it (unless he was supposed to, I dunno, hold a Zoom meeting with a bunch of poor subsistence fishermen who don't have computers?), damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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> If you're really going to steel-man the case against it

I was really startled by the whole-heartedly negative presentation of Próspera critics in this post. "You can read what actual anti-Próspera people have to say here...But I can’t stress enough how misleading and awful most of it is." The critics sound like they believe things that only a stupid or crazy person would believe.

Of course, it's only startling because I learned steel-manning from this blog, which provides an example that I've tried to learn to live up to. But it's hard to imagine that Próspera opponents would see this as passing their ideological Turing test.

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I take back the "please note" above because my hypothetical was not explicit about the domestic worker being non-Honduran. (This is the sort of oversight I would edit out in the old comments). I'm still concerned by the hypothetical but should have specified it more.

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Honduran criminal laws still apply. At least in theory, they can walk into a Honduran police station and report that their employer stole their passport.

I've also never understood to what extent confiscating employees' passport in Gulf countries prevents them from leaving. I'd assume if you walk into your country's embassy and say that your employer confiscated your passport (or just say that you've lost it), they will generally give you a temporary passport you can use to return to your country, at least if you have some way to identify yourself. Is this not the case? Or is confiscating their passport more about limiting their options within the country than preventing them from leaving?

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The situation in some Gulf countries is that if a contract worker doesn't like the contract, breaking it may incur financial penalties that the worker can't afford and they would be prevented from leaving the country if that debt is not settled, as trying to leave the country without paying local debts is a criminal offence in e.g. UAE as far as I understand, you simply won't be permitted to board the plane if you haven't settled any fines, all the loans, leasings, rent, credit cards, etc locally. So not having "settled properly" with the employer may be sufficient to be prevented from returning even if you get a replacement passport; the passport is just a visible way to prevent the worker from running off unexpectedly, if they try to do it with a dispute and claiming a lost passport, there are also other legal restrictions that ensure that the negotiating power lies with the local employer and not with the immigrant worker.

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I had intended to cover the white paper myself, but here I am scooped.

Full disclosure, I know a bunch of people invested in the project for a while now, and am personally quite excited by it. This is all close to the mark from what I recall from older papers and presentations, though i'm not fully caught up at the moment.

The pitch back then focused explicitly on attracting industry by providing a lot of freedom and looser restrictions on pharmaceutical and biotech research. Some of the people involved are closer to Friedman anarchists, for whom Prospera is a stepping stone to more ambitious projects like private law. They would certainly be okay with your house being in Prospera and your neighbor being in regular old Honduras.

I can't say for sure, not having spoken to most of the investors, but I do sense a strong idealistic streak out of the project, and the earnest belief that it will improve lives. I'm admittedly hopeful.

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"The pitch back then focused explicitly on attracting industry by providing a lot of freedom and looser restrictions on pharmaceutical and biotech research."

Excuse me while I sink my head in my hands. We have experience in my country of enticing in pharmaceutical industries, and it works great - for a certain area. But you do end up putting all your eggs in one basket. And it does not necessarily turn the surrounding areas into newly rich everybody. (Ask Scott his impressions of Cork city, and if there was poverty and crime there, even though Ringaskiddy and the pharma industries there are on the doorstep https://www.siliconrepublic.com/careers/biotech-pharma-companies-ireland). There is also the perennial threat of "as soon as there is the hint of an economic downturn, the parent companies shutter foreign plants and concentrate on US domestic base".

Also, "come set up here and you can be Victor Frankenstein!" is not a great look. Whether or not we believe that Covid-19 escaped from the Wuhan lab, making a selling point of "our regulations are so loose unlike the fuddy-duddies elsewhere!" doesn't make my heart leap up with joy that there is not going to be a similar "whoops!" incident.

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It's much more likely they meant looser *financial* and business regulation than plain old occupational health & safety regs. As in, none of this crap about who can sit on what board without a conflict of interest, the creative "crime" of insider trading, and the nest of brambles that is IP law. I rather doubt anyone has the idea that they should just dispense with any fuddy-duddy restrictions on pouring methyl mercury down the drain or storing your anthrax spores in an open jar in the lunchroom fridge.

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Loose financial regulation often results in a culture of "ah sure, pour that down the sink, it would cost too much to dispose of it in the recommended way and anyway, three of our directors also sit on a board with the ex-civil servant who worked for the environment ministry, it's all sorted, he can use his contacts there to keep us clear of any penalties".

It wasn't till I read 19th century pulp detective stories that I realised the many and varifold ways 'insider trading' could be done to rig the market and relieve pigeons of all their investment money. But I'm sure that 'light touch' regulation will never ever result in any body like Bernie Madoff popping up again to thrive in such an environment!

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In case it wasn't abundantly apparent, I am *extremely* sceptical when it comes to opportunities for money-making because I do think that human nature being what it is, people *will* take every opportunity to trouser as much cash as physically possible, and companies become piggy banks for the executives to plunder while the duty to the customers comes far, far behind. The Savings and Loan collapse of the 80s where deregulation was supposed to solve their problems? Enron? Lehman Brothers going kablooey in the 2008 crisis? The banking crisis in my own country of that period https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-2008_Irish_banking_crisis that cratered our economy for decades after and resulted in austerity budgets? Anglo Irish Bank example was a fucking outrage, but that was the attitude at work: how can we extract as much blood from the stone as possible: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo_Irish_Bank_hidden_loans_controversy

So yeah, I don't come down on the side of "cut away the red tape shackling our bold entrepreneurs!" because revolving door appointments onto boards lead to a select little group treating the rest of us as pigeons to be plucked https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolving_door_(politics)

I damn well *do* want limits on how many boards Jack can sit on and all conflicts of interest transparent, so it won't be Jack handing a plum contract to his brother-in-law using taxpayer money to pay for it, and brother-in-law George paying Jack kickbacks out of that.

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An interesting hypothesis, but since it strikes me -- and I know something about those environments, having worked in them personally -- as dubious, I would need some empirical evidence to consider it seriously.

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TL:DR: "Come here and you won't have to pay for any pesky negative externalities!"

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As opposed to operating a business in Honduras, where, of course, the incorruptible and dilligent regulators will never allow an externality to go unpaid-for?

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Well, there's no need to set up a libertarian paradise for that, which is probably one reason why prior attempts to set up similar ventures in third world countries haven't exactly met with success.

To be fair, Galt's Gulch, Chile, one of the more famous examples, was hamstrung by the fact that the founders didn't understand the legal system they were setting up in. In other words, whatever you may think of their ideology, their incompetence was a bigger and more immediate problem.

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Lol. The regulators in honduras are corrupt because they allow externalities to go unpunished. This is just legalizing corruption.

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I don't know much about Honduras, but in Ukraine, you can already do pretty much anything you can think of, as long as you pay off the right people.

All a Prospera does is make this official, and maybe consolidate your bribe expenses into a single predictable payment.

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Yeah, the missing ingredients are rich natural resources/trade routes/a huge tax base (Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai) and a huge injection of tax money from the government (Shenzen, pretty much all the Chinese special zones, NEOM, the USSR if you want to get historical). Próspera has neither of these things and so I predict it will be another one of the many failures or mediocrities. The truth is such projects are huge drains on national resources and most electorates simply don't have the stomach for it, which is why this strategy is almost exclusively in less than democratic regimes. The Chinese could spend 70% of their entire budget developing three provinces because the other provinces didn't get a vote. And they certainly didn't have anything as pedestrian as "human rights concerns."

Democracies can grow rich, stable, and prosperous. In fact, they do so more commonly than dictatorships. But they can't use the same tools as dictatorships, which closes off those paths to them. Which, to be clear, is a good thing. Most of those examples include massive humans rights abuses! But you can't imitate dictatorial models without having dictatorial powers or an electorate willing to vote for policies that have historically proven hugely unpopular.

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Is this at sea level? If so, won't it be underwater in a decade or two? Or is this another case of say one thing in public and do another in private?

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I don't think it's much lower than cities like Manhattan, London etc. Sea level isn't expected to rise more than 0.3m by 2050.

OTOH, it'd be quite the acid test to see a bunch of libertarians sucessfully run a polder.

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> OTOH, it'd be quite the acid test to see a bunch of libertarians sucessfully run a polder.

Exactly how so?

At the time the Hollanders build those in the Netherlands, they were the most liberal (in the libertarian sense of the word) place in Europe, possibly the world.

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I'm confused by why people seem to think sea levels are likely to rise significantly on a "decade or two" timescale, when they haven't risen significantly over the past couple of decades. Fossil fuels weren't invented in 2015.

I'm also old enough to remember reading predictions that New York City would be underwater by 2020, though.

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Just for fun, I worked out the steady-state thermal power input required to melt enough ice to raise the world ocean level by 2m in 20 years. It comes out to 0.38 PW (0.38 petawatts). That's a pretty big number (world energy production is about 0.02 PW), although it's small compared to the total thermal power the Sun delivers over the entire daylight side of the Earth, which is about 175 PW. It's big compared to typical fluctuations in solar flux, though -- the sunspot cycle is accompanied by a periodic variation in solar luminosity of about 0.1%.

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A) It's not just about ice melting but also about thermal expansion of water, which is the bigger deal.

B) The increased CO2 levels cause an increase in retained energy, so that 0.38PW can be spread out over however many years.

C) This doesn't immediately become a concern when we're at 1.99m of sea level rise. The journey to 1.99m involves huge amounts of refugees fleeing disasters.

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(A) As far as I know only the IPCC asserts that as much of 75% of sea-rise can be attributed to thermal expansion, and in my opinion that group has become too corrupted by ideology to be trusted. There's plenty of other work that suggests a more modest contribution -- which means you still need to melt a lot of ice. Anyway, I wasn't making a definitive calculation, only a back of the envelope order of magnitude estimate, and if it's off by only a factor of 2 or 3 (even the IPCC estimate only suggests a factor of 3) that would actually be rather good.

(B) Energy flux is always in balance, the question is how high does the temperature need to be to get the energy out to space equal to the energy incoming. It's a Wien's Law question, roughly, although an excellent primer on the complete physics can be found here:

http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=1169

In any event, what I calculated is a *power* not an *energy change* (which is why the units are watts instead of joules), that is, I have already assumed the energy required is spread out over the time mentioned.

(C) Maybe, maybe not, but in any event this was not something I addressed. Or care to, since it involves massive assumptions about human nature and human society and those are not my fields of competence.

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Thank you for calculating this.

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Nice, now add black body thermal radiation into space. Are clouds positive or negative? (block solar, but keep in thermal) And what about polar icecaps?

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Send me a written proposal and I will get back to you with my cost estimate. My professional consulting rate starts at $200/hour.

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New York metro has an official plan regarding this: http://fourthplan.org/action/climate. Looks like the concern for 2050 isn't so much everything will be permanently underwater as flood regions will be much larger than they are today. As in, the storm surge from Sandy was a lot worse than it would have been in 1950, but by 2100, it'll be catastrophic without serious changes. They are apparently planning to remove all infrastructure from the Meadowlands and effectively cede that to the ocean, though.

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On the east coast of US seas have been rising at ~1 foot/ century since we have measured and recorded them.

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Libertarians have all the seasteading expertise. You'll be amazed how seamless the transition will be.

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"So for example, when you buy land in Próspera, you’ll have to sign a Covenant Restricting Vice Industry Uses - ie you can’t turn your house into a joint brothel+casino and do unethical medical experiments in the basement. Even the strictest libertarian has to admit this is fair; if you sign a contract, you’ve got to follow it. But you can tell HPI plans to have the town be ship-shape, well-organized, and family-friendly, instead of the sort of Wild West vibe some people associate libertarianism with."

My emi-serious suggestion. Democratic governments should just claim all land in their jurisdiction as their property, and make it clear that it not owned, just leased out on conditions. The governments themselves should claim to be cooperatives jointly owned by their citizens. Then functionally equivalent rules to the property and tax laws that currently exist would count as a libertarian utopia.

You can object that if they were to do this now, they would be stealing the land from its current owners, and sure this would offend the libertarian ethic- but all the land in the world has been stolen at some point, and after a while, Libertarians seem content to let the claims of those the land was stolen from be extinguished.

So presumably, if the US were to declare itself a kind of corporation owned by its citizens and expropriate all the land, in a hundred years it would count as a libertarian utopia.

Perhaps this tells us that the libertarian concept of freedom is excessively formal/procedural and not substantiative enough.

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Basically, property rights on a large enough scale amount to big government anyway. The only difference is that the system of property rights the libertarian imagines usually is not conducive to even nominal democracy.

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I was thinking the same thing, that even if you split everything into independent charter cities, they could combine and buy each other up until you have the same situation as we have now. Perhaps the defense would be that it's impossible for one group to buy literally everything, there's always going to be holdouts and dissidents. But then you can point out that there are multiple countries, which in effect achieves the same thing.

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founding

The libertarian concept of freedom is heuristic. It arose in the real world and in response to its conditions. In the real world, property owners do a lot less oppressing than governments. Could it change? Absolutely. It might even be changing right now, and it might turn out horribly in Prospera. Might the reason why this hasn't been the case be because property owners had fewer opportunities to oppress than governments? Sure. But I think it's worth the experiment.

I don't think most libertarians are that interested in democracy for its own sake, and I think that's by design. Certainly, I don't put much stock in it for its own sake. Might you say that I can say that because I live in one? Sure. But it's also because a democracy could theoretically do exactly what you suggested it might: expropriate all the land and return it only on condition, or not at all. That would be Bad, especially from a libertarian perspective. Winston Churchill actually had an interesting critique of landlords, and pointed out (among other things) quite rightly that land is the source of all wealth. With the government owning all of it, how is there anything left but slavery?

To a libertarian, democracy is good to the extent that it protects the rights of minorities, of personal freedom (i.e., able to go where and do what I want without harming others) and of property. Same with libertarian philosophies and policies (if any such exist). If one or the other ceases to do what it was designed to do, better head back to the drawing board.

And when I say that, you should know I'm thinking of Churchill's critique; that is, if pure application of what we today think of as libertarian principles leads or replicates massive monopolies on land that prevent any kind of real independence from one behemoth or another, it will need to be reconsidered and reformed. What would such a reform look like? No clue, but fortunately we're not there yet. We have this new (or new-ish) thing to try, and in a world where it appears that respecting property rights and personal liberties leads to prosperity.

The only even close examples I can think of of this kind of thing being tried would be Chile under Pinochet. I know that a lot of Chicago school/monetarist/Mises/Hayek types went there to try to build some kind of rightish/libertarian "utopia," but that was firstly grotesque and secondly doomed to failure since it was a personal dictatorship designed to maximize and maintain the power of one person and of the state, and a military dictator no less, which is about the least libertarian thing I can think of. On the other hand, that shameful chapter did have a happier ending than most dictatorships, left or right wing, with him losing a referendum and stepping down. I believe today Chile is one of the most competitive economies in South America, if too dependent on mining.

I don't mean to be too glib here, but I think you'll be interested to know that this mass expropriation of land has actually been tried before, and even in the name of democracy. In the latter cases, it was done in many if not all communist countries, all of which claimed to be perfect democracies. We know the truth of that. To the extent that it has worked out with things like the Shenzhen area, that was from going back on such ideas about communal ownership.

It was also the concept that underlay many monarchies. The King was the owner of all land in the kingdom, and enfeoffed his vassals with such portions of the land as he elected on condition that they provide services and/or taxes. A mass expropriation actually did occur after the Norman invasion of England, when the Norman kings explicitly took ownership of all the land (I'm not super familiar with land tenure under the Anglo-Saxon kings, but I do believe the Norman policy was an innovation) and handed it back out to his cronies and a handful of English noblemen who were too powerful or too far north to ignore. When they rose up, that was corrected.

It was only after this system had been sufficiently eroded that things improved.

So I think one has more favorable antecedents than the other, and we should go with that one, especially on the scale of 59 acres.

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I think the thing to say here is that there isn't one libertarian view. Some libertarians think you can derive the correct answer to every political question from the belief that everyone can do whatever they like with themselves and their property (provided they don't use their property to attack others, or to damage other people's property). Others have much more sophisticated views. But some of the definitions of liberty given by the former may indeed allow for a government that exercises super-strong control through property ownership.

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Sure, you can go that road, but I'm mostly using "libertarian" to refer to a kind of deontic libertarianism popularized by e.g. Nozick.

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> My emi-serious suggestion. Democratic governments should just claim all land in their jurisdiction as their property, and make it clear that it not owned, just leased out on conditions. The governments themselves should claim to be cooperatives jointly owned by their citizens. Then functionally equivalent rules to the property and tax laws that currently exist would count as a libertarian utopia.

This is kind of like solving medical malpractice by advocating that the doctor who messed up a procedure claim to own the physical body he was working on.

> all the land in the world has been stolen at some point, and after a while, Libertarians seem content to let the claims of those the land was stolen from be extinguished.

This is a misrepresentation of the libertarian position on titles.

> Perhaps this tells us that the libertarian concept of freedom is excessively formal/procedural and not substantiative enough.

It does tell us that your interpretation of such is like that.

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No libertarian philosopher has ever given a deontically grounded and coherent account of ownership, transmission and origination of titles, counterexample free, which achieves anything like the objective of establishing that existing property relations are wholly or partially justified.

Locke and Nozick's accounts, for example, have been shot full of holes. To the extent that such accounts work, they often imply that there should be massive redistribution of ownership, or that we should "start afresh" and go from there.

In practice then, without a formal alternative framework, the really existing libertarian framework consists in treating existing property rights as mostly valid, unless a particular individual has a very recent and better claim.

Since existing property relations are mostly based on "theft" and the consequences of a market built on "theft", then, whatever their wishes to the contrary, the ultimate justifier of property relations for the actually existing deontic libertarian in practice is custom, time and, ironically, property law.

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> deontically grounded and coherent account of ownership, transmission and origination of titles, counterexample free

*cough* https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/02/21/current-affairs-some-puzzles-for-libertarians-treated-as-writing-prompts-for-short-stories/ part III

> the really existing libertarian framework consists in treating existing property rights as mostly valid

I can't speak for all the libertarians out there, but I believe that if it can be shown that A appropriated B's land and sold it to C, then B is entitled to restitution; but the form of that restitution is a cash payment from A, not the return of the land from C, since C (or more likely Z, many transactions later) in most cases is unaware that the land was appropriated, and is likely to have placed a great deal of reliance on his use of the land. If that's not the case, then B can always buy the land off C with some of the cash. (Conversely, if the rule is that B gets the land from C and C gets the money from A, then C can buy the land back off B if it's worth more to him. But since this is more likely to need the trade to reach the highest-valued use, and causes a bunch of uncertainty, I think considerations of transaction cost lead us to prefer the version I initially described.)

But I also oppose instituting a reparation system like this under our current governance systems, because I have no confidence that it would be administered according to fair and impartial justice. Common law and custom provide a local optimum that's at least somewhat resistant to political manipulation, which is why I (and I suspect many other libertarians) favour keeping it around for now as a *temporary hack*.

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I think this is a perfectly respectable as a position, but it sounds like you're leaving behind a strict rights-based view for maximizing something, thus going beyond the scope of what I'm objecting to here.

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In my opinion, all valid deontologies are grounded in consequentialism. That is, the proper use of notions like "rights" or "natural law" is as a way to construct Schelling fences on slippery slopes, because we meat-heads are so bad at coördination that we can't even follow rule-utilitarian ethics ourselves, let alone codify them into law, without creating huge screwups through failing to properly account for uncertainty. ObEric: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4878

Consider also the centrality of 'optimisation' to Yudkowsky's definition of intelligence. We all choose our positions on the basis of maximising something, it's just that not everyone is honest about that (even with themselves). In fairness, sometimes that's because the social control mechanisms used to coördinate that optimisation rely on belief in divine command or whatever — a widely-shared delusion can become load-bearing (possibly a spandrel/exaptation?)

I don't know whether it is even possible to get the vast bulk of society to understand the consequential reasoning behind libertarian positions; it may be that for a stable libertarian society, many people would need to believe deontically in the NAP ("strict rights-based view"), just as in (say) a Christian society the laity mostly believe in the divine command of (the priesthood's interpretation of) Christian morality, while the priesthood have different reasons. I hope this is not necessary, because the idea of 'fooling the people for their own good' is distinctly icky (it involves arrogantly assuming that one is _of course_ not fallible oneself, unlike those poor ordinary people; hence see previous remarks about consequential reasoning under uncertainty). But at any rate I am not prepared to criticise natural-rights libertarians too harshly, since their belief system might in fact be the best way for humans to live happily together.

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“ No libertarian philosopher has ever given a deontically grounded and coherent account of ownership, transmission and origination of titles, counterexample free, which achieves anything like the objective of establishing that existing property relations are wholly or partially justified.”

Thats quite a sweeping response to the observation that you’re failing to correctly represent libertarians on their ideology.

“ Locke and Nozick's accounts, for example, have been shot full of holes. To the extent that such accounts work, they often imply that there should be massive redistribution of ownership, or that we should "start afresh" and go from there.”

Its fine for you to say those accounts are unpersuasive to you. “They have been shot full of holes” is just a value laden characterization essentially based on your dislike of those accounts.

“ In practice then, without a formal alternative framework, the really existing libertarian framework consists in treating existing property rights as mostly valid, unless a particular individual has a very recent and better claim.”

It took you a long way and a lot of unnecesary prior statements to get to the restatement of the basic fact “property rights are presumed valid unless disputed” which is not even a libertarian idea, just a consequence of the nature of property rights.

“ Since existing property relations are mostly based on "theft" and the consequences of a market built on "theft", then, whatever their wishes to the contrary, the ultimate justifier of property relations for the actually existing deontic libertarian in practice is custom, time and, ironically, property law.”

You’re conflating property rights under the current non-libertarian system with property rights as imagined by libertarians who are not even agents of the government. Its hard to see how you would be so sloppy if you were considering these ideas charitably.

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"Its fine for you to say those accounts are unpersuasive to you. “They have been shot full of holes” is just a value-laden characterization essentially based on your dislike of those accounts."

I am describing the very near consensus of professional philosophers who have studied Nozick and Locke's respective theories in detail. It's a bit more than just a personal hunch of mine.

You're of course free to present your own account if you think you've got it solved.

""“ In practice then, without a formal alternative framework, the really existing libertarian framework consists in treating existing property rights as mostly valid, unless a particular individual has a very recent and better claim.”

It took you a long way and a lot of unnecesary prior statements to get to the restatement of the basic fact “property rights are presumed valid unless disputed” which is not even a libertarian idea, just a consequence of the nature of property rights."

These two statements aren't the same at all though, are they? Valid unless ("A very recent and better claim" [with claims based on a historical conception of distributive justice]) vs valid unless "disputed". All property claims are "disputed". You're conflating a strong and hugely debatable claim, that property rights are valid unless extensive conditions around a better historical can be met, with an absurdly weak claim, that property rights are valid if no one disputes them.

"You’re conflating property rights under the current non-libertarian system with property rights as imagined by libertarians who are not even agents of the government. "

No, I'm saying that actually existing libertarians already do this themselves by treating existing property rights as generally valid. The motte is a promissory note saying that a fully fleshed out historical theory of distributive justice will be provided, the bailey that is returned to once scrutiny is removed is just generally accepting existing property relations.

"Its hard to see how you would be so sloppy if you were considering these ideas charitably."

Language, please my dear.

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"I am describing the very near consensus of professional philosophers"

an argument from authority seems to be an entirely inappropriate method of challenging libertarian doctrine.

"You're of course free to present your own account if you think you've got it solved."

I'm sure any difficulties you have with the orthodox account could be cleared right up if you articulated them.

"These two statements aren't the same at all though, are they? Valid unless ("A very recent and better claim" [with claims based on a historical conception of distributive justice]) vs valid unless "disputed"."

Presenting a claim (that you presume to be better [otherwise why would you present it?]) would be commensurate with the act of disputing it.

"All property claims are "disputed"."

Manifestly false.

"You're conflating a strong and hugely debatable claim, that property rights are valid unless extensive conditions around a better historical can be met, with an absurdly weak claim, that property rights are valid if no one disputes them."

Lets try it this way, what does it mean to you that property rights are "valid"? Is validity of property rights an objective thing that can be tested in a laboratory? Or is it a social construct?

"No, I'm saying that actually existing libertarians already do this themselves by treating existing property rights as generally valid."

That sounds like you're treating some subset of libertarians you have dialogued with as authoritative emissaries of libertarian dogma.

"The motte is a promissory note saying that a fully fleshed out historical theory of distributive justice"

Plenty of books on the subject but I'm not sure I have heard anyone since Ayn Rand claim that it was fully fleshed out, in fact the opposite.

"the bailey that is returned to once scrutiny is removed is just generally accepting existing property relations."

Your experience is not representative of the community or the literature, according to my experience.

"Language, please my dear."

I call 'em like I see 'em. Plenty of libertarians are opposed to indigenous expropriation, such as occurs today. Look up the Belo Monte Dam where the government expropriated the natives of land, again, even though those indigenous people should have untouchable title to their land. This stuff is still going on.

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+1 to Philosophy Bear

I've been trying to make this same point for years now, although it never seems to move anyone. What's funny to me, is that in the US the government already allots land not as allodial titles, but fee simple, which in plain English means you don't, and never have, "owned" it in the way the libertarian-capitalist sense of ownership. This is why, for example, eminent domain or other taxes are not theft. To claim otherwise would be to demand a legal property right that you were never originally granted.

But since the whole libertarian gimmick is to define "freedom" as being anti-government coercion, but pro-private coercion (i.e., pro "property rights" in the libertarian-capitalist sense), they have to think of some reason why the government is uniquely *bad* compared private ownership.

And their go-to explanation is that the government steals from you via taxation and such, while private individuals don't. But even if we ignore the face-value problems with framework (for example, don't private actors also do plenty of actual theft, here in the real world?), the argument is simply untrue on its own merits! Even by libertarian-capitalist logic, the government has not sold the "bundle of rights" that contains "Power of Taxation" on its land titles.

(The second go-to argument for why states=bad and private property=good, is that they say you get to choose which rule of private property you are subject to, but you don't get to choose which rule of states. But obviously, people are born not just into states, but also onto private property holdings without their say in the matter. Literally no one [I'm pretty sure] is born onto a private property claim which they already own, as a newly birthed infant. And likewise, you free to leave both your state and your private property that you live under [once you turn 18 at least], so long as another state and/or private property claim is willing to let you in. So this distinction falls apart upon a moment's worth of thought. And for those of you who think I'm strawmanning here, Scott repeats this ridiculous distinction in this very essay.)

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The libertarian position is that the government never had any right to that land in the first place. For this reason, libertarians will not be swayed by your argument.

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Okay but why

And don't say "because they do taxes, which is theft because they don't have the right to tax, because they don't have a right to the land"

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The libertarian position is that land rights are established through homesteading.

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It's true that I didn't cover that base. Mainly because most libertarians in the rationalist sphere are of the Bryan Caplan persuasion, and have taken to abandoning that line of argumentation. (https://www.econlib.org/archives/2012/09/do_indians_righ.html)

The basic counter-argument to "homesteading" from the left, is that all sovereignty claims in the US were stolen from Native Americans during the 1500-1800's. So if state's sovereignty claims in the US are illegitimate because they weren't initially appropriated via homesteading+voluntary transaction, then private property claims must be so as well.

Caplan and Rothbard note the power of this arg. They counter that if no living victims exist and the person currently in possession isn't the thief themselves, then the title should revert to whoever current possessor may be. This is a fine work-around, but it has the side effect of disregarding the necessity of "homesteading+voluntary transaction chains" for BOTH private and state claims.

By taking this route, Caplan and Rothbard were able to rescue private property claims from "homestead" based attacks against their legitimacy, but only by throwing away their own ability to launch "homestead" based attacks against the legitimacy of the state. So yeah, I don't hear this often anymore, it's becoming a somewhat old-school arg.

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But the private claims are still stronger than the government claims, because they have a basis in homesteading, whether or not that land was legitimately unowned prior to that homesteading, whereas government claims are (mostly) empty claims, with no homesteading. So one can reject the latter without having to reject the former.

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I think almost every use of the phrase "the libertarian position" should be replaced with "a libertarian position." Don't expect ideological uniformity from the nonconformists' club.

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Yes, it is my attempt at the strongest libertarian position given the constraints posed by the argument. No actual libertarians were harmed in the making of the counterarguments.

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This seems a valid position for e.g. middle of USA, but it's not universally applicable - in the "old world" the equivalent of homesteading of unclaimed land happened before multiple radical regime changes, conquests, and mass redistributions of property, so there's effectively no land at all for which you could trace a legal claim to an original "homesteader" without multiple cases of what most libertarians would call theft. So if that's the criteria, currently *every* single owner of the land - no matter if government or private - has eventually obtained it from someone who stole it. Well, perhaps their great-great-great-grandfather obtained it from someone who stole it, but it doesn't change the legitimacy. *All* land around me has been stolen multiple times (and sometimes returned to the previous owners, again multiple times), and for a particular plot you could name many "rightful owners" depending on just how many centuries of thefts you're willing to look at.

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Rothbard's solution to that is that if there is no clear rightful owner, the land is unowned and thus becomes homesteaded by the current possessor.

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Among those libertarians absolutist enough about property to otherwise be vulnerable to your suggestion, approximately none of them believe that merely "declaring everything as your property" is a sufficient condition to own all those things.

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In practice such absolutist libertarians don't have a properly worked out theory of property acquisition, transfer etc which isn't full of counterexamples and in the absence of such basically treat conventionally recognized property as legitimate. Until the promissory note of a fully worked out deontic theory of property rights is filled in, it seems to me that libertarians mean by property *that which is conventionally recognised as property*, even if they don't admit this. So I think the objection stands, because "whoever is recognized as the holder and has been for a long time" seems to be what they end up meaning in practice.

Again, at least till an alternative theory is worked out.

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Reminds me of Andrew Yang saying that UBI would be like paying some dividends to its owners, the citizens.

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> Perhaps this tells us that the libertarian concept of freedom is excessively formal/procedural and not substantiative enough.

Have you read http://daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Capitalist_Trucks.html ? The reason for libertarian ethics is that (if I may completely mangle the grammar) the ceteris are rarely paribus in practice.

Simply declaring the government's powers to be private-property rights does not work the magic of private property, any more than accounting for inputs in a state-managed economy with a bunch of made-up prices and profits works the magic of the price system.

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👎🏻

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Speaking of which, Scott: any word on regaining a “Report Comment” feature?

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This seems like an interesting idea, but it feels like it won't scale up very well to its stated goals. They're specifically looking for professionals and remote workers to move in, and seem to have relatively high land costs (for Honduras). This may very well turn out great, but it'll just be a city of tech workers. I don't really see a good way for those in poverty to get a foot in the door.

I'm also curious how the education system will work. They have guidelines for how it should be run, but the schools will also be private? Is the government going to create some schools, and are they going to set the price or leave it up to the market? For that matter, almost half the taxes go to handling sanitation and power and similar, does that mean those will be subsidized in some way?

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So Prospera says it will offer Honduras's poor a better life in neighborhoods untouched by violence and poverty... and I get the impression that anyone who breaks Prospera's social contract gets kicked out? Is that correct?

Somehow this reminds me of the charter schools that expel disruptive students and brag about their high test scores.

In other words, it sounds like Prospera will filter out anyone who doesn't function well in Prospera, which unfortunately might be a lot of poor Honduran applicants whose violence-afflicted lives have left them with all the flaws you would expect to see in people who bear the burdens of trauma and low education. This kind of dilutes my enthusiasm with Prospera's "win-win" claims that it's offering poor Hondurans a better life. Instead, I imagine cities like Prospera skimming the high-performing people (probably coming from good neighborhoods) and concentrating the ill and the troubled outside its walls.

I mean, considering the existence of cities that kind of parallel Prospera in some ways, is there another way to see this side of the issue? A counterargument, if you please?

A system that actually benefits the average Honduran (not just the high-performing Honduran from a good family in a good neighborhood) might, I imagine, offer services that would allow immigrants to learn new skills and repair the damage done to their mental health by growing up in one of the world's murder capitals. But who would put up the money for that?

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It sounds like you're talking about Ciudad Morazán? They kick out people who don't follow the rules. At least in this description it doesn't really say what happens to people who break laws. Honduran criminal law still applies, so presumably they just turn them over to the relevant authorities. For civil issues, I guess they just have insurance for it, and if they can't pay, maybe then they get kicked out somehow? If it's mentioned, I didn't catch that part.

I do agree that it seems to skim off the top, if you will. I think the economic part alone will do that though, without even getting to the social aspect. But as you say, even if they solve the economic thing, you might have another filter where laws are actually enforced better in Próspera.

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I think you're right- even putting aside the effects of economic disparity, the greater legal competence of Prospera will also act as a filter to catch anyone who was flying under the radar before they moved. Which is very sensible for a society that advertises itself as a bastion of personal freedom, since some people are bound to look at it as an opportunity to get with away with harmful activities they couldn't get away with back home.

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Check that... reverse it. I think you're right about the econ bit too. BTW, are you, like, in the process of starting a blog? I clicked on your link and found, well, exactly what I would write if I were just starting to draft something bloglike.

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Not at this point. I was mostly just testing out the author UI and making sure the extension didn't break it again.

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Ah ok.

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author

I'm not completely unsympathetic to this perspective. But I think the school analogy is a good one. You get forced together with some pretty awful (hopefully not literally murderous) people, they hurt you and abuse you and hold you back for a while and you're trapped there and there's nothing you can do, and you get told you're a bad person for wanting to escape them.

Then you escape and go found a commune with your friends who are nice people and all of you live happily ever after (or at least that was what happened to me).

I am kind of okay with people who are not murderous being able to go somewhere to escape the people who are murderous. I realize that the people committing the murders have a lot of trauma and that it's not cosmically their fault that they're like that. But someone being an abusive husband isn't cosmically their fault either, and I think their wife should be allowed to leave them if she wants to.

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I see your point regarding the school analogy-- I mean, I felt pretty terrible when my parents got me into a private school on scholarship after six years in a very working class elementary school environment with lots of traumatized poor kids from rough families, but in the end I benefited from moving into an environment where I could thrive, and I want this for others. I agree, it's good for the abused wife to escape her husband (I'm still waiting for my aunt to do this) and for the kids from murderous neighborhoods to escape the murderous neighborhoods, even if there's a little guilt involved. There's a part of me that wishes I could go air lift them out of those neighborhoods right now.

But the thing that inspired my criticism is the fact that I struggled when I suddenly switched environments, and not for a lack of brain power. I struggled because I had a lot of baggage the people around me didn't remotely understand. And I acted out as a result, and I got put on disciplinary probation and threatened with expulsion. Things turned out fine in the end. I calmed down, pulled off some good grades, connected with my teachers, and really actually liked school a lot. But I've known a lot of non-murderous people who just couldn't turn their ship around, and they might have succeeded if only they had some kind of extra support. I'm talking about very bright people who floundered because they were overcome by their demons.

I truly, genuinely, want Prospera to work. It sounds exciting and it clearly provides amazing opportunities to anyone who can adapt to its system. But I also feel for the bright ones who are destined to slip through the cracks because moving from murder capital to utopia is bound to be challenging. Prospera isn't immoral for not solving this problem. But I wish it had a solution.

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There *is* no way for a poor person to have a genuinely different life *other than* working very hard to overcome whatever circumstances and/or consequential character flaws have led to him being poor in the first place, and ipso factor most people who try will not succeed. TANSTAAFL.

Or in other words, if you're waiting for a system where all the children can be above average, you'll need to wait for The Rapture.

But it would be kind of nice if all the children who *can* be above average -- obviously far less than half of them -- actually have the chance to experience it, rather than everyone squatting in the mud of universal mediocrity waiting for a miracle.

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You are right. Leaving poverty takes a lot of very hard work.

My point is that we can expect the average performance / functionality of transplants from a high-stress environment such as Murderville to be far lower than we would expect from more developed and less violent regions recruiting high-performing professionals to live and work in Prospera. This is due to trauma's effects on amygdala/hippocampus/PFC; drug affected babies; the higher likelihood of schizophrenia etc under stress conditions; the substandard education students get when their lives are constantly disrupted by violence and loss; the fact that the most ambitious and resilient Hondurans are leaving Honduras, etc.

Therefore the percentage of the poor Honduran population who is high-functioning enough to make it in Prospera might be lower than we'd expect when we hear the architects of Prospera proclaim that they are helping to lift the people of Honduras out of poverty. What they're really doing is letting people migrate through a filter.

Of course it's not unethical for Prospera to establish a system that doesn't benefit everyone around them. It sounds like Prospera will bring net-benefits to Honduras. If instead they said "An added benefit of our project is it will offer work opportunities for Hondurans" and left it at that, I would have no criticism to make.

It seems to me that lifting people out of poverty in regions with high rates of violence means investing in a lot of messed up people who won't yield enough of a return to make it profitable in the short term, with the hope that at least you'll prevent a few deaths and make it easier for their kids. If you know of an example of an entity profiting by improving prospects for the low-functioning poor, I'd love to hear it. The topic interests me because it's hard to find examples of this actually happening.

I think you meant to write ipso facto.

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Sure, google "micro-lending" for some very interesting forms of low-capital-investment financial innovations that have had a real impact in the Third World while earning good (if not FU) money for investors. For that matter, the cell phone itself has had a transformative effect on populations that lack the Internet/computing infrastructure we take for granted in the First World. This topic isn't especially new (cf. E. F. Schumacher's famous book "Small is Beautiful" umpty years ago), and there are creative people who have thought about it a long time. I fear they sometimes disappear when you have big splashy ideas, like this one (and more power to it, but I am skeptical), or the One Laptop Per Child people.

Yes, it essentially always involves some kind of filter to pull out of the misery eco-system the people who *can* improve when transplanted somewhere else. I'm not quite as skeptical as you, I think, but I certainly agree some people are just hopeless cases and the best you can hope for is to impact the next generation.

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Thanks. I've been meaning to read up on micro-lending. Also, decentralized banking via cellphones has made a huge impact on Tanzania where my father's family lives.

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I think it's okay to solve some of the problems even when you don't solve all of the problems.

A charter or private school can provide a good education in a safe environment to some kids, but there are some kids who won't be able or willing to abide by the rules needed to support that, and they will kick those kids out. That solves a real problem (well-behaved kids who want to go to school to learn instead of to get terrorized by thugs, parents who want their kids sitting in orderly classrooms instead of loud and largely uncontrolled ones). It doesn't solve all the problems (badly behaved kids, kids with various special needs that can't follow the program), but that's okay--it's permissible to make the world a better place by solving some problems without building heaven on Earth--something nobody will ever manage.

In the same way, a private neighborhood or city that can kick people out for bad behavior, and that manages a non-corrupt, efficient private police force, might solve the problem of unsafe streets and high murder rates that exists now in Honduras. It won't solve all the problems, because nothing ever does. It won't solve the fact that people get mixed up into crime sometimes, and we'd like to save them from that. It won't solve the fact that some people have violent tempers or mental illnesses or drinking/drug problems that make them unpleasant neighbors. All it will do is maybe let the community keep most of those folks out, and convince the remainder to keep a lid on their bad behavior to avoid getting kicked out.

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I agree with you about the ethics of Prospera and charter schools being net positive. I just don't buy the idea that Prospera will actually help end poverty in Honduras.

As Scott hopefully put it:

"Yes, this is about startup governments and investment opportunities and blah blah blah, but it's also about trying to fight global poverty by radically changing the rules of the game that makes it possible."

And I imagine the architects of Prospera really believe they are making life better for Hondurans. A small minority of Hondurans. Which is fine, but it's not the same as fighting poverty. Not until the rest of Honduras changes, which Scott suggested might happen in the same way that China made national changes after the success of Shenzhen. But that would require the Honduran government to follow through using the model of Prospera's urban experiment, which seems lower probability than China following through using the model of its own urban experiment.

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It might still be the case that it's better for the less privileged people to have the more capable and privileged people move together somewhere, prosper, and payed the rest some taxes, than keeping them locked in a bad environment.

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Shadowrun universe! Shadowrun universe!

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I really like Shenzhen and its green fields in 1980 better than the city in 2018. I don't understand what's good in big cities with noise, pollution and crowds? I hope that Prospera will never be like that.

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founding

What's good in big cities is the people work to create goods and services, and transaction and travel costs are low because things are close together.

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founding

Maybe Shenzhen was better to look at in 1980 but the people living there were much richer in 2018.

The good thing about cities is all the other people living there who can do stuff for you (and buy stuff from you)

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Some cursory searching says that it went from being a market town of 30,000 in 1980 to a metropolis of 20 million in 2019. That's *fast* and I wonder how the original people felt about that change? A bunch of bureaucrats hundreds of miles away decide your town is going to be a Special Economic Zone and attract foreign investment. Millions start pouring in over the years and it certainly has changed vastly. It's a very impressive achievement but yeah, I too prefer the green field Shenzen.

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founding

Most land is not cities, so people who don’t like cities have plenty of options.

My understanding is that most Chinese are understandably thrilled about becoming 10x richer over a generation.

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Yes, but if you concentrate on cities, the rural areas get neglected and lose many services. In my childhood I lived in the countryside (in Latvia) and it had more services available in nearby villages then – schools, hospitals, libraries, shops, public transportation etc. Gradually roads were improved, people got richer and could afford cars. The available local services were reduced due to efficiency because now people can go to the city when needed. Eventually they decided to move to cities altogether and I just don't understand. It's not that we had not need for more efficiency in the past. Maybe previous generations valued their environment more than money?

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founding

My understanding is that a pretty constant trend in ~all human civilizations has been people moving into cities because it turns out that being near lots of other humans is really valuable in a lot of ways (I think mostly because people who specialize in one skill are way way better at it than people who try to do everything for themselves?)

I think in the past it was not technologically feasible to move as much to the cities (e.g. cars help make this more feasible), rather than people in the past having different values.

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Another factor is the decline in population growth in much of the world. Urbanization without population growth naturally implies rural depopulation.

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Workers move where their labor is needed. A century ago - and in Latvia even a couple decades ago, due to USSR farming policy reasons - farming needed much more people than today, so many people had to live away from others - now the primary production can be effectively handled by much fewer people and everyone else has a choice. The remote countryside has always had less services and cultural options than various population centers, there's a natural drive towards urbanization (even in e.g. classic Mesopotamia) that has been historically limited by the locality of farming/mining jobs.

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'Most land is not cities, so people who don’t like cities have plenty of options' Presumably the existence of large cities changes what options are available elsewhere, for better or worse, so it's not as simple as that. (Though I am personally fairly confident having large cities is a net benefit to humankind.)

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Why should the feelings of the original 30,000 trump the feelings of the 20 million - 30,000 who moved in?

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For the same reason that the feelings of the non-shareholders don't matter one s*** about the shareholders of a company deciding to issue more shares or not — because the true stakeholders aren't the outsiders wanting to impose their way, but those with original skin in the game.

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Well, that reason is not persuasive to me, and apparently it isn't persuasive to the Chinese. Oh well.

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Most of those people are actually wealthy, from what people say.

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I understand the benefits from big cities but those 30,000 original residents are just 0,15% of the current 20 million that practically it doesn't even matter and no one even cares if they liked the previous life more. People who moved in probably never saw what the place looked before. But showing how the place has changed over time is like a question which one do you like more and I prefer the old one.

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I agree that Shenzhen is terrible. "Be like Shenzhen" is an awful ambition for any city. It's an ugly, smoky, polluted hellhole populated almost entirely by dormitory-dwelling factory pseudo-slaves and ruled by a genocidal dictatorship.

The idea of building a rich first-world city somewhere, on the other hand, sounds nice. I like beautiful rich first-world cities.

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That is complete nonsense. Have you ever even been to Shenzhen? It is not "smoky." It's got blue skies almost every day. It's got clean water. It has many attractive parks. You are completely uninformed.

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My family's been there and they would second this. It's got parks and a decently blue sky. Definitely not smoky.

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>Próspera is well versed on the myriad environmental, climate, and humanitarian concerns with automobile traffic. As such, Próspera hopes to enable the creation of the world's first truly affordable and safe air taxi system between its various Prosperity Hubs through the use of VTOL drones.

And they expect VTOL drones will be better for the environment? Powered flight uses much more energy than ground vehicles.

For me, this is a big signal that they haven't thought things through.

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That, and the utter lack of any mention of how this population will get fed and watered were huge for me. One of the primary things that eventually torpedoed the Millennium Villages was the persistent difficulties of getting adequate water to the towns--something the project didn't really appear to think about while loftily dreaming about modern classrooms with laptops. While the problems here are not as complicated as finding water in sub-Saharan Africa, quick googling is telling me that about 1/10 of Hondurans experience chronic food insecurity, and 15% of the country does not have access to clean water. They are hurdles the project will have to overcome (and they are achievable hurdles, don't get me wrong)...and yet they're promising VTOL taxis that don't even exist yet, and not explaining where their food and water is going to come from. If you're going to import it all, that's quite expensive. If you're going to grow it, where and how?

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Probably not a major issue on the resort island starting zone, or at least not until the population is significantly larger.

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Potentially not, but it seems like the sort of thing that should be accounted for (it's torpedoed at least one similar project!) And snazzy visuals of vertical aquaponics are all the rage among the cohort that would bite on this sort of project, I think, especially if you then boast about how you can grow enough food to provide aid to Honduras or something.

Given that the idea *is* that the population will grow significantly larger, and given that this project seems so concerned with not harming Hondurans, the lack of any discussion of food or water strikes me as very odd. A tenth of Honduras cannot get enough to eat; whether or not wealthy foreigners moving here will take food from them seems like the sort of thing thing sort of project ought to be taking into account at this stage, especially before going to "and we're not going to have a ferry, guys--we're going to have FLYING TAXIS."

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Sure, but the whole point of a libertarian paradise is that the government doesn't do those things. It relies on (1) the fairly universal desire of people to have enough to eat and clean water to drin, and (2) private ingenuity and private organizations to arise in order to supple those at a price everyone is willing to pay. The argument in favor of the proposition is that as soon as you try to execute these things in a top-down way, via government, you introduce such horrible inefficiencies and opportunities for parasitism that you get...well, the Honduras...with one tenth of the population struggling to get enough to eat et cetera.

Whether this hypothesis would be backed up by empirical data is the point of the experiment, I think.

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You can't do all that within one square mile of libertarian paradise. Your sewage treatment plant, your dump, your power stations and your farms are just too big and too smelly. They'll have to be in Honduras proper.

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No argument. But I think they're trying to come up with a structure that can work even if they get much bigger. Almost certainly planning far too far in advance of their reality, but...well, people wanting to cadge investment dollars (or people) are like this.

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