Londependence

Now that Brexit has occurred, what’s next for London? One option that is gaining a surprising, though still small, amount of traction is for London to secede from Britain and become a city state. Of course, this is unlikely to happen I the near future. However, it is worth considering Londependence as part of broader trends.

This blog focuses on new cities. I still believe that new cities are the most likely avenue for the emergence of free cities. It is far easier to gain autonomy in a rural area without special interests than in an existing city. Nevertheless, it is possible, and increasingly probable, that existing cities become more independent, slowly, and sometimes rapidly, asserting their autonomy. London is an example of the trend. Venice is further along, having already held an unofficial referendum on independence from Italy. Lagos has gained autonomy incrementally as it demonstrates its capacity for good governance.

Also pointing to this trend are thought leaders extolling the virtues of cities. Benjamin Barber has a TED talk on why mayors should rule the world. Parag Khanna has repeatedly stressed the rising importance of cities on the world stage. Balaji Srinivasan argues for Silicon Valley to exit.

The causes of this trend, like any major geo-political trend, are complex and difficult to understand. Nevertheless, a broad reason for the slow reemergence of city states is globalization. Barriers to trade have greatly fallen in the post-war era. Nation states emerged in part to create internal free trade zones. As external trade barriers fall, the advantages of nations become more limited.

In the short term, Londependence will not occur. However, Brexit was unexpected. As the failings of nation states become more apparent, the trend toward city states will accelerate. Londependence might herald our future of city states.

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