Michael Strong, on Effective Altruism (EA) and special economic zones, October 2017 (edited for readability, with additional links — Leif Smith, October 28, 2017)
: “Effective altruism is about answering one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most? Rather than just doing what feels right, we use evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on.”
Michael Strong’s post on Effective Altruism, directs attention to the impact of special economic zones.
... because of scale of the potential impact, and because you list among your favorite Econtalk episodes Alex Tabarrok on private cities, Romer on charter cities, and Patri Friedman on The Seasteading Institute, all of which address one common underlying movement ...
I'd love to know why the Effective Altruism (EA) community is not more deeply interested in exploring LEAP Zones, Startup Societies, charter cities, special economic zones, Refugee Cities, etc. as a path to eliminating global poverty (and reducing the probability of violent conflict, reducing the refugee crisis, and many other benefits).
There is a growing community of intellectuals and practitioners working towards these solutions, certainly hundreds of us and possibly thousands.
Although these solutions go under diverse names and branding, all are looking to the creation of new jurisdictions with significantly greater autonomy and improved local governance as a solution to otherwise intractable problems of governance.
Moreover, there is a coherent narrative explaining why this movement is a solution to Doug North's "natural state" problem due to Bob Haywood, former ED of the World Economic Processing Zones Association and probably the most experienced zone expert in the world, who may be responsible directly or indirectly for bringing more human beings out of poverty than any other living human being. [Haywood is "fully engaged in Timor-Leste/Indonesia border zone development, and Vietnam/China border zone developments" -personal communication from Haywood, October 2017 -leif]
Among the dozens of zone success stories Haywood helped with are the Chinese SEZs, and that is but one, albeit big, example.
This direction is not at all speculative - there are thousands of special economics zones and, although many are failures, the impact of the successful ones are immense. For instance, Chinese SEZs are largely responsible for not merely bringing China out of poverty, but increasing average urban wages 6x over the last few decades for some 700 million urban Chinese. The End of Cheap Chinese Labor
Although it looks somewhat different on the surface, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has shown that by implementing British common law within a 110 acre zone it is possible to install a different legal system effectively within a zone and thereby create a world class financial center from nothing in 20 years - Abu Dhabi has therefore copied the model explicitly.
Honduran Zones for Economic Development and Employment (ZEDEs), which in an earlier (RED) designation was inaccurately identified in the mainstream media as a Romer Charter City model, has in part in its most recent manifestation been influenced been by Dubai, to the extent of considering importing the Dubai version of British Common Law (the Honduran ZEDE project is still very much active, despite mainstream media accounts).
Other than Romer, most of the players in this global movement have been relatively low profile. Refugee Cities and Seasteading have also gotten media attention but the media almost never (never?) understands these as part of a common global movement dedicated towards the elimination of global poverty. But my sense is that there really ought to be an active discussion of this set of solutions within the EA community - if there is please direct me towards it. I know of dozens of projects around the world that are moving in this direction. They need as much talent and support as possible to become a reality.
Both Mark Lutter and Lotta Moberg have written recent dissertations on these zone strategies in recent years pioneering the scholarly analysis of these issues.
Almost a decade ago William Easterly admitted in a small conference I organized that mainstream development economists had simply neglected zones as a development strategy, in part because they tend to be focused on nation-state data sets for their empirical analyses. That is very slowly changing, but the pace is glacial.
My understanding is that a few years ago tried to engage the EA community on this issue without much success. I'll be in the SF Bay area regularly in the upcoming year and would love to discuss this issue. As someone who has spent my life maximizing impact very much along the EA lines long before they were movements, I've spent much of my time in the past decade developing and promoting this movement because of the potential scale of impact. There is no greater movement with possible upside scale.
Finally, I also want to link to Michael Castle Miller's Refugee Cities as yet another manifestation of the same movement with obvious importance. Also tagging Michael Wiebe who is thoughtfully active in the EA community from an economically informed perspective.
Below is the Refugee Cities link for a concrete manifestation; I'm happy to discuss the underlying commonality among all of these initiatives if it is not obvious.
We need to create a sustained, informed, sophisticated public discussion on this this strategy and the EA community is an ideal place in which to extend the conversation beyond its existing specialist boundaries. There are many complex issues to be addressed and it is too important to be allowed to get bogged down in stupid and uninformed ideological stereotypes as almost always happens in media accounts.
The EA community may be uniquely capable of understanding the institutional substrate (New Institutional Economics) that result in this being a necessary direction for addressing otherwise intractable governance issues.
, as a separate but related cousin, should also be a deep part of the EA conversation if it is not already.
Tagging Joe Quirk, Joe McKinney, Anna Murphy, Leif Smith, James C. Bennett, Mark Klugmann, Carlos Alejandro Pineda Pinel, Carlos Chingui Mendez, Helmuth Chavez, John Chisholm, Anthony Ling, and Mark Frazier as well.
Michael Strong: Creating a World in which All of Humanity Flourishes
A few links to people I know personally, mentioned by Michael, with my apology to those I have yet to meet:
James C. Bennett
Mark Frazier, Openworld, Inc.
This post was originally by Michael Strong, now edited and amended by Leif Smith.
Explorers Foundation, Inc., October 28, 2017