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Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Over recent years we have seen astonishing economic growth in 3 similar states - Singapore, Hong Kong & Dubai. In some ways Dubai, the most recent success of the 3, is the most interesting. The first 2 are part of the Oriental world where success blooms widely but Dubai is part of the Arab world where, despite or arguably because of oil, the place is full of corrupt medieval failed states.

Most importantly Dubai is not an oil state or its wealth would prove nothing. "revenue from petroleum and natural gas currently account for less than 6% of the emirate's gross domestic product".

It isn't a libertarian experiment having a strong government funding & planning system. The International Herald Tribune has described it as "centrally-planned free-market capitalism." which is very similar to Paul Krugman's description that "Singapore grew through a mobilization of resources that would have done Stalin proud"> Its economy works on a mixture of banking & tourism with a lot of really overly expensive construction.

It has probably benefited from neighbouring Arab sheiks being rather more willing to do their financial services there than in the west but there is a sharp limit to how kindly people are in trusting with their money. The tourist bit is even more surprising since, although they have become a hub airport the intrinsic tourist attraction is not greater than any other bit of sandy Arabic beachfront property.

I suggest that this shows that while free marketism & the rule of law are very important to economic success a government actually putting growth as their "number one priority" is as important. Unfortunately most politicians saying that are lying. It is probably also a considerable bonus if you have a small state able to fit its laws to make itself more competitive, particularly in financial matters, than larger rivals. And countries pushing the technological envelope, as in the fact that both Dubai & Singapore are building spaceports, is vital.

All of these are advantages held out by proponents of seasteading & Dubai, Singapore & Hong Kong, while obviously not floating cities are all recently founded cities, built in places which previous land based empires had considered undesirable. Seasteading was not possible until the technology existed (if it yet does) to built purely seaborne communities but these 3 may properly seen as precursors in decades to come.

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