The beauty of the Free Private Cities model is that it is just a framework that can be adapted to different target groups or ideological preferences. An anarcho-capitalistic model would be conceivable as well as even a kibbutz-model without private property, said Titus Gebel in an extensive interview for the „Free Reporter“ daily.
INTERVIEW WITH TITUS GEBEL ABOUT THE FREE PRIVATE CITIES PROJECT, March 2018
FREE REPORTER: What is the latest development of the Free Private Cities project (FPC)?
Titus Gebel: We are very advanced in Central America (see 2), in addition there are negotiations with two governments in an early stage; and my book will be available from 5th April on (first German followed by English 2-3months later) outlining the theoretical foundations and the concept but also giving practical hints to everyone who might be interested in taking up this idea.
Have you managed to make some progress, at least in terms of finding a suitable location or territory in which the possibility of gaining autonomy or the right to autonomous regulation of some internal affairs of the FPC would arise?
We have now a territory, a governmental permit and a respective law in place which grant us a substantial legal autonomy (own legal and social system, own courts, own police, own tax and customs regime). Since the respective negotiations have just been finished a couple of days ago, there hasn’t been an official announcement yet. But it will come soon, together with a possibility to co-invest. The project is in Central America, subscribers to my newsletter (freeprivatecities.com) will be informed promptly. It is not yet a full Free Private City but a big step in that direction.
What is the relationship between the Free Private Cities project and the private city of Burma in the Karen State, you are referring to (on Facebook)? Is it possible to say, that FPC provide something like the “freedom franchise”…?
Yes, Free Private Cities should definitely become a kind of a franchise. At the moment, I try to support projects like Kurt Hanson’s one in Burma with advice and my network, so that they can succeed. There is no official relationship installed yet between the Burma project and Free Private Cities, but most of us involved in the startup societies movement know each other. I once established the motto on a conference in Crete that we are not competitors but colleagues and should support each other. That was well accepted and I can say that the seasteaders have also adopted some of my Free Private City ideas, namely the contractual relationship.
Are they a model for FPC citystates like the Monaco or Singapore? If so, in what aspects?
Monaco and Singapore are certainly models regarding some of their elements, like free trade, strict rule of law, low regulation, being tough to crime, immigration procedures and security. In my book I point out to other examples and what we can learn from them, from past and present like Hong Kong, Dubai, Venice, medieval free cities and ancient greek city states. The main difference is that Free Private Cities will have no parliament or prince who can change the rules any day.
Is the FREE PRIVATE CITIES a business or political project? What is the primary goal? Generate profit by offering a unique product (free/market society which is missing in the real world) or providing a free, market-based society for those interested in free / stateless life?
Definitely both. Originally I came to the conclusion that living a free and self-responsible life (based on voluntarism) will never get a majority in mass democracies. Insofar Free Private Cities were a niche product from the outside for the few that do like those principles.
In the meantime, I think the project can really open up a whole new market – the market of living together. Libertarians are always pointing to the free market as a provider of solutions to all kind of questions – so practice what you preach and transfer this correct idea to the market of living together. The profit motive is giving the right incentive not to waste resources and to treat your customers well.
As for your proposed free city. Will the inhabitants be mere customers – „outsiders“, i.e. only tenants of houses or flats, or would the customers be also owners of land and houses?
In my model they can also own land and houses. There are lease models discussed (like in Singapore or Hong Kong) where the land would only be leased, so that the city would remain the owner and execute the owners rights. I don’t see the necessity since you can also put a covenant on any land that you have to follow the rules of the city for example.
But the beauty of the Free Private Cities model is that it is just a framework that can be adapted to different target groups or ideological preferences. An anarcho-capitalistic model would be conceivable as well as even a kibbutz-model without private property. I am favoring a classical-liberal minarchist model, whereby the „state“ is a privat company, bound by a bilateral contract (not a constitution that can be changed or interpreted by state authorities). My guess is that this works best and will find more acceptance with „normal“ people. In the end, the market will decide. As in the world of products and services, probably different models can coexist successfully, since people are different and have different preferences.
Thus, your concept really includes the possibility for residents to become co-owners of this free private city…
This is definitely conceivable. The owner can be a private person, a stock corporation or a company which is owned partly or even exclusively by the residents. Even an IPO would be possible. Free Private Cities Inc will set up subsidiaries, for each city one. Within this subsidiaries there is room for different ownership models. There is a discussion ongoing if it might be good idea to make the purchase of at least one share mandatory when you become a resident, so that there is an alignment of interest.
Do you think would it be is psychologically acceptable for the citizens if the city’s owner was only one private person or one private company?
But imagine a cruise – it is taking place outside national jurisdictions. When you go on a cruise ship, you are completely in the captain’s hands. However, you trust him to behave in accordance with the contract and in a customer-friendly manner; after all, he is paid indirectly by you. Nor do you want political participation on board, but only that the cruise takes place as announced and that the captain and crew do their job. In particular, the captain should not change the rules or even the route you have booked while you are sailing. If he does, you can sue the tour operator or the shipping company that owns the cruise ship. Who owns the tour operator or the shipping company and who manages it is irrelevant.
Here in Monaco, 80 % of the population (including me) have no participation rights at all, since we are not monegasque citizens. Nobody has a problem with that, we just want to be left alone; the state should just do its job (security, rule of law, infrastructure). On paper the prince in Monaco has a lot of power. If he made use of it in an negative way, we would just leave. He knows that and therefore it’s not happening. It’s that easy. Competition is the only sustainable limitation of power that mankind has discovered so far.
In our case, the legal position would be secured by the contract and no council, no city provider, no mayor, no shareholders or other residents had the power to change this contract unilaterally.
Insofar, I think over time the city provider will be just regarded as a mere service provider and the wish to participate will disappear. People will vote with their feet as they do today in regard to bad products/services.
Will the citizens (i.e. customers) in the FPC have something like civil rights and freedoms? Would there be any elements of democracy in such a city, according to your concept?
Civil rights and freedoms: definitely yes (economic and personal). Otherwise the city is not attractive. This would be guaranteed by contract. Everyone has a contract with the service provider and can sue him for breach of contract, hold back annual payments for bad services or claim damages if he had become the victim of a crime (since he has paid for security). Any disputes between the city provider and the residents are negotiated before independent arbitration tribunals that are not part of the city.
Democratic elements might be wanted by the host nation. I can imagine a kind of shareholder democracy, if residents own shares (see above). Also conceivable is a „corrective democracy“, an idea of Tom Bell, whereby residents can reject by majority new rules (if new rules are permitted at all by the contract, but probably it’s necessary in some areas). However with corrective democracy they can only reject, not introduce new rules, since this would ultimately lead to redistribution and all the issues we have in current democracies.
Why are you offering FPC for migrants? Is it not in contradiction with the FPC’s mission to offer its model to the states, that is to do business with the state? Do you think migrants are longing for life in a free society? Don´t they rather prefer a classic welfare state and its generous redistribution?
Migrant cities would not offer social welfare and therefore would attract only people who are willing to work for their living. As with „normal“ Free Private Cities, this can be a win-win for a (poor) state, especially if something is created in a region where formerly was nothing. In addition, the migration crisis will presumably become worse and so this might be a valve that can get financial support also from immigration countries. Finally those migrant cities can be an alternative to religious regimes and everybody would see that this model of living together is working better than the ones based on a holy book from the 7th century.
FREE PRIVATE CITIES project – Basic Informations:
- Free Private Citiy is operated/provided by private company, which offers the basic services of a state: the protection of life, liberty and property, in a defined territory within a host nation.
- Inhabitants/customers of the FPC pay a certain amount for those services per year. Their respective rights and obligations are laid down in a written agreement between customer and the provider. Apart from that, customers – inhabitants are free to do as their choose.
- Citizens of the FPC are a contracting party on an equal footing with a secured legal position, instead of „being subject to the ever changing whims of politics“.
- Free Private Cities are the next evolution in special economic zones.
- In order to initiate this project, a certain autonomy from existing sovereignties has to be secured. It need not entail territorial independence, but it must include the right to regulate the city’s internal affairs.
- The establishment of a Free Private City therefore requires first an agreement with an existing state. Thereby, the host state grants the operator the right to establish a Free Private City and to set its own rules within a defined territory
FREE PRIVATE CITIES offer:
Every resident has a signed agreement with the operator of the Free Private City. Thus, Rousseau’s requirement that initially every single citizen has to give his or her unanimous consent to the “social contract”, would be fulfilled for the first time in history. This written contract clearly defines the respective rights and obligations of the contracting parties and is enforceable by every resident. The operator cannot change this agreement unilaterally. Conflicts about its interpretation or fulfillment go to independent arbitration.
Since you are paying for the protection of your life, liberty and property (and only for that), you have a corresponding claim against the operator. The first and foremost task of the police is therefore to provide for your security around the clock. If you become victim of a crime, you are entitled to compensation. The police has to follow pre-defined and known rules of engagement and can be held liable for failure to comply.
Apart from the security package and the respective payment that comes with the contract, you can decide for yourself on which goods and services you want to spend money and which charity and political cases you want to support. You have full freedom of action, limited only by the respective rights of others and the basic rules laid down in the agreement with the operator. This includes free speech, full freedom of contract and freedom of association with your fellow residents. The interaction between the residents happens on a purely voluntary basis, free of any coercion.
Innovation is seen as chance, not as risk. Provided, you do not harm your neighbors or the environment, anyone can introduce new products and services without permission or license, and such products and services can be bought and
sold in any currency desired. You decide on your own if you want to test or use those products or services. After a time, Free Private Cities will offer a much higher quality of life to everyone.
Solutions to the Migration Crisis
Many people are suffering from political systems which are so bad, that economic development or personal freedom are impossible to achieve. Others belong to minorities who suffer from political or religious intolerance. So they decide to emigrate. Creating Free Private Cities in or near their home regions would establish a viable alternative for them. This would not only take away pressure from the main immigration countries, but also serve as a role model for the affected regions.
Other interesting features of life in the considered “Free Private City” project:
- The Mayor of the city would be the CEO of a service company.
- The city dwellers would be customers and could rely on competition between private cities to get a good deal.
- In a private city, citizens get from the “State Service Provider” a contract offer. This contract clearly lays down, which services it provides and what the costs are.
- There it also sets out what obligations customers-citizens have towards a peaceful coexistence, what legal system applies and the like.
- The operator of the private city cannot one-sidedly change these regulations or the payable amounts afterwards, as it is customary in politics.
Titus Gebel has proposed the Private City based on the following principles:
1) Every resident has the right to live an independent life without the interference of others.
2) The interaction between the residents happens on a voluntary basis, not based on coercion. Participating and remaining in the Private City is strictly voluntary.
3) The respective rights of others must be honoured, even if one does not like their way of life or attitude.
4) There is complete freedom of speech with one exception: If you are promoting expropriation or violence against others, you have to leave. The pure criticism of other people, ideologies, religions, etc. has to be accepted. “Feeling outraged” justifies no limitation of free speech.
5) The operator of the Private City ensures a stable regulatory framework and a basic infrastructure. This includes the establishment of a police, fire-fighters, emergency rescue and furthermore, the establishment of a legal framework and independent courts, so that property ownership is registered bindingly and residents can assert their legitimate claims in a regulated process.
6) The framework is laid down between the residents and the operator in a contract, which holds all the respective rights and obligations. This includes the consideration for every inhabitant for the operator’s services. Every resident has a legal claim that his contract is performed and can claim damages for misperformance. This contract is basically one’s personal “constitution” which is superior to all existing constitutions since it may later not be changed unilaterally, neither by the operator nor by majority vote.
7) All adult residents are responsible for the consequences of their actions, not “society” or the operator. Again, there is no “human right” to live at the expense of others.
8) Conflicts of interest between residents or between residents and the operator are negotiated by independent courts or arbitral tribunals. Their decisions must be respected. Namely conflicts with the operator, e.g. about interpretation of the contract, go to arbitration, not to courts of the operator.
9) There is no legal entitlement to join the Private City. The operator can reject candidates at his discretion. People who openly declare views that are not compatible with a free society, e.g. socialists, fascists or islamists, won’t get admittance.
10) Each resident may terminate the contract at any time and leave the Private City again, but the operator may – after a trial period – cancel only for cause, as for breach of the basic rules.
(Source: Titus Gebel; „Private Cities – a disruptive technology for the state market“, 2016)