China to Palestine: Let Charter Cities & Economic Freedom Bloom
Nation-states can be more trouble than they’re worth. For the Middle East, federalism, soft-partition, enclaves, and charter cities offer non-state paths to peace and prosperity.
The March NSDA Public Forum topic is “Resolved: The United States should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.”
Consider the most economically-free place in the world, Hong Kong, is not a state and was long a colonial charter city before handed over (or back) to communist China in 1997.
How might U.S. policy encourage and support Hong Kong-like economic freedom across mainland China, as well as across the Middle East and North Africa?
The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World: 2016 Annual Report: 2016 (September 16, 2016), is relevant for both the China policy topic and the Israel/Palestine two-state topic. The reports top-rated countries:
Hong Kong and Singapore, once again, occupy the top two positions. The other nations in the top 10 are New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Georgia, Ireland, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia and the United Kingdom, tied for 10th.
Small and independent formerly British colonial territories Hong Kong, Singapore, and United Arab Emirates (“Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain”), plus New Zealand, Canada, Australia make up the top ten. Also in the top ten is Switzerland, an association of mostly-independent and diverse cantons. (However, not all former British colonies are wealthy or economically free, and the success of many today should not be taken as a defense of British colonialism.)
What lessons for Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. can be found in these diverse economic success stories of charter cities, federal republics, and common law traditions? Here is an Economic Freedom Basics page with this video:
The people of Hong Kong were poor in the 1950s, as were people living in Palestine. Through the 1950s, millions of impoverished refugees arrived in Hong Kong, escaping from communist China.
Across the Middle East as in Asia, World War II disrupted and impoverished millions. Hundreds of thousands fled or were expelled from Palestine in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Then hundreds of thousands in long-established Jewish communities in Arab countries fled or were expelled.
Over the decades since 1950, Hong Kong residents have prospered, as have residents of Israel, but the economy of the Palestinian territories and its residents have not prospered.
Hong Kong’s charter with England protected international trade and investment, and taxes stayed low. Economic freedom and a great port enabled Hong Kong to grow rapidly prosperous. Could similar charter cities and economic freedom policies have enabled Palestinians and others in the Middle East to similarly prosper?
Turmoil and violence in Syria today turns on the Alawite minority’s long political and military control. Syrian could have been a much more prosperous place had the Alawites been able to keep their enclave independent from Syria. “Syria’s Ruling Alawite Sect” (New York Times, June 14, 2011). The article was written before the Syrian conflict erupted from Arab Spring protests, and as part of explaining Alawite history mentions:
During the French Mandate, there was even a short-lived Alawite “state” based in and around Latakia, created in 1922. As William L. Cleveland explained in his “History of the Modern Middle East,” the Alawite state was “administratively separate from Syria until 1942.”
Enclaves, charter cities, and other administrated territories have a long history across Europe as well. Just check out a map of Europe in 15th Century.
Political decentralization invites conflicts, but also open political competition where families and businesses can relocate to better governed territories. For an introduction to political decentralization, the Hanseatic League, and the potential of charter cities, see “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty,” (The Atlantic, July/August, 2010)…