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Mark Lutter on the importance of charter cities
Episode 125th March 2020 • Charter Cities Podcast • Kurtis Lockhart
00:00:00 00:57:31

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We are so happy to welcome you to the Charter Cities Podcast, where we highlight the different facets of building a charter city. Through this platform, we hope that listeners will not only gain a deep understanding of charter cities from urban planning to politics and finance but also the necessary steps that it takes to build them. In this episode, we do things a bit differently, with Mark Lutter, founder of Charter Cities Institute, and host of the podcast getting put in the hot seat. His CCI colleague, Tamara Winter, interviews him on a range of topics, both directly and not so directly, related to charter cities. We learn more about the mission of CCI and why Mark believes that charter cities are a good model for economic development. While Paul Romer, famed economist, unsuccessfully tried to get charter cities off the ground, Mark explains why he believes CCI’s approach will ultimately be more successful. Mark also sheds light on how charter cities are complementary to but different from economic zones. While these delineated areas are often politically motivated, the vision behind the charter city is much broader than that. CCI hopes to contribute to aspects such as site selection, urban planning, and governance, and in doing so, take a holistic approach to building a new city. Mark also discusses what it takes to build governance capacity, some of the charter city constraints, and how partnerships helped him launch CCI. We learn more about Mark as well, from some of his favorite books, the African cuisine that’s made the biggest impression on him, and how he has carried the lessons from his federal bureaucratic parents with him. We couldn’t have hoped for a better first episode, and we hope you join us for the journey to come. Tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

•   The two ways that CCI’s attempt at creating charter cities is different from Paul Romer’s.

•   Why Mark is skeptical about using services as a means of building charter cities.

•   Find out how charter cities are similar to and different from special economic zones.

•   How regulatory arbitrage can produce favorable outcomes and what CCI is doing about it.

•   Charter cities need good urban planning and infrastructure in conjunction with good governance.

•   Two of Mark’s favorite books that he’s read related to places he has been.

•   How growing up with parents who worked in federal bureaucracy has shaped Mark.

•   What industrial policy is and what charter cities should be cognizant of when pursuing it.

•   Why, despite admiring China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Mark is cautious about it.

•   An overview of Honduras' charter legislation and what went wrong in execution.

•   Find out what it would take to build a government from scratch and successful examples.

•   Which historical leaders would have been good charter city founders?

•   Learn more about the constraints that charter cities face and how they’re likely to change.

•   Why Mark would opt to build charter cities in Canada rather than the US.

•   Mark's motivation for founding CCI and his proudest CCI achievements thus far.

•   Find out about the two key partnerships that helped Mark launch CCI.

•   Why the state shouldn’t be trusted with industrial policy.

•   What Silicon Valley is not understanding about politics and how they can change it.

•   Mark’s favorite non-charter city books and what we can learn from historical eras.

•   An overview of the Hanseatic League and how it can be used as a governance model today.

•   How Mark’s thinking about charter cities has changed since founding CCI and how listeners can get involved.


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Mark Lutter

Mark Lutter on Twitter

Mark Lutter Email

Tamara Winter on Twitter

Charter Cities Institute

Charter Cities Institute on Facebook

Charter Cities Institute on Twitter

Paul Romer


The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years

Dance of the Jakaranda

Dani Rodrik


Tyler Cowen on Twitter


Booker T. Washington

Tuskegee Institute

Catherine the Great

Walt Disney

Celebration, Florida

Sidewalk Labs

Alphabet Inc.

Scott Alexander

Y Combinator

Mwiya Musokotwane on Twitter

Brookings Institution

Enyimba Economic City

Students For Liberty


Emergent Ventures

The Rise and Decline of Nations

The Three-Body Problem

The Art of Community


Hanseatic League