Rolf Dobelli talks to Paul about charter cities in this Zurich.Minds interview. They consider the importance of rules—both formal laws and informal norms—to catch-up growth in the developing world. They also discuss the part of the Honduran government’s development strategy that is based on the charter cities concept. Dobelli asks about the potential role for foreign governments in bringing transparency and accountability to the governance of a special development region in Honduras. He ends by asking Paul about his longer term vision.
Rolf: Twenty years out, what’s your dream?
Paul: I hope for a world where every family has a choice about living in one of several different cities, all of which are competing to attract new residents. That’s something that we take for granted. You [Rolf] could go to any city in Europe. I could go to any city in the United States…Many of those cities want to grow, they want more activity, they’d be eager to have us as residents. That kind of competition leads to new cities…that do something different, but it also disciplines cities—that if they don’t do their job well, the residents can go someplace else where things are done better.
Most people in the developing world don’t have that option, they can’t go to even a single city that is eager to have new residents. Most of the hundreds of millions of rural poor in India, for example, if they go to a city right now, they’ll go someplace where the legal system doesn’t want them, they’ll live in a slum, they’ll have totally informal arrangements, no legal protection. What this is telling us is that we need new entry into the city business. There’s a huge market for people who want to move to cities because cities can be the most productive, healthiest, safest, most educational places to live. But there’s no supply of cities right now to meet that demand and the existing [cities] don’t want to grow as fast as they’d have to grow to accommodate all of these people. [What] I hope for…is that every family will have this condition that we have, where every family can choose where to go live and work.