This is an opinion piece by Stephan Livera, host of the “Stephan Livera Podcast” and Managing Director of Swan Bitcoin International.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at Liberty In Our Lifetime, a conference organized by the Free Cities Foundation in Prague, Czechia. And it occurred to me that we are now seeing the rise of an adjacent and relevant movement for Bitcoiners interested in citadels, and what they might even look like in the real world.
The Free Cities movement is made up of a combination of libertarians, bitcoiners, private free city operators and investors, seafarers, those seeking to create intentional communities, and those attempting to create institutions. and parallel structures within today’s existing state world. What lessons are there to be learned from this movement and how can more Bitcoiners get involved?
At a high level, there is a strong crossover between the cause of many Bitcoiners and those seeking free cities. They have a largely libertarian philosophy and are interested in financial freedom and the creation of parallel structures. For people unfamiliar with the free cities movement or the concept of the free private city, I recommend listening to my podcast episodes with Titus Gebel (SLP161, SLP417) or, of course, reading the private cities white paper free to learn more.
As a leader of the Free Private Cities movement, Gebel opened the conference by recalling why there is a fundamental need for this parallel approach. He noted that modern states are run by “bolshe-woke” progressives. Many institutions in society have indeed been captured, inflated and/or corrupted. Progressives simply go where their ideas don’t have to work in the real world, like universities or the media. Over time, social and cultural degeneration has deepened, so that even a moderate or center-left person in past decades is now considered an “extreme right” person.
For this reason, it is necessary to create alternatives. But it’s only through trial and error that we can figure out which approaches work and which don’t. Of course, there will be many states that resist this sort of thing, but there may be some that can be integrated if the approach is “win-win” in terms of creating jobs and opportunities. for people locally, or perhaps to attract foreign investment.
Overall, I felt a bias towards action rather than just talking about the philosophy of freedom and libertarianism, which I appreciate.
ZEDE: Próspera Morazán and Ciudad Morazán
Some of the most important projects within the Free Cities community are based on the idea of using the Honduran Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDE) to create the conditions for good private governance.
Now there is good and bad. The good thing is that projects are continuing with construction, and given a setup that promises favorable regulation and lower taxes, this could be attractive to investors, contractors and even workers. What’s worse is that there are challenges along the way, and some states will resist as they might see free private cities as a challenge to their national sovereignty.
Trey Goff from Próspera spoke about the governance market and the fact that on a global scale there is a huge market of additional potential wealth here. What additional wealth could be created if people around the world had access to quality governance?
Could these free private cities replicate the successes of other free economic zones such as Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Singapore or Dubai?
The Próspera governance platform has been designed as follows:
Goff also noted that by providing the right circumstances, such as competitive taxes (such as a flat income tax of 10%, a value added tax (VAT) of 2.5%, and a land value of 1%), along with high-quality infrastructure and dispute resolution, they could hypothetically achieve the following growth:
And it’s not just wealthy businessmen and expats. There will be employment opportunities for, for example, local Hondurans who could come and work for a company inside the ZEDE/Free City. Some projects aim to provide work opportunities for blue-collar workers and provide low-cost, accessible housing. Some speakers mentioned that the ZEDEs sought to hire Hondurans and provide well-paying jobs, paying more than they would otherwise earn.
The elephant in the Honduran room
To be clear, there is an elephant in the room: the recent Honduran election and change of president, and the Honduran congress repealing the so-called ZEDE law to undo the ZEDE framework. There is technically a 50-year protection in place, according to the presentations, because the government is supposed to respect “grandfathering,” but as one speaker from the Free City Project noted, the government still controls the gunmen. Thus, it is still unclear what is happening with these particular ZEDE/free private city projects, as a ratification process is expected to take place next year.
I have sympathy for the people who operate, invest in and promote ZEDEs, as they are likely subject to unfair treatment by the mainstream media. Bitcoiners are familiar with this sentiment, as they are prone to being told that “Bitcoin is dead” (for the thousandth time) or “Bitcoin is boiling the oceans” (as the mainstream quotes a central bank statist blogger with a chopping axe). ZEDE operators seem to want to offer freedom, choice and better prosperity, from what I can tell.
ZEDEs from a Bitcoin perspective
Interestingly for Bitcoiners, Próspera is open in terms of legal tender and there is no capital gains tax, allowing bitcoin to be spent for free without the hassle of bookkeeping and record keeping. It should also be noted that the island of Roatán (Próspera is located on this island) has also focused on Bitcoiner education.
Dusan Matuska spoke at the conference about his educational efforts with AmityAge Academy, the first bitcoin education center in Honduras. There are bitcoin workshops, restaurants and pubs on the island that accept bitcoin, and even planned bitcoin educational projects and events, such as the bitcoin hill run.
There were also influential people from the Seasteading movement, like Patri Friedman, Joe Quirk and others. The slogan I noticed was, “Stop arguing. Start seasteading,” which I can understand given the attitude of many statists around the world who proactively prevent libertarians and other free-spirited people from having freedom.
If all (or most) land on earth is claimed and ruled by statists, is the answer really to move to the seas? I’ve seen different approaches and ideas shared in this way, such as creating a SeaPod (or perhaps stylized as a “SeaBNB”), which could be configured so that visitors/locals have a view at 360 degrees of the sea.
Various technological and almost sci-fi ideas were also shared, such as the use of drones, helipads and intelligent voice assistants (which do not “phone” Apple, Google, Amazon, etc.).
Apart from the SeaPod, ideas were also presented on how to gradually create a community of like-minded sailors who would first meet in their boats in marinas around the world, then move slowly and gradually in stages, l the idea being to form connected floating platforms that enable freer markets at sea and allow people to join, leave or reconfigure their components of the common floating platform, all within a voluntary free market context .
Of course, from the libertarian world there is the “flag theory” and we have seen consulting services such as Katie the Russian Plan B Passport and Staatenlos talk about playing the game of geo-arbitrage.
This could mean using different types of “flags”: citizenships, residencies, business structures, bank accounts, phone service, insurance, and various other components to pick from choices across the world — instead of being locked into a single country. This crowd is, of course, very familiar with using bitcoin as part of an overall strategy to gain freedom and generally are comfortable transacting using bitcoin.
Of course, there were also bitcoiners. I gave a lecture on practical tools and examples of people or organizations using Bitcoin as a parallel system.
We also saw well-known Bitcoiners attending and hosting a panel discussion on Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal. Daniel Prince, Knut Svanholm, Andre Lojas, Jeff Booth (virtually), Greg Foss (virtually) and Lawrence Lepard (virtually) presented the Free Madeira initiative.
And of course, while in town in Prague, the Bitcoiner crew visited Paralelní Polis, a unique organization known for promoting freedom and crypto-anarchy. There you can pay with Bitcoin on chain or via Lightning!
These various projects and methods add up and contribute to the global cause of freedom. For example, flag theorists encourage individuals to acquire additional residences or passports and to play the game of jurisdictional arbitration, this helps reinforce the idea that countries or states should compete with each other to attract talented people or companies. The creation of new free city projects also helps to provide new opportunities. Sea consolidation efforts (although that may not be my cup of tea) always help provide new opportunities for people to express their desire for freedom and choose a different jurisdiction.
Of course, the most powerful, Bitcoin has a big role to play in enabling these other projects and initiatives to work, even despite resistance of the fiduciary banking system. We should all be looking for ways to operate more freely and develop our parallel financial system: Bitcoin.
This is a guest post by Stephan Livera. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.