Paul Romer update

David Warsh reports that Romer has resigned from Stanford and he has a plan to change the world:

…[he has] a scheme to persuade nations around the world to adopt “special administrative zones,” managed in many cases by foreign governments, based on the model of Hong Kong, which, for 150 years, was administered from afar by Britain. “Hong Kong was the most successful economic development in history,” says Romer. The rules developed there over time were codified, copied and installed by the Chinese government in four special zones along the coast in the 1980s; the experiment worked so well that the system was adopted country wide.

Romer presented a rehearsal version of his ideas at a seminar in May at San Francisco’s Long Now Foundation. You can watch Romer’s A Theory of History, With an Application online (or just this five-minute snippet), or read Long Now co-founder Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk. It costs $995 to watch in real-time, along with all the rest of the proceedings, the 18-minute version that Romer plans to deliver this week in England.  But presumably the talk will be available online soon enough; the TED forum bills itself as offering “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” And, according to Brand, Romer plans to open an Institute with a website this summer.

I'm all for this idea (how would the Swiss do in Nigeria?), but I fear that Hong Kong is a cautionary tale in the other direction.  Due mostly to the pressures of nationalism, the world's most successful development experiment was ended without a second thought.  And its initiation was backed by brute colonial force.  Which country is most likely to allow another country to manage part of its territory in a new experiment?  


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