Stanford economist Paul Romer has had lots of good ideas over the years. Particularly his ideas about the importance of ideas in the economy. But his “Charter City” idea explored at the recent TED conference is one of the best yet.
Maybe I like it so much because it so closely tracks the concepts offered in my long paper of last August called “Entrepreneurship and Innovation in China – 1978-2008 – Thirty Years of Decentralized Economic Growth”, a follow-on article in The Wall Street Journal, and a previous essay “Breaking Metcalfe’s Law” on the economic importance of the exchange of ideas.
Romer uses China’s “free zones” envisioned by Deng Xiaoping and initially implemented by one Jiang Zemin as the chief example of how his charter cities would work in practice. He explains how they might cut the political-economic Gordian knot of societies too stuck in the past to make obviously needed rule changes that can open the floodgates of ideas and entrepreneurship. These were the key themes of my paper.
Also check out this working paper by Romer that surveys the economic growth literature (hat tip: Growthology).