Developing Economies

The TED Talk That Could Spawn A City

In this week's New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson writes about charter cities.

Paul Romer, an economist at NYU, came up with the idea: Establish a special zone in an impoverished country, and import the legal and political system from one or more rich countries. Here's Romer presenting the idea in a TED talk:

YouTube

In Honduras, a young aide to President Porfirio Lobo saw Romer's TED talk. The aide was was impressed, and he invited Romer to come to Miami and present the charter cities idea to Lobo.

Romer, of course, accepted. But he gave what he admits was an astonishingly boring presentation (he says he's often been accused of a Mr. Spock-like absence of emotion).

He was losing the President's interest. The aide who had invited him interrupted and suggested they simply put Romer's Ted talk up on the screen. In that one, Romer had been well-coached to show some actual passion.

The video worked. When it ended, Lobo said, "We need to do this."

A month later, Honduras passed a constitutional amendment that allowed for the creation of a development zone.

Read the full column on charter cities here, and watch Romer's second TED talk on charter cities here.

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