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Proprietary Cities

Unlike my late and much-missed colleague Jim Buchanan, I never bought into the social-contract theory of the origin of the nation-state.  Historically, it’s not descriptive; analytically, it’s a mess.  Yet there are real-world instances of communities being formed by actual voluntary consent among the flesh-and-blood people who are then bound by the rules of the communities.  See, for example, this wonderful 2002 collection of original articles, The Voluntary City, edited by David Beito, Peter Gordon, and my colleague Alex Tabarrok.  Also relevant – I brag without justification – is my and Randy Holcombe’s 1989 article, “Government by Contract.”

Now to brag with justification: my student Mark Lutter – who is writing his dissertation under my direction – is doing exciting work on proprietary cities.  Indeed, not only is Mark academically exploring the nature of community consent and governance, he’ll soon move to Honduras to work full-time in an effort to make proprietary cities more of a reality.  Here’s an essay written by Mark to introduce the concept of proprietary cities.

If you can’t beat your nation-state, it would be good to have genuine options to leave it.  Such options are today far too few and weighed down with government-imposed burdens; jurisdictional competition among sovereign governments is today obstructed by practical and political barriers.  Hopefully, vigorous jurisdictional competition will become a reality in the not-too-distant future.  If so, a non-trivial portion of the thanks will be owed to my student Mark Lutter.