Peter Young from the Free Cities Foundation on the future of autonomous living
Just imagine: a government that has a contractual obligation to operate with basic competency. And you get reimbursed if they don’t deliver.
It’s a reality Peter Young hopes to realize with the Free Cities Foundation, an organization that facilitates private, contract-based cities rather than taxpayer-based nations. In a Plumia Talks live interview, Young explained what a“free city” is and how they can be the future of autonomous living.
The market of living together
“A free city is a society that is based as closely as possible on purely voluntarist principles,” Young says. “Free city” is an umbrella term for many different models and projects, including private cities, prosperity zones, intentional communities and autonomous territories within existing nation-states.
Put simply, a free city is a private development that provides its citizens the services usually supplied by governments. The Free Cities Foundation is in the business of what the entrepreneur and political scientist Titus Gebel calls the “market of living together”. The non-profit works with organizations and entrepreneurs who are setting up their own free city.
Young advocates for people’s ability to “consent to the system of governance that they live under.” This means that free cities are opt-in by design. “People should be able to choose to live in a voluntary contract-based society if they wish to,” Young says. “But we do not force anyone to live under them.”
Services are provided on a contract basis, meaning residents of free citie are able to decide what amentities they need. “We leave people to set up businesses that provide the goods and services we all value,” Young says. “That is the most efficient way of alleviating poverty and allowing people to live freer and more peaceful lives.”
On a practical level, in order to start a free city, an organization needs to buy or lease land for a willing party. “We do not engage in any kind of cooperation with governments that would be expropriative,” Young says. “We buy land that’s for sale and come to an agreement with the local government that we have certain legal autonomy within the zone.”. Then the organization either provides or subcontracts all services its residents might want.
“If you want to join a free city, there would be a contract that specifies the conditions of your residence and there would be a fee associated with being part of that,” Young says. “Kind of like if you rent an apartment – there are certain terms and conditions.”
Owners versus caretakers
For Young, the problem with the way today’s cities are run is their governments Garen’t incentivized to worry about the future since they aren’t the ones who have to deal with it.
He references the economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe who described governments in majoritarian systems as “caretakers”. They don’t own the country, but rather have use of it for a pre-determined term.
Young says: “With smaller entities that are self-governing, that have ownership rather than having a caretaker, people are interested in the long-term prospects of the citizens and the long-term prospects of the place they're living in.”
While there are a handful zones in the world that emulate the free city concept, it’s a long road from the nation state to Young’s vision of contract-based societies.
He looks back for his inspiration for the future of free cities. In small countries like Monaco and Hong Kong, residents feel the impact of government decisions much more quickly than they might in larger nations like the US or UK. In this way, Young feels we’re “holding each other back through suboptimal systems” in large countries and more people will realize this over time.
That doesn’t mean Young thinks free cities will explode quickly. Instead, he sees more people realizing the mistakes made in larger countries are increasingly impossible to fix.
And they will seek alternatives. “The most valuable thing in the world is human time,” Young says. “And so free cities will be incentivized to be as welcoming as possible to as many people as possible.”
You can watch the full interview here.