Paul Romer backs Galt’s Gulch for Northern Australia


In her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand imagined a libertarian community, Galt’s Gulch in Colorado, in which capitalists were free to live unconstrained by Government regulations and didn’t have to pay taxes to support the “moochers.” One of the world’s leading economists, Paul Romer, has recently proposed a Galt’s Gulch-lite for Northern Australia, as reported in the Townsville Bulletin yesterday (Future fund to develop the North):

New York University economist Professor Paul Romer said northern Australia should push for a special economic zone to trial reforms instead of providing tax incentives for companies to set up.

“A tax concession zone is likely not to be allowed constitutionally,” he said.

“The real question is whether a policy reform zone would be allowed, and on my reading (of the legislation) it might.

“It could provide enormous benefits for the region.”

I like the idea of setting up a zone for experimenting with policy reforms, particularly for reforms that reduce costs to business, and I suspect IR reforms would be a top priority there. Indeed, policy experimentation is often advanced as one of the advantages of a federal system of Government, and one can imagine the Northern part of Queensland eventually becoming its own State. One benefit of a policy experimentation zone in the North would be that, if it is successful, it may drive policy reforms in other parts of Australia. I’ve previously expressed some skepticism about special economic zones (Government right in rejecting northern economic zone), but I’m coming around to a view that competition between regions might promote desirable economic outcomes across Australia. 

By the way, a real Galt’s Gulch, using Bitcoin as currency, has been founded in Chile, as reported last year by the Economist:

Bitcoin paradise

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2 Responses to Paul Romer backs Galt’s Gulch for Northern Australia

  1. Craig Wilson says:

    Hi Gene

    Although I like your literary detour, you may have taken too much licence on rand, romer and the regulatory wedge of sezs

    Romer was quixotic and a tad underwhelming in Townsville and his examples of derring-do in lagos and san Salvador, and a 101 on the economics of industrialisation (vzi Manhattan) were wide of the mark, me thinks.  of the 5000 sezs in the world, there as many variants.  differential policy is a vexed business, but Australia of course has many examples already – industry assistance in Victorian manufacturing, energy subsidies in rural qld.  although I am, in general, open to the notion of sezs, and have visited many and designed several, they are vastly more effective in dysfunctional places.  moreover, new investments, which are driven by literaly scors of factors, are unlikely to be tipped over the line by a new layer of differentiated policy. I would suggest.

    I may see you on the 18th.  I wasn;t impressed with what I heard of the email re the closure of maj bne.  and I like what I’ve heard of your future plans. c

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