Sardinians who want to be a Swiss Charter-City Island

Most secessionist movements want independence. But a small group in Sardinia, the beautiful island off Italy’s coast has another idea for secession.

sardinie2Angered by a system they say has squandered economic potential and disenfranchised the ordinary citizen, they have had enough. They want Rome to sell their island to the Swiss.

“People laugh when we say we should go to become part of Switzerland. That’s to be expected,” said Andrea Caruso, co-founder of the Canton Marittimo (Maritime Canton) movement.

While many have dismissed the proposal as a joke, its supporters insist they are serious. “The madness does not lie in putting forward this kind of suggestion,” said Caruso. “The madness lies in how things are now.”

The Sardinians are not mad. As with Charter Cities the idea is that if you can’t move to good rules then have the good rules move to you. Charter city proponents, however, are focused on relatively uninhabited areas to avoid political problems but the Sardinians are inviting new rules and rulers. In the United States, firms can choose which state to incorporate in and thus which of 50 packages of laws will govern the relations between their shareholders and managers. Why not let cities, states and regions adopt wholesale a package of laws that will govern them? Competitive federalism on a world scale.


How funny would it be if Rome decided to sell it via auction and Putin places the highest bid?

You win this thread.

China could afford to bid more. All of a sudden, that would make Sardinia the #1 vacation spot in Europe for Chinese tourists (who recently have become the largest source of tourists for most of East Asia), which would supercharge the Sardinian economy and send real estate prices soaring. The People's Liberation Army Navy would finally have an overseas naval base, giving it a destination for training missions and a way to goose the EU should they ever need to do that.

This isn't a BAD idea but why not just focus on Open Borders so people could just easily move to any jurisdiction they wish. Dismantling the nation state does need to be a top priority however - we need to pick up those trillion dollar bills.

it has some issues with incentives - race to the bottom, anyone? And externalities that require a larger area of regulation - a city-state that has constant wind has less of a concern with creating air pollution on its borders (or with dumping pollutants downstream) - someone else's problem... Most city-states do not end up as Singapore.

Could you provide any examples of city-states having great problems with a 'race to the bottom' or lack of regulations? Compared to similar cities in moderate to large nation states.

He might have meant it in the opposite direction. As in, the rich suburbs divorcing themselves from the problems of the poor urban area. So, closer to a race "away from the bottom".

Rule Helvetia! Helvetia rules the waves!

And Sardinians will be sold like slaves.

That's a pretty obscure reference to this role-playing video game dealing with historical facts:!-Helvetia-Rule-the-Waves... (apparently it's this 2007 game:

Bonus trivia: Helvetia (silent H, accent on last syllable) is the modern Greek word for Switzerland.

Extra bonus trivia - Helvetia appears on a number of Swiss coins.

Swiss franc = CHF = Confoederatio Helvetica franc

Really great game btw.

Its on sale at Steam this week. I was thinking about buying it, but I already spent too much time with EU4.

First step to Frey's FOCJ... :)

They are taking entirely the wrong approach. These things aren't settled by lawyers drawing up contracts.

I'm wondering why they are so confident of Switzerland wanting to buy them in the first place.

Vacation property?

They can vacation there any time they want anyways.

Naval base!

No, wait! The Swiss are neutral and only maintain armed forces for defense. Why would they want to add a Mediterranean canton?

Has anyone in Sardinia asked the Swiss?

All the discussion here is on whether Italy would allow it. I would think equally important is whether Switzerland would like to add a region with a GDP per capita that is close to 1/2 the Swiss average to Switzerland.

They'd have a referendum. Proper democracy, that's Switzerland.

That's true, but the likelyhood is that they would vote No. What sweetener would they need.

I doubt "Italy" exists after the next couple of decades. Interesting times.

Neither will Spain or the UK. Interesting times.

All 3 of those places will still be intact after 20 years. But it will still be interesting times.

Part of what makes Switzerland work is that it's full of Swiss. So unless you want to replace the native population, you're going to be facing some of the same issues.

HEAVEN is where:
The French are the chefs
The Italians are the lovers
The British are the police
The Germans are the mechanics
And the Swiss make everything run on time

HELL is where:
The British are the chefs
The Swiss are the lovers
The French are the mechanics
The Italians make everything run on time
And the Germans are the police

Came here to say this (or words to that effect).

British chefs are getting better, German police has become very nice and half of the world flies in planes designed by French engineers.

Better at what? At producing funny yellow-pink sauce to put on their overcooked roast beef or better at stewing everything in treacle and glopping it with custard and cream?

True, but I could see how implementing Swiss laws could help the economy anyway, and perhaps integrating with the Swiss state and economy could lead to a change in culture over time.

Which Swiss are those? French, German, or Italian speaking?

This might work for Washington DC. We could re-incorporate in a country that would allow us to be represented in its Legislature/Parliament. Congress shows no interest in letting become a state or even in granting us full home rule. Was there another city in the US whose operations were affected by the shutdown last fall? No other country would treat us that way!

Hasn't the district always been governed that way? If you don't like it why did you move there?

"If you want to vote, you have to live in certain parts of the United States, even though all the same rules otherwise apply to you." I agree. Let's just move that location all the places Keith loves and wants to live. Sound fair now?

The location didn't move, that is the point. The district has always been that way.

Actually, no. In the 19 Century Washingtonian residents voted in MD. And Congress was a lot less troublesome a few decades ago.

Besides, Sardinia has "always" been part of Italy; That's nothing against the idea it might be governed better, have more self government with a different sovereign.

You can retrocede the District to Maryland, if they will take it (they have the option to refuse). What would be agreeable would be that conjoined to an inter-state compact erecting a cross state municipal corporation. You could have a federation of eight components (DC, Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William, Loudon) with optional supplementary municipalities (e.g. Falls Church, Cheverly) and a metropolitan government with enumerated powers (say, transit authority, police, child protective and foster care, arterial roads, and some land use planning).

Italy isn't a nation, it's a place------Metternich

D.C. should definitely auction itself off to the highest bidder--oh, wait a minute.

Seriously though, ThomasH, why doesn't D.C. just flat out pledge its fealty to Israel, and to the Houses of Saud and Thani. And to the Mexican ruling class. And to the ruling parties in what used to be Iraq and the imaginary country of Afghanistan (DC will literally order men to their deaths defend the territorial and political integrity of these pretend-countries.) Not to mention AIG, Goldman Sachs et al.

Come to think of it, the real issue is why the District of Columbia is still allowed to be a part of the US. The place should be leveled and its citizens dispersed and made to get real jobs. Lots of details to hash out on how or if we replace it, but I'm sure we can come up with something.

The place should be leveled and its citizens dispersed and made to get real jobs.

For the record, 86% of the workforce in metropolitan Washington is not employed by the federal government. Public offices are commonly overstaffed, but absent that problem the people employed there have jobs as 'real' as anyone else employed in a service enterprise or administrative apparat. The problem is not that the jobs are not 'real', it's that offices are overstaffed, the compensation is excessive, and the agency is appropriating something that could be done just as well by provincial authorities, local authorities, or the philanthropic sector.

"For the record, 86% of the workforce in metropolitan Washington is not employed by the federal government."

That seems wrong. According to Gallup, 38% of the workers in DC are employed by the government.

No clue what boundary Gallup is using or what method. The metropolitan settlement is not limited to DC. It extends over 2 counties in Maryland, 4 counties in Virginia, one large stand alone municipality in Virginia, and 4 small stand alone municipalities in Virginia. It consumes D.C. and all the stand-alone municipalities, and pretty much all of Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia. I think there's a residual rural population in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland and in Prince William County, Va. which is numbered in the five digits in each. Loudon County, Va. is the only component which can be said to be split between urban and rural. This is the dense settlement zone and, if anything, somewhat narrower than the commuting zone.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report that 22.2% of those employed in the Washington SMSA are public employees. Nationally, about 13% of all employees work for state and local government. Extrapolating from New York, perhaps 3% of these last are located in state capitals, so this all suggests that 22.2% - 13% + 0.4% or 9.6% of the SMSA population are federal employees. Roughly 2/3 of the population of the SMSA lives in the dense settlement, so that suggests that the share of the dense settlement's employees who work for the federal government does not exceed 14.4% Perhaps a larger share of the retiree population are federal pensioners, but retirees in general are generally only about 16% of a population, so that's only going to jack the figure for the general population up a hair.

Of course, if you moved the federal administration elsewhere, there would be knock-on effects in the local service economy. I located a literature review on Keynesian multipliers and they report values all over the map, with a median value of about 1.0. The papers which reported values greater than unity report a median value of 1.57. So you want to guess that about 22% of the labor force consists of federal employment or is implicitly dependent on federal employment? Most people living in greater Washington are there for reasons people live just about anywhere, bar that there is no agriculture or mining (which there is not in any city) and manufacturing corrals only 1.6% of the workforce (v. 10% elsewhere).

Then 86% of the employed persons in DC provide services or sell stuff to the federal or district government.

Again, no. See my back of the envelope.

Your analysis misses the following:

Think tanks, consultancies, lobbyists, contractors, etc. These are not government employees but they work for the government all the same.

If the Capital City moved, they would have to move right along with it.

The real number is 10% federal employees, 10% quasi-government employees and 10%-15% service works to directly support the above.

It's no coincidence that 8 of the 10 richest counties in America now encircle the nation's capital.

Think tanks, consultancies, lobbyists, contractors, etc. These are not government employees but they work for the government all the same.

Again, see my remarks re knock-on effects. That aside.

Other than the Rand Corporation, you're not going to find a think tank whose staff breaks into the four digits and there are only a few who break into three digits.

Electioneering (and the vendors and consultancies those campaigns hire) is not a large industry. Here's a report on gross output for the 2011-12 election cycle

That's around 0.025% of gross output in this economy. Even if it were all expended in greater Washington, it would amount to < 2% of local gross output.

The number of employees of the United States Congress and discretionary employees in the executive branch is, I believe, just north of 30,000, or just north of 1% of the local workforce. Somehow I suspect the number employed by lobbying firms to pester such people is not a large part of the local workforce either.

Somewhere around I have some figures on those employed in legal services in greater Washington. Its around half again the national mean, which would mean 2.1% of the local workforce rather than 1.4%.

This seems to be complaint against the people we do NOT wish to have governing us.

Tell us more about how Washington DC is the victim of the rest of the country.

DC incomes are so terrible too....Wah wah wah

Why bother auctioning.

Declare that they have weapons of mass destruction so you can invade it.

Who would invade Italy?! Like Mussolini said, "Ruling Italy isn't hard, it is pointless."

Who would invade: Private armies contracted for voluntarily by those who wish to be free of government and all forms of social order.

Just kidding.

Please don't do this at home.

The libertarians/an-caps have it all completely, terribly wrong.

There will not be "freedom." There will be ownership.

"There will not be “freedom.” There will be ownership."

Umm, evidence would indicate that's are current trajectory, without any significant libertarian input. Is there any evidence the US, became more free in the last 20 years? By most objective measurements, it's been heading towards less freedom on nearly a direct path.

The US, like most democratic republics, is a tragedy of the commons.

The solution to the tragedy of the commons is ownership.

Interesting, one the leaders of the Canton Marittimo campaign acknowledges the "sale" was just a trick to gain attention. The real objective is self-detemination trough referendum.

Anyway, the idea to be part of Switzerland is pretty popular: South Tyrol, Aix, Savoie, Vorarlberg, Como, Jura, Aosta........Sardinians should take their place in the line ;)

However, the Swiss Constitution does not allow the admission of new cantons. A 2010 initiative that would clear the path for new cantons proposed by the populist SVP was, first laughed at, then rejected by the Swiss Federal Council since it was considered a direct provocation to France, Italy, Germany and Austria. So, the Swiss don't want to touch this hot potato.

This was my reaction as well. The Swiss don't really push for these things and if the neighboring sovereign won't assent, they usually fizzle. Economics are a common spur to nationalism, but seldom do they stir the populace to widespread pragmatic consociational confederalism.

Also, imagine how the addition of new cantons would affect politics within the confederation. Granted, their system is very decentralized relative to say France, and their national politics are relatively more consensual than many countries (e.g. Magic Formula). But adding a gaggle of Germans, a flock of French, an immensity of Italians, or an assemblage of Austrians could unbalance their national politics. They balance their four language groups and immigrants precariously enough as it is. Adding ~1.6M Italian/Sardinian speakers would triple the existing number of Swiss Italian speakers and exceed the number of Swiss French speakers. That's an identity imbalance, even if you ignore other issues like lack of historical connections, differing standards for public corruption, differing levels of economic development, and the border impracticality of giving an island to a landlocked country.

The Vorarlberg question, 1918-192, was a good show of all the complexities. Vorarlberg people were very similar to Swiss: political self-determination, german speakers, agricultural society with "low socialism risk", but the admission to Swiss Confederacy was ignored based on not wanting to provoke Austria and Swiss looking at Vorarlberg people as cheaters. Cheaters because they attacked more than once independent Swiss cantons. Cheaters also because the Vorarlberg independence movement was seen as a way to evade Austria war debts.

Sardinia would be in the same problem, being perceived as a cheater that wants a new identity to avoid paying debt.

"Why not let cities, states and regions adopt wholesale a package of laws that will govern them?"

Why limit this to cities? Why not allow individuals to choose how they are ruled? I can envision a society where you can choose to be a socialist, pay high taxes, have single payer healthcare and an assured income for life. There could also be libertarians who pay low taxes but must arrange for their own healthcare and retirement etc. Each program would be supported by those who subscribe to it.

"I can envision a society where you can choose to be a socialist, pay high taxes, have single payer healthcare and an assured income for life. There could also be libertarians who pay low taxes but must arrange for their own healthcare and retirement etc. Each program would be supported by those who subscribe to it."

If you've got a choice, it's not a socialist society.

All income levels would like a chance to "start from scratch".

Schweitz luft macht frei !

Well if the Swiss won't have them, they should apply to become part of the Channel Islands. Jersey, Guernsey and Sardinia - it has a certain ring to it.

It would increase the average temperatures in the Channel Islands. Global Warming!!

Write a paper, Nature will publish it.

"It would increase the average temperatures in the Channel Islands. Global Warming!!"

And simultaneously reduce the average Swiss glacier coverage (as a percentage of total surface area). So, that's a twofer.

Why not let cities, states and regions adopt wholesale a package of laws that will govern them? Competitive federalism on a world scale.

Yes, yes.

I've never thought charter cities run by existing cities made sense. Whatever it is that makes some cities well run, I imagine it has a lot to do with habits, customs, expectations, and probably a fair bit of local pride and maybe fear of letting down the community - but in any case, the whole civic ecosystem is heavily dependent on interactions between government and the public. A charter city might get some boost from importing good practices, but a lot of the customs and habitual behaviors will have to be formed anew in an ecosystem where the public has little expectation for how the city will treat them.

It makes more sense to me to start from an earlier point and not pretend that a faraway city will have a usable model. Use expertise from outside, sure, but I'm skeptical that outsiders will be very good at making the adjustments necessary to the system. I don't think you could just drop a Houston governance style on Rome and expect results, or get Chicago's strong-arm "city that works" ethos to make any traction in Berlin.

Demography is destiny. I've come to the conclusion that "rule of law" just means the place where the polite, prudent people live.

I think of charter cities in the same vein as the gold standard: Sounds great in theory but I'll wait till I see a decently long successful, modern experiment.

This! Maybe in the future all the cities will be charter cities, powered by fusion, with flying cars populating the sky. But I'll believe it when I see it.

"I’ve never thought charter cities run by existing cities made sense"

That's because of the inevitable holes involved in explaining how the idea behind "charter cities" isn't exactly the same thing as colonial governance.

A political science professor once told our class that "Japan is not a democracy. You don't just slap a constitution on a country and come out with a democracy."

The US has tried to "slap a constitution" onto Iraq. Has that worked? What are the people of Iraq actually doing?

Can Sardinia really change into Switzerland? We might as well slap a mandatory auto insurance requirement onto the drivers of Los Angeles County.

A political science professor once told our class that “Japan is not a democracy. You don’t just slap a constitution on a country and come out with a democracy.

That should have suggested to you not to listen to him.

The picture is not of Sardinia. It looks like one of the lakes of Northern Italy or Ticino.

Good catch. Fixed. The picture was of Cannobio during the Sardinian festival.

The picture is not of Sardinia. It looks like one of the lakes of Northern Italy or Ticino. For some reason, the site refuses my comment because it would be a duplicate of a previous comment, possibly adding this will let it be accepted.

Presumably, the Sardinians want to leave the EU and get into the new Swiss immigration regime. That is to say, no immigrants.

To be honest, Italian Switerland seems to work out ok.

Competitive federalism just recreates the public goods problem though. Governments exist to provide public goods that competition is incapable of providing. But when governments compete with eachother, we have the exact same problem as when individuals compete.

Individuals can compete on their own. The whole purpose of government is to be the thing that doesn't have to compete. No government is just as good as competitive government.

This is a nice point. I hope it sinks in.

I think George Mason University, and their faculty, should declare themselves free of the State of Virginia, and all the financial support it provides to them, and declare themselves a city state.

Craziness begins at home.

This post is the ideological twin of the sentiment: "America, love it or leave it!"

Do you mean by "sentiment" that advocating forming your own city within a country is the equivalent of America, Love it or Leave It.

I don't think thats what you meant,


I think proposals to form Libertarian contractual countries within countries is exactly that.

Thanks for the irony.

Every time I read one of these posts on chartered cities,

I am reminded of the 19th Century Utopian Communities Movement.

Read about it here and see what happened and why they didn't work out:

Or Paul Romer--nice, decent guy getting himself involved in Central American politics and land battles on behalf of his rich friends. Terrible idea. I hope for the sake of his family he's given that up.

@Alex: Sardinia is already an autonomous region in Italy. They make their own laws for environment, tourism and agriculture. Why look for CH admission? Why not push autonomy further inside Italy? Perhaps the Swiss thing is just a marketing tool to gain more autonomy in Italy.

There are so many reasons to ban separatism it's hard to choose a place to start, but you could begin with the incentive it gives to every small resource-rich territory to hog it up.

The incentive of every polity in existence is to hog whatever resources are available to its exclusive dominion. Is there any reason for Hispanic-speaking Central and South America (with the exception of Portuguese Brazil) to be subdivided into a bunch of different countries? The Arabian peninsula?

You don't "ban" separatism. You maintain union. And when the other guy has more guns and more motivation, you lose.

Is there any reason for Hispanic-speaking Central and South America (with the exception of Portuguese Brazil) to be subdivided into a bunch of different countries?

Those are historical divisions. The state system emerged organically during the period running from 1810 to 1838 from the antecedent provincial architecture of the Spanish viceroyalties. The one exception was Argentina. It took until about 1853 for a central government to be established and another thirty-odd years before its presence was felt in all parts of the country.

There are also dialectical divisions between broad regions of Latin America and the countries in question came from different population streams. Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are predominantly caucasian and have a population from a variety of European streams; Argentines are modally Italian, not Hispanic. Paraguay is the exemplary mestizo society, where over 80% is bilingual, speaking Spanish and the Guarani Indian language. Peru and Bolivia have the blanco, cholo (or mestizo), indio layer cake you see elsewhere in Latin America, but with the indio element having a majority rather than the mestizo element as is the case in Mexico (and, in Bolivia, with a majority speaking Indian languages at home). You also have the highland v. lowland division in all of the Andean republics. In the hispanophone Caribbean (including coastal zones in Central America), the indio element dissipates and the blanco, mulatto, negro spectrum replaces it. You also have some very distinct political histories (e.g. the constitutionalism in Costa Rica, Chile, and Uruguay).

Alien law + citizenship = Puerto Rico

Alien law - citizenship = Hong Kong ... or ... Belize

Is Switzerland looking for any of these? And which of these does Sardinia think it will become?

I almost wonder when certain countries fail need to use the Country version of "Private Equity" firms. Heck we almost elected one CEO for President here in the USA. Just think of the possibilities.for The Ukraine, Italy (sell islands to the highest bidder), or soon Valenzuela.

What's in it for the Swiss? Having an island to the south doesn't seem to do Italy much good, so why would the Swiss (not the most warm-hearted and devil may care of people) want their own poorer island to the south? Switzerland takes military defense seriously. How are they supposed to defend Sardinian? Build a navy?

A tax shelter that is one step away from them. Look what the British have done.

Would Hawaii or maybe Alaska be a similar example? Or Louisiana (esp. New Orleans)?

Puerto Rico should definitely be granted their independence. Whether they want it or not.

Why Switzerland?

It's not like being part of Switzerland would secure either the wealth or the good governance for Sardinia. Each canton is darned near independent, free to make its own laws and pay its own bills.

If the autonomy is the goal, why not just independence?

Because only 1.5 million people live there and there are no cities exceeding 200,000 in population. In an American context, research universities and university hospitals are atypical in cities that small (though you can have government plants and subsidies). I'm not sure any country with an economy that small has their own bourse (or, at least, not a full spectrum bourse). I believe New Zealand has a full-spectrum bourse, but its nearly 3x the population of Sardinia and its key metropolis is about 8x as large as that on Sardinia. So, its a wager you'd end up with having to contract with Italian institutions for higher education beyond a certain level of sophistication, medical care beyond a certain level of sophistication, and financial markets. Besides, perhaps Sardinians are loyal to Italy. The bad attitudes of the intelligentsia do not necessarily work their way into the man in the street. We love our countries.

Great idea! Except maybe the Swiss won't want to "buy"?
Why not get agreement from the Swiss that they would accept a new Sardinia canton, if an independent Sardinia were to ask.
Note that Sardinia would leave not only the euro-zone, but even the EU.

If the Swiss didn't have to pay, I'd be very surprised if they'd object to accepting it as a new swiss canton -- and using swiss francs there. Plus, Italian is already one of the 4 languages of the Swiss (with German, French, and Romansh).

In general, it would be a good idea for more area in Europe to be under the successful Swiss laws and the confederation model of gov't.

I wish Slovakia could copy more of Swiss policy, too.

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