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O autor dessa idéia é Paul Romer. Segundo Tim Harford, Romer é um dos mais provocativos pensadores das cidades, termo que está na moda e que tem Jane Jacobs como maior pensadora.

Like all cities, charter cities are built on land, populated by people and run according to certain rules. What is unique is that the land, the people and the rules might come from entirely different sources – in one of Romer’s more controversial illustrations, Canada buys the Guantánamo Bay lease from the Americans and establishes a kind of new Hong Kong populated by Caribbean workers.

Romer now seems to be downplaying the Guantánamo angle, but still emphasises the idea of a guarantor country – France and Norway helping run a city state in Mauritania, for example. It sounds crazy, but he has his reasons. When I met Romer in London last year, he was concerned about the credibility of the city’s institutions. Because a city is costly to build, much of its infrastructure will last for decades. Romer argues that investors will not bite without a steady (Canadian? Norwegian?) hand on the tiller.

Perhaps he is right, but there is another angle to charter cities, which offer the opportunity to experiment with new rules that do not apply elsewhere. Cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong have prospered because the rules there have been conducive to doing business. Perhaps countries do not really need to outsource new cities; perhaps a special economic zone will be credible enough.

Take New Songdo, a conurbation close to Seoul. For Greg Lindsay, New Songdo is an aerotropolis, notable for its proximity to Incheon airport. I think its quasi-charter status is more important: South Korean politicians privately admit that New Songdo is attractive because businesses can be offered light-touch regulations without seeding a political storm.

Romer is not immune to the charms of air travel – he mentioned to me that 40 per cent of trade, by value, is now by air – but his charter city vision emphasises an angle largely overlooked by the global elite: that “the market in the city business right now is poor people”. Romer regards Dubai, because it is merely a millionaire’s playground, “as a failure, even before the bust”.

There, to me, is the real radicalism and the real insight: that building cities could become a business in its own right. And as with any dynamic industry, some of these city-businesses will flourish magnificently. Others will fail.

E os dois primeiros comentários sobre esse texto do Tim Harford fecham muito bem a discussão:

Ust Oldfield says:

It appears that history really is cyclical, but operates on cycles of millenia rather than centuries. As we progress, as societies, the city states become more important like they were in the Classic epoch.

Laurent Courtines says:

As a person with an eye on history I love the idea of the rise of the city state. Trends in history do repeat themselves (even in bad ways) Empires rise and fall. Cities rise and fall. Cultures rise and fall. As very provincial New Yorker I love the idea of New York as city state. Would love to be citizen of New York! Hail NYC!

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