Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Freeman on Free Cities

The Foundation for Economic Education recently invited me to join its flagship publication, The Freeman, as a regular contributor. It just published my first article, No Exit: Are Honduran Free Cities DOA? Here's an excerpt:
Eager to bring Hong Kong-style growth to their beleaguered Central American country, Honduras amended its constitution in 2011. The new provisions allowed the creation of quasi-sovereign special development regions. Libertarians thrilled at the prospect.

By making it easier to escape from bad government to better government, the Honduran plan would put the forces of competition and choice in the service of the Honduran people. Formerly, Hondurans who voted with their feet had to flee their homeland. Now, they could stay and wait for good government to come to them--at least to the neighborhood.

Those grand visions came to nothing, however. Instead, the Honduran Supreme Court struck down the constitutional amendments as ... unconstitutional. Does that spell the end of the Honduran experiment in newer, freer cities?


Philip Whitman said...

This is confusing to me. How can a court declare a constitutonal amendment unconstitutional?

Malachi said...

I have the same question as Philip.

Tim Fowler said...

If the amendment was not properly established according to the correct procedures then I guess you could call it "unconstitutional", but I would probably say it was "invalid", or "not properly passed" instead.

But an amendment could be unconstitutional if it exceeds the scope of the amendment power. For example in the US, under article 5 of the constitution (the part that creates the amendment process) restricted amendments about slavery and taxes until 1808, and has a permanent restriction on giving a state less then equal representation in the senate without the states consent.

Any amendment stating that say small states would only have one senator would thus be unconstitutional.

I guess an amendment of article 5, to allow for an amendment of equal representation for each state in the senate, might be constitutional, and then after that first amendment you could have a 2nd one that made state's representation in the senate unequal, but then you would need two amendments not just one.