There are a great number of problems in the world, most of them have known solutions. Yet, rarely are these solutions put into practice. Why do we fail to take action? Why do we fail to try? Why do we so frequently settle for less? The answer is politics, fear, and bureaucracy. But these are terrible reasons to mire ourselves in mediocrity.
The only realistic means of implementing the policies proposed by The Lianeon Project would be to first pilot them in select zones. Pilot zones are crucial to testing, experimenting, and ultimately overcoming resistance to necessary social, economic, and political changes before they are rolled out more broadly.
A Wrong Path
Case in point: the Land Value Tax (LVT). As we outline here, an LVT would do more than just about any other policy for improving economic growth and the inclusiveness of that growth. Economists from all walks of the political spectrum agree on this, sometimes labeling an LVT the “perfect tax.”
In the late 19th Century, humanity had the opportunity to adopt an LVT, but instead chose to double down on less efficient and growth-killing revenue sources, like income and property taxes. As a consequence, implementing a land value tax today is all but impossible, as it would overturn over a century of powerful vested interests. The LVT, therefore, would best be implemented on land that isn’t already beholden to such powerful interests, such as a pilot zone.
Pilot zones aren’t a new idea to one country: China. In 1978, China’s then leader Deng Xiaoping promoted politically difficult economic reforms in several zones, known as Special Economic Zones. These zones were chosen because they were relatively undeveloped with few vested interests. They also contributed little to the tax base, meaning there was less risk in experimenting with them. The village of Shenzhen was the first pilot zone.
Shenzhen piloted economic reforms that proved immediately successful. The village exploded into a wealthy metropolis in the span of just one generation. The lessons learned in Shenzhen were systematically rolled out in additional pilot zones, such as Shanghai’s Pudong “New Area,” which also saw similar explosive prosperity.
With proven success in pilot zones, the lessons learned were rolled out across China, leading to unprecedented economic growth that rocketed the country to the world’s second-largest economy.
The success of Shenzhen and Shanghai embody the Chinese concept of 摸着石头过河, or “crossing the river by feeling for the stones.” That is, careful, calculated steps, and testings one’s footing, before taking another step. Pilot zones are those stepping stones where lessons learned, both positive and negative, are considered before taking the next step.
The world can learn from China. Pilot zones reduce the risk of experimenting with new ideas. They also generate useful data that can iron out and improve theoretical policy concepts, helping overcome resistance and fear of change outside the zone.
The Chinese approach makes complete sense. Complex systems are never perfect on the first go. When Toyota designs a new car, they don’t immediately begin producing and selling it. They produce prototype after prototype, testing, finding issues, and improving the product before it rolls off the assembly line.
Why would we expect politicians to get something as immensely complex as, for example, healthcare reform, right on the first try? Unless the reforms are piloted in a zone, and kinks worked out, failure, or at least disappointment, is inevitable. Disappointment breeds hesitancy for any further action at all.
There is now one possible “pilot” city in America, the planned city of Telosa. Telosa’s mission is to “create a new city in America that sets a global standard for urban living, expands human potential, and becomes a blueprint for future generations.” Telosa is an opportunity to try new systems of taxation, means of boosting innovation, affordable housing, new forms of transportation…etc. With the right vision, talent and ideas, Telosa could be America’s Shenzhen.
Pilot zones are crucial to reducing the risk of civilization’s collapse and its continued advancement. Remaining left behind on the riverbank isn’t an option. We either cross the river, or we are carried away by the current. The choice is ours.