This reading list is meant to be a reasonably comprehensive overview of charter cities. It offers an introduction to various schools of thought and discussions which have influenced our ideas about charter cities.
Paul Romer originated the idea of charter cities with his now famous TED talk. Mark Lutter has written about more recent developments.
Ed Stringham delineated various forms of private governance, helping to understand social organization without the state.
The Incredible Amount of New City Projects
The rate at which new cities are being developed is underdiscussed. As many as 200 master-planned cities are currently under construction. They are sometimes public, sometimes private, and sometimes public private partnerships.
Our World in Data offers helpful introduction to urbanization.
The New Cities Foundation published three (here, here, and here) reports about new city developments.
Nkwashi, a new city development in Zambia and Rendeavour, the largest urban real estate developer in Africa, are two projects to follow. Listen to Mark Lutter interview Mwiya Musokotwane, the founder of Nkwashi.
Songdo is arguably the most successful master planned city in living memory.
Charter cities current thought is light on political philosophy, which means there is an opportunity to carve out an interesting niche for enterprising grad students and academics.
The definitive attempt to establish a political philosophy for charter cities is Liberal Archipelagoby Chandran Kukathas. Kukathas argues for a number of small political jurisdictions that cater to the preferences of their residents.
Chinese economic success is largely due to a combination of urbanization and special economic zones which began in Shenzhen. The Shenzhen model in particular, offers a developmental roadmap for future charter cities.
Ronald Coase’s last book, How China Became Capitalist, is a good introduction to the bottom up process by which China implemented their reforms.
Belt and Road will encounter challenges in the coming years, as its proponents often assume host countries have sufficiently high growth rates to justify ever-expanding infrastructure projects.
Invisible Countries by Joshua Keating offers an introduction to nations seeking independence, including Kurdistan, Somaliland, and Catalonia.
The Sovereign State and Its Competitorsby Hendrik Spruyt discusses how the sovereign state won against alternative forms of political organization in the late middle ages, including against the Hanseatic League.
Charter cities are in part an institutional hack. They offer a path to rapidly improve institutions by targeting greenfield sites without entrenched political interests. Thus, it is important to have a deep understanding of institutions and their role in growth.
Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson made important contributions to the institutions literature. Here they review the evidence of the importance of institutions against other causes of development. Why Nations Fail is also a good introduction to institutions.
Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty helped revive an understanding of the importance of stable institutions for long term planning.
The Calculus of Consentby James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock emphasizes the importance of ‘constitutional moments’ in shaping long term outcomes.
The City in Historyby Lewis Mumford traces the emergence of the city to its life today, with particular attention paid to its sociological evolution.
Charter city entrepreneurs across continents will face challenges in deciding which industries and anchor tenants to prioritize. Literature on industrial policy can help create a framework for charter city development.
How Asia Works by Joe Studwell is largely responsible for the recent industrial policy craze. He analyzes East Asian economic growth and identifies how state promoted industrialization.