Jul 18, 2019
ana025: Free Private Cities | Titus Gebel Interview
Play • 1 hr 9 min

We interview Titus Gebel, the Founder, President and CEO of Free Private Cities Inc.

Free Private Cities is working towards building new, greenfield cities using a model of individual bilateral contracts between each citizen and the city owner/operator.

In his book, "Free Private Cities: Making Governments Compete for You," Titus describes why and how Free Private Cities should be developed.

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----more---- Intro
  • The Free Private Cities Concept
    • Individual contracts
    • A simple idea, with profound consequences
    • Autonomy from the host nation
  • Real World prototypes: Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Singapore
  • Unique forms of urban development
    • Patrik Schumacher - Market Based Urban Order
  • Open to market experimentation
    • Competing service provider models
  • Incentives to cover maintenance costs
  • Book: Free Private Cities: Making Governments Compete for You by Titus Gebel
  • What is a Free Private City (FPC)?
    • A concept to make governments compete for you
    • Rights and obligations of citizen and service provider are captured in an individual contract
    • A contract should not be changed by only one party
    • The Monaco realization - good governance makes political action unnecessary
  • Location location location!
    • Is a weak or friendly sponsor government a geographical feature?
    • Location factors -
      • climate
      • proximity to infrastructure
      • access to trade
      • technology can improve desirability of remote locations and seasteads
  • How does the process get started?
    • Spread the idea
    • Proposals from candidate countries
    • Legal autonomy is the hardest part
    • The sales pitch - Special Economic Zones
    • Seeking finance: $100m opens a lot of doors
    • At some point, they will hopefully compete for us
  • Examples - Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macao
    • More than 4,000 Special Economic Zones (SEZ's) and Special Administrative Regions (SAR's) already exist
    • SEZ's create wealth for the surrounding regions
  • How do you integrate existing occupants?
    • Concept is based on 100% voluntary participation
    • Ideal is to start on uninhabited territory
    • Existing occupants
      • Referendum to join city
      • Offer free/discounted citizenship
      • Compensation for displacement
  • How does property ownership work?
    • Everything is conceivable
    • City operator is a for-profit entity
    • Operator would likely own the land, sell parcels to raise funds
    • Option agreements or partnerships with existing landowners
    • Lease model - less likely but also possible
    • User fees alone may not be sufficient
  • Push vs. Pull development
    • Start small, organic growth
    • Some master planning is needed for easements, etc.
    • Patrik Schumacher - zoning for aesthetics in city center
    • "The Freak Zone" in outer areas - little or no zoning
  • Lighter touch, use based zoning
    • Height and noise restrictions alone can determine uses
  • Opportunities for more unique urban forms
    • Disneyland as a SEZ
    • Patrik Schumacher - Market Based Urban Order
    • We don't know, so we want to try it out
    • Different districts with different rules
  • How do you manage change?
    • Noise threshold and other development rights can be sold
  • Multiple competing operators / providers within one city?
    • This is possible for certain services
    • Provision of security should be a monopoly
    • Transaction costs too high
    • "I'm happy if people can prove me wrong"
    • Competing security within subdevelopments, with subsidiarity to the operator
    • San Francisco private police force
  • City operator as an intermediary
    • "Social contract" is a contract between each individual and every other individual
    • People think they own city assets because they pay taxes
    • The FPC contract model clarifies the relationship
    • In a FPC, other citizens can't interfere with your contract with the operator
    • Much better protection for individual liberties
    • Representative systems are susceptible to lobbying, cronyism, power plays
    • Taxes don't entitle you to any services
  • FPC operator is liable for malperformance of contract - compensation for poor security performance
    • Joe's house was broken into
    • Only role of the police was an official report for the insurance claim
    • Monaco car vandalism - direct access to the minister
    • More cameras, and more screening of immigrants
    • "If you are not punishing people for doing bad things, they will do it again"
    • Cameras and police presence in an FPC - not as creepy as when a government does it - is it a surveillance state if there is no state?
    • There are always trade offs
    • If you are not providing effective security, you will go out of business
    • People come to Monaco because the cameras are there, keeping them safe
    • A cruise ship captain can legally abuse his passengers - but he treats them like customers
  • How would disputes between a citizen and the operator be adjudicated?
    • Third party arbitration, special courts
    • No different than any major construction contract
    • Minimum payment to arbitrators is $1,200 - not feasible for small claims
    • Small claims tribunals a potential solution
    • Easier in theory than in practice
  • Other means of citizen involvement in city management
    • It's not so important who owns the city operator, as long as the contracts are enforced
    • Some cities might require citizens to purchase a share of ownership
    • Cooperatives are possible
    • Various councils can be formed, but cannot violate citizen contracts or force changes to the contract
  • Public space is one service offered by the operator
    • Kicking someone out of a city means preventing them from using public space.
    • Cities who expel criminals from public and private spaces will end up looking less like a police state
  • Restitution to victims
    • Operator makes citizen whole, criminal owes the operator compensation
    • Keep punishment/imprisonment to a minimum, prefer expulsion and compensation to victims
    • Multiple laboratories to see what really works
  • Projects on the horizon
    • Subscribe to FPC newsletter for updates
    • Buy the book (link below)
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