After listening to Paul Romer's latest interview with Russ Roberts at Econtalk, I wanted to sketch out a few differences between charter city or community approaches in this post. Econtalk also includes a link for a brief Romer interview from 2010, ("Give poor people a chance") which provides additional perspective.
Of course the primary difference would be in terms of scale. Whereas a charter city needs to commit to a well understood approach at the outset, charter communities could be more flexible and experimental in nature. And while charter city infrastructures may need to accommodate millions of citizens, charter communities would often be laid out for walkable and other non motorized options. This would allow the inhabitants to coordinate ongoing schedules and activities in ways that are also capable of overlapping, where needed.
Charter communities would rely on direct democracy for service formations, in part due to ongoing time use choices which involve long term educational planning and local resource use. Whereas services formations in charter cities would probably utilize traditional division of labor structures and representative democracy. The difference is also one of density optimization: divisions of labor in knowledge use communities would reflect the varied needs of a much smaller population at any given moment in time.
In the 2010 article, Romer spoke of increases in land value which would stem from the authorities providing public goods. For a charter community, land value would likely increase slowly, due to gains from increased ability to coordinate services and production more effectively over time. Local investments could be apportioned so that gains can provide fallback options for citizens as they age, as well.
Participants are more likely to be involved in initial planning processes, than would be possible in charter cities. Especially as the concept starts to take shape, more individuals would be able to play "founding" roles in domestic summits which seek to create new chartered communities. Domestic summits would also focus on the formation and definition of public spaces. These would vary widely, according to common interests and the kinds of infrastructure formation which best match investment options for potential citizen groups. As Romer noted, public spaces facilitate the interactions which make cities valuable. Certainly the same would hold true for charter communities.
A common characteristic of both city and community would be the fact that multiple interests would be brought together and harmonized. While broader sets of income levels would be able to live in charter cities, to some extent chartered communities would be able to make provisions in this regard as well. As Romer noted in the Econtalk interview, "An attractive climate is a luxury good." To a degree this is also true for other attractive geographic features. However, the U.S. still has vast stretches of property which could be made attractive in multiple capacities. What's more, some communities would include time commitments which lend to unique land use characteristics.
Only consider how long it's been since many cities were formed in the U.S., for the twentieth century mostly saw suburbs added to already existing cities. Not all big city infrastructure is going to hold up well in the decades to come. There are a couple of things to consider in this regard. Not only do future infrastructure patterns need to be more versatile, they will not always require require the same spatial dimensions of the present.
City formation slowed in part, because of origination patterns which were reliant on manufacture and traditional production. The fact that chartered communities could use knowledge based services as a point of origination, suggests new models for town centers and conceptual ideas for Main Street. Would a single primary street remain vital to communities of the future? In part, it depends on the designs that individuals find appealing, once domestic summits become a reality.
Last but certainly not least, chartered communities represent self supporting internal economies, which would be approved within given nations as the special exploratory zones they represent. In the U.S., states would agree to honor the same exemptions for these communities that would be honored by nations. Likewise, long term economic efforts on the part of these citizens would be recognized and compensated, as the new wealth they would bring for all concerned.