At the December 2011 gathering of ZURICH.MINDS, Paul presented a framework for thinking about human progress. He began by pointing out that an idea has a value that is proportional to the number of people who use it, and that our ability to share ideas is therefore the driving force behind economic growth, globalization, and urbanization.
But in thinking about the discovery of new ideas, Paul encouraged the audience to think about not just new technologies but also new rules — the laws and norms that govern human interaction. He stressed that it is the coevolution of technologies and rules, rather than technologies alone, that drives human progress. More often than not, it is an inability to adopt new rules, rather than an inability to discover new technologies, that holds us back. He went on to suggest that the use of jurisdictional start-ups, such as Deng’s use of SEZs in China or Charles II’s grant of land to William Penn in the American colonies, can help society’s experiment with beneficial reforms in a coercion-free manner.
Paul ends by describing the Honduran government’s effort to start a new city in a special reform zone, a zone where the local government can cooperate directly with credible foreign allies in matters of governance.