Following is an excerpt from my latest op/ed for Al Jazeera.
At the end of 2011, an article appeared in The Economist proclaiming “an ambitious development project aim[ing] to pull a Central American nation out of its economic misery”.
The project in question: Charter cities. The nation: Honduras.
The article explains:
“In a nutshell, the Honduran government wants to create what amounts to internal start-ups – quasi-independent city-states that begin with a clean slate and are then overseen by outside experts. They will have their own government, write their own laws, manage their own currency and, eventually, hold their own elections.”
The term “eventually” should raise some warning flags. According to US economist Paul Romer, whose brainchild the charter city concept is, the apparent affront to democracy is not actually problematic because the cities will be inhabited entirely by migrants who have taken up residence of their own volition. The Economist offers an analogy:
“Migration to Britain gives the legal system there legitimacy in the eyes of those who move there, even if they cannot vote. If the English legal system were enforced on the same person in his home country, Mr Romer notes, that would be colonial rule.”
Romer does not deem it necessary to clarify how the auctioning off to foreign leadership of territory belonging to a sovereign nation does not smack of colonialism, especially when – as the article notes – “he wants rich countries to oversee the administration of charter cities, in particular the judicial system and the police”, because this would “protect them from interference by the host nation”.
Naturally, Romer’s plan has attracted the rapt endorsement of The Wall Street Journal’s resident sociopath Mary O’Grady, who in February of 2011 gushed:
“What advocate of free markets hasn’t, at one time or another, fantasised about running away to a desert island to start a country where economic liberty would be the law of the land?”
It would seem, of course, that free market advocates fantasising about desert islands of economic liberty may have already found at least partial satiation in the sweatshop industry in Honduras. It is meanwhile curious that O’Grady lauds the alteration of the Honduran constitution in order to permit the establishment of fantastic islands when she invoked the sanctity of this very same document in order to justify the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
According to O’Grady’s inverse reality, because Zelaya allegedly violated the constitution (by attempting to conduct a non-binding public opinion survey on whether or not to rewrite said document, itself produced at the height of Honduras’ cold war service as a US military base), the ensuing military coup against the democratically elected president constituted a heartwarming affirmation of democracy. The post-coup emergence of prospects for charter cities permitted O’Grady to hone her capacity for misplaced euphemism:
“Now the little country that stood up to the world to defend its democracy seems to be affirming a belief that it needs to change if it wants to ward off future assaults on freedom.”
Click here to continue reading at Al Jazeera.