About July 2018
Philosophers since Plato have known that some choice about urban planning can only be made once — at a city’s founding. Getting the founding right therefore matters a great deal for a city’s success. Locking in favorable decisions about individual liberty and voluntary cooperation may require steps that begin before any city has been built at all.
Nor is this just utopian speculation. Special economic zones have played a key role in China’s economic liberalization, and they are arguably one reason why China has prospered so much in recent decades. Can this model be replicated elsewhere? Our lead essayist this month, Dr. Mark Lutter, says yes, and he calls on governments worldwide to embrace regional and local experiments in liberalization. Not everyone is so optimistic, however. The inherently inegalitarian nature of these projects may be of potential concern to almost anyone, and a special economic or legal regime may even represent a worsening of local conditions in absolute terms. To discuss these questions, we have recruited Dr. Lant Pritchett of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Prof. Sarah Moser of McGill University; and Prof. Tom W. Bell of Chapman University. Each will write a response to Lutter, and all will participate in a conversation through the end of the month. Comments are open as well, and we welcome readers’ feedback.