How to Build a Better Government: Smaller, Consensual, and Decentralized Reply

By Trey Goff

Mises Institute

[Your Next Government?: From the Nation State to Stateless Nations by Tom. W. Bell]

When I first met him, Tom W. Bell seemed more like the successful lawyer/entrepreneur type than he did the type of guy to write an intensely well-sourced book synthesizing information from a variety of fields. On that front, he pleasantly surprised me: this book is an excellent, abundantly well-sourced paean to consent, choice, and competitive governance.

Bell begins the book by explaining how smaller, consent-rich and decentralized government is creating a “bottom-up, peaceful revolution” in the way governance is organized around the world. He cites the usual examples of Chinese special economic zones and SEZs all around the world generally as evidence of this. All of this has been surveyed extensively by other authors as well, but Bell does an excellent jo of succinctly re-presenting it here. However, Bell forays into a field I’ve not seen broached elsewhere by examining previous examples of special jurisdiction-type entities within the United States. Specifically, he details the extensive use of foreign trade zones (FTZs) throughout the United States as an example of special jurisdictions closer to home. These zones exempt the businesses within them from many aspects of US customs, excise taxes, and import taxes. These zones are ubiquitous and play host to a sizeable portion of US foreign trade. He closes this survey of the evidence of special jurisdictions by dedicating a chapter to some interesting examples: Henry Ford’s spectacularly failed attempt to make a massive city in the middle of the Brazilian rain forest (Fordlandia), Honduran ZEDEs, and seasteads.

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