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Cities of the Sky

March 1, 2011

Greg Lindsay in WSJ:

At present more than half of humanity lives in cities. The percentage is higher in the developed world—four in five Americans live in downtowns or suburbia. China’s rate is half that, and India has not yet begun to urbanize in a serious way, with only 29% of its people in cities. Between now and 2030, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates, India must build a new Chicago every year to absorb the millions of villagers streaming from the countryside in search of work. While the number of city dwellers world-wide will nearly double in 40 years to more than six billion people, the size of cities’ footprints is expected to increase twice as fast.

This hasn’t been lost on Paul Romer, the Stanford University economist overseeing the development of an instant city in Honduras. He proposes building “charter cities” in impoverished states with new laws, new infrastructure and foreign investors—free trade zones elevated to the realm of social experiment. Mr. Romer sold Honduran President Porfirio Lobo on the idea in November and has stayed on as an adviser. Last month, the Honduran Congress voted to amend the country’s constitution to allow the pilot project to proceed.  [More]

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