Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Hong Kong Mk.II

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free"
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Around the world, many people are living in poverty because their governments are dreadful. Especially in Africa, corrupt elites fight wars over their country's natural mineral wealth while letting the populations starve.

So how about giving those people a choice. A lot of them try to make it to the rich countries of the world to work there, but they're generally not very welcome. My proposal is to start a company that will rent a small, muddy, unnatractive bit of land from some government for 50 years, like the British leased Cowloon and the New Territories from China. Build a container port, and an airport, and announce to the world that anyone who wants to can come and live there. Run the place efficiently, and you have all the ingredients for a Hong Kong style economic miracle - good infrastructure, cheap labour, honest and transparent government.

The company makes it's dividends off a set proportion of the tax revenues, say, 5%. It therefore has a strong incentive to maximise the wealth of its residents through training and education. Bear in mind that it is far easier for a government to reap the profits from investing in education than it is for a private firm, because people change job much more readily than they move house.

I realise that to a lot of people an idea like this will seem like the epitome of capitalist evil. Words like 'sweatshop' and 'exploitation' are likely to be bandied round. Sure, working in a factory sewing t-shirts for Nike isn't great. But neither is starving or living through a civil war. People should at least have the choice.

spacemoggy, May 24 2004

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       Start at Guantánamo Bay.
FarmerJohn, May 24 2004
  

       So the companies would presumably get advantages from massive tax breaks? The employees would surely still have to pay the local, awful government their taxes etc.   

       Would the local civil war soldiers really think 'Better not go into that area with my 13 year old AK47 armed troops -- thats where people are earning a (relative) bucket load of money'. Maybe not. In fact I'd suggest that would be the most dangerous place. Unless you want to keep the riff-raff out by building some kind of fence or wall. Perhaps call it a 'security fence'. you'd need armed guards of course to stop people cutting through it. Hey, perhaps have your own rules and laws. hmm .. you could call this place something cool like 'Israel 2'.   

       In fact one thinks the first thing 'President Nasty' will do when he seizes power is think 'Yup -- I'll have that airport, container port etc. thankyou very much'.   

       Or have I misunderstood something?   

       (Sorry this was not intended just as an insult annotation .. more as a started to conversation! No insult intended.)
britboy, May 24 2004
  

       Wow, a lot of points there [Britboy]. No apology needed - its good to get some feedback. Let me just deal with the points you raise:   

       //Tax breaks// The company pays an agreed rent to the government it got the land from. The residents only pay tax to the city administration. I can't say precisely what level that will be at, but in Hong Kong I think it's about 15% income tax.

//Israel// This couldn't be more different. Israel is a Jewish state, where certain people (i.e. Jews) have more legal right to live than non-Jewish people. In contrast, this place would be equally open to everyone.
  

       //a 'security fence'. you'd need armed guards of course to stop people cutting through it.// No fence. Everyone's allowed in, remember? Of course there would be an armed defence force to stop the local bandits/self-appointed militia rampaging in. Probably a lot easier than you imagine. 800 British soldiers defeated the entire Sierra Leone insurgency in a matter of weeks. Holding a small enclave would be a doddle.   

       //President Nasty// Wouldn't want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
spacemoggy, May 24 2004
  

       OK -- I'll go with those answers. Have a sticky bun!   

       Only final point is it's gonna take a helluva lot of capital to realise this idea .. will a company dare? (then again, who dares wins).   

       Also the local population, I'm sure they're lovely lads but they have no education, and being around this much wealth is gonna lead to an awful temptation to steal/loot/etc.   

       Interestingly read an article recently which went on about how save the children were hated in a load of Far East countries because they kept closing down sweat shops. So the children went off and starved/thieved/prostituted themselves instead.   

       But in the sweatshops they were beating the kids if they stopped working whilst on their 16 hour shifts.   

       It's a nasty life out there .. suppose we should head to the least of the evils ... but it'd be a brave politician who supported the sweat-shops ...
britboy, May 24 2004
  

       Sure, why not. The whole "pro nation" concept was baked in Denmark and has proven successful.
dpsyplc, May 24 2004
  

       Excuse my ignorance, but what is "pro nation"?
spacemoggy, May 24 2004
  

       Interesting you should say that. If I put this into practise, the first law I would pass would be to legalise all addictive drugs.
spacemoggy, May 24 2004
  

       Thanks for the bun, [Contracts]. Oh, and for the compassion and all that, too. ;-)
spacemoggy, May 24 2004
  

       The question is would the other poor folks who still live in the crappy places just get a bit more poor thanks to the new city states with container ports.   

       Although I like the idea of a fresh infrastructure. I for one am busy setting up a private army based on ex CIA Iraq contractors (with recent torture experience on the CV) and am planning to move in on your capitalist enclave just as soon as you choose your location. How about North Wales? [Cheap mass produced croissant flavoured pastry]
PainOCommonSense, May 24 2004
  

       Having lived in Hong Kong and Singapore and now back in UK I have an interest in such things and how they 'work'.   

       This place needs   

       a) a large hinterland b) strategic location on main shipping routes c) minimal red tape and taxation d) a population hard working, entrepreneurial and glad to be there (best way...make it hard to get to)   

       Frankly, if the UK played its cards right, London could do this (again?) by leveraging all the talent flooding into it from the rest of the world and not bleeding it dry of all the revenue it earns for the UK through high taxation.   

       If America wants its own 'HK', then...well...where? I'd say in Mexico, but somehow it does not work due to geography. SF and NYC are natural places...   

       The next 'HK' I would say is to be on the southern tip of India straddling the straits between India and Sri Lanka.
timbeau, May 24 2004
  

       Or Gibraltar.
FarmerJohn, May 24 2004
  

       Wishful thinking at its finest.
yabba do yabba dabba, May 24 2004
  

       Cuba will make (that's right, I said "will") an excellent HK2. It potentially has every single ingredient that timbeau listed and it has invaluable airspace that shortens flights between eastern North America and South America. Moreover, it's likely to begin it's Hong Kong-ization within the next decade or two.
eyeguy, May 24 2004
  

       [spacemoggy] "Pro nation"; as in, "During the first world war, Norway was pro Britain, Swedan was pro Germany, and Denmark was pro Denmark".
dpsyplc, May 24 2004
  

       Hello, [spacemoggy] here, replying to some of the annos:   

       [Timbeau] Your points are well taken. I don't think NYC and San Francisco and London fit the bill though, as none of them allow unlimited immigration or is ever likely to again. NYC did in the 19th Century of course, and it is that type of thing I am proposing to recreate. Maybe it should be called NYC2, rather than HK2.   

       [PainOCommonSense] Thank you for the pastry. Your CIA goons will be no match for my all-female libyan-trained bodyguard.   

       [Farmer John] You seem to be under the impression that this idea is 'how many sea-side enclaves beginning with G can you name'. This is certainly a fine game, but perhaps it deserves an idea of its own?   

       [Yabba] Wishful thinking? Surely every individual aspect of this idea is successfully baked in the past. City state: Hong Kong, Singapore, Monaco, Rennaisance Venice. Unlimited immigration: America. Wherein lies the wishful thinking?   

       and finally [dpsyplc]: sorry, still a bit mistified. Was there ever a country that wasn't pro itself?   

       That is all.
spacemoggy, May 25 2004
  

       //'how many sea-side enclaves beginning with G can you name'.// No, these were completely serious suggestions for bits of land for your idea. There're also many suitable island colonies.
FarmerJohn, May 25 2004
  

       When these immigrants arrive will you give them voting rights in a self-governed democracy? If so then what will you when/if they vote for a very un-HK-like society? Maybe they would vote for a muslim fundamentalist regime which would be regarded as threatening by the host country?   

       There seems to be a problem here with, on the one hand, allowing in anybody, and on the other hand guaranteeing a return on investment for the investors via a HK-style low-wage economic miracle.   

       Didn't HK business flourish by selling illegal copies of goods, flouting copyright, stealing ideas and conveniently supplying the chinese with a backdoor through which they could obtain stuff they needed but were unwilling to 'authorize' (mixed with their own ingenuity and industry of course)?
dobtabulous, May 25 2004
  

       [Farmer John] Ah, apologies. I misunderstood your meaning.   

       [Dobtabulous] There would be no voting rights for the first thirty years or so, while the initial investors made a good profit. As [britboy] points out, founding the city would involve risking a lot of capital, so you would need to give them a return. However, I think as long as a place is reasonably well run and responsive to public concerns, people aren't really that bothered about voting. The Hong-kongers weren't until the Chinese took over. As for what would be manufactured, look at Shenzhen in China as an example. Mostly electronic stuff, I think, although as your workforce became better educated and higher skilled they would move into more high-value industries.
spacemoggy, May 25 2004
  

       // as long as a place is reasonably well run and responsive to public concerns, people aren't really that bothered about voting //   

       Ah. Herein lies the problem. The place has to be run well-enough to satisfy the capitalist investors and guarantee their return while at the same time convincing the public that it is responsive to their concerns but denying them a democratic say in the running of it.   

       Even with good education systems, your "everyone welcome" policy would be bound to result in a newly-arrived class of people who may not speak the preferred language or have many skills and hence will required unskilled jobs.   

       This is like saying - start from fresh and do everything right in a controlled environment. I bet you would soon come up against all the same problems that every other state has to face and I see no reason why your benevolent dictatorship would have any advantage over the existing attempts to solve the problems.
dobtabulous, May 25 2004
  

       //existing attempts to solve the problems//
That's just the trouble. It's well known how to solve these problems. The trouble is that no-one bothers. In a lot of African countries, the ruling elite are only concerned about grabbing the natural resources. In a small city state whose only resource was its residents, the only way for the investors/governors to get rich would be to enrich their residents. Thus aligning the interests of governors and governed.

Besides, what's the worst case scenario? The place is absolutely horrid and no-one wants to live there. In which case the investors have wasted a lot of their money and the world remains much as it is now.
spacemoggy, May 25 2004
  

       RE: wishful thinking--the trouble is no one bothers because they know they can make more by getting the cheap labor that they do now. There's no (dollar)incentive to switch to this system. I wish they would--it just seems idealist.
yabba do yabba dabba, May 25 2004
  

       [dobtabulous]: "The place has to be run well-enough to satisfy the capitalist investors and guarantee their return while at the same time convincing the public that it is responsive to their concerns but denying them a democratic say in the running of it."   

       NEWSFLASH: The majority of the world's population wouldn't give a rat's ass for democracy. Most of them would rather eat it. Think about it. Do the savages in Jihadistan (population > 1,000,000,000) clamor for democracy? No. Do the worker drones in the People's Republic of China (population > 1,000,000,000) protest their disenfranchisement? Well, not since a tiny group of protestors fouled the treads of Red Army tanks. Hell, only a small percentage of people in the United States ever register to vote, and of those, only a fraction bother to turn out for national elections, and only a tiny percentage even know about local elections.   

       How many people in third world countries even know what the purpose of government is? What it's powers and limitations should be? What the worth of the individual in a free society is, or his role in, and relationship with, his country and community?   

       Practically none of them. They don't have the luxury of sitting around and asking theoretical and philosophical questions such as these. All they are concerned with is survival--procuring enough food for their families, keeping a roof overhead, and avoiding the armed gangs loyal to charismatic tyrants who provide them with those needs.   

       Giving democracy to people like this is akin to giving a loaded machine gun to a child. Sure, he may be able to operate it, but nobody's going to be happy with the results.   

       By the way, [spacemoggy], croissant.
Guncrazy, May 25 2004
  

       Basically, what you're saying here is replace local government with big business isn't it? If so, then it's not an original idea. I work in UK local governement and bits of it are being hived off to big business all the time. Can't say that it's improved things at all.
DrBob, May 25 2004
  

       Kind of on topic with how the conversation is going:   

       Why bother with voting anyway? As you see .. no-one really bothers voting anymore anyway.   

       YEAR PERCENTAGE VOTED   

       1998 36.1   

       1994 38.79   

       1990 36.53   

       1986 36.42   

       1982 40.09   

       1978 37.77   

       1974 38.78   

       1970 46.78   

       1966 48.61   

       1962 47.57
britboy, May 25 2004
  

       //Basically, what you're saying here is replace local government with big business isn't it?// [DrBob] No, not at all. The key feature of this idea is that it doesn't *replace* existing forms of government, but offers an alternative that people can take if they want to. The ultimate aim is for these city-states to start competing with each other to attract workers, so that the poor people of the world come to be seen as valuable resource rather than a liability.   

       [GunCrazy] and [Britboy] Yeah, I think you're right about democracy. Most people just want their government to be reasonably efficient and otherwise leave them alone. Can anyone truly say they would rather be an average citizen in democratic and dirtpoor India than undemocratic but rich Singapore? Of course, the trouble with undemocratic systems is that if the rulers do go bad, you're screwed.   

       [Yabba] Not suggesting that Nike should do this - obviously they can get their cheap labour already. I'm suggesting this as a business venture in itself. Being an entrepreneur is about finding a niche and catering to it, right? Well I reckon the market for good government must be the biggest unsatisfied niche around.
spacemoggy, May 25 2004
  

       I don't see any company wanting to do this. Starting up an airport alone is rediculous--there won't be enough business.
yabba do yabba dabba, May 25 2004
  

       //won't be enough business//
Do you mean no-one will want to come and live/work in this place, or do you mean that no-one will set up their factories there?
I'm a little unclear what you meant about the airport - I'm not proposing to just set up an airport all by itself in the middle of nowhere. It would be there to provide transport for the residents and people visiting the city.
spacemoggy, May 25 2004
  

       First off, is this a city, or not?
And who's visiting this city?
And these people, who you're paying little--albeit more than nike--for their labors, what need will they have for an airport?
What money will they have for a flight?
And if they're not poor, what money will you be making?
  

       I don't mean to sound like an ass--I just think it's obvious why no one would want to venture:   

       "Besides, what's the worst case scenario? The place is absolutely horrid and no-one wants to live there. In which case the investors have wasted a lot of their money and the world remains much as it is now."
-you
yabba do yabba dabba, May 25 2004
  

       It's a city. Like Hong Kong. The people start off poor but then get richer. Then they can afford to take package holidays via the airport.
In the meantime it's necessary for all the executive fat cats who are visiting their factories, and maybe tourists as well.
And don't judge it by my *worst case scenario*. The point of that was that even at its worst this couldn't really do any harm. Obviously I'm not aiming for the worst case scenario.
spacemoggy, May 25 2004
  

       [spacemoggy] as a point of order, Singapore is democratic. It is also very cleanly democratic i n corruption terms unlike India. One flaw: the ruling party does sue the (highly incompetent) opposition into bankrupcy the moment one of them blurts out anything mildly libelous.   

       If someone wants to find incessently smug people, however, the Singaproe PAP ruling party has a monopoly.
timbeau, May 26 2004
  

       How about this: if you're renting land from a government, they won't let you invite the world to come along with you.
yabba do yabba dabba, May 26 2004
  

       //Do the savages in Jihadistan (population > 1,000,000,000) clamor for democracy? No. Do the worker drones in the People's Republic of China (population > 1,000,000,000) protest their disenfranchisement? Well, not since a tiny group of protestors fouled the treads of Red Army tanks.//   

       To write off a significant proportion of the world as 'savages' is an extremely narrow-mined thing to do, and suggest that the population of China are 'drones' who are happy with their government is absurd. All accross the world people and organising themselves to bring down dictatorships, look at recent pro-democracy protests in Cuba and Uzbekistan. Alot of dictatorships have fallen in the last century or so due to the masses being in favour of the ideals of democracy.   

       In future [guncrazy], think before sharing your il-informed right-wing opions with the rest of us.
Mad Dog, May 22 2005
  
      
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