Archive for May 19th, 2020

Historical city travel guide: Nineveh, 7th century BC

May 19, 2020

British museum curator Gareth Brereton takes us through the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh:

The city of Nineveh has recently undergone extensive development to become the new capital of the mighty Assyrian empire. It is now a vast metropolis surrounded by massive walls some 12 kilometres in length that encompass an area of 750 hectares (7.5km2) in size. While official statistics on the population of Nineveh are not available, it reportedly takes three days to cross the city.

This cosmopolitan city is located on the eastern bank of the River Tigris at the intersection of the road which connects the highlands of the north with the prosperous lands of Babylonia and Chaldea in the south.

A veritable paradise on earth, the fertile lands surrounding Nineveh are perfect for growing the huge volumes of staple crops such as wheat and barley needed to feed the population of this colossal city. Benefitting from plentiful rainfall, the city is also situated where the River Khosr meets the River Tigris, which guarantees an abundant supply of water. A monumental aqueduct brings water over a vast distance to feed the city’s network of canals. Upstream from the city you will find orchards planted with vines, fruit trees and olive groves.

When to visit

The summer months in Assyria are ferociously hot and are best avoided. Winters are often very wet and the city is transformed into a quagmire. The best times to visit are autumn and spring, when the city has warm days with cool mornings and evenings. 

Getting there

By river

Travelling from the north, the city can be easily reached via the River Tigris using the quppu ferry service, a local round-boat woven from bundles of reeds and waterproofed with bitumen. If travelling by river from the south expect a longer journey as you sail against the flow of the river. Most quppus dock in the city quay.


Thanks to the Assyria royal road network, travelling to the city on donkey or mule is quick and convenient. Major routes include the north-south road from the foothills of the Taurus Mountains down to Babylonia, and the east-west road from the Zagros Mountains to the Levantine coast. Accommodation and food stalls are plentiful along the major routes.



The need to issue long-dated gilts

May 19, 2020

Charles Goodhart and Duncan Needham in this voxeu piece:

A charter city finally in Honduras?

May 19, 2020

Few years ago, Paul Romer had argued the need to build charter cities. He even got permission to build one in Honduras but was later denied.

Tyler Cowen informs that Honduras has once again given a green signal to the project:

Prospera, Honduras just launched on the island of Roatan. It is a ZEDE (Zona de Empleo y Desarollo Economico), the legacy of Paul Romer’s time in Honduras promoting charter cities. It has substantial autonomy, different taxes, different courts, different labor law, and more. It is one of the most innovative jurisdictions in the world.

First, a bit of history. The ZEDE legislation was passed in 2013. It allows for the creation of a special jurisdiction with an almost unprecedented amount of autonomy. The only recent comparison is the Dubai International Financial Center, which, as the name suggests, focuses exclusively on finance. The ZEDE legislation allows for different labor law, environmental law, business registration, dispute resolution, and more. It is more analogous to Hong Kong, or at least the Hong Kong ideal, of one country, two systems.

In 2013 and 2014 rumors swirled about ZEDE projects, including a port in the Gulf of Fonseca, but nothing materialized. I even moved to Honduras in 2014, at the time the murder capital of the world, to be closer to the action. As late as 2017, the Honduran government was saying projects were about to begin.

The ZEDE legislation is the successor to the RED (Regiones Especiales de Desarrollo) legislation, which Romer helped introduce to build charter cities. Romer had a falling out with the Honduran government in 2012. Shortly after his departure, the RED legislation was declared unconstitutional. The ZEDE legislation was passed to address the constitutional shortcomings of the RED legislation, though it also benefitted from seeing the Supreme Court judges who ruled against the RED legislation fired. To be fair, the government claims they were fired for a ruling on a police brutality case, which I am wont to believe. If there was sufficient government support behind ZEDEs to fire Supreme Court justices, it would not have taken seven years for the first ZEDE to be launched.

I worked with much of the Prospera team under the previous incarnation, NeWAY Capital (I’m not sure of the formal relationship between the two). I left around the time they pivoted to Honduras, 2.5 years ago. I was skeptical, as Honduras was the place projects went to die. Years had gone by without projects gaining meaningful traction and I expected them to run out of funding before launching. I’m happy to have been proven wrong.

Congratulations to Erick Brimen and the team. It is a lot of work to create a new jurisdiction, especially one as innovative as Prospera. The Charter Cities Institute has two team members spending approximately two thirds of their time on developing a “Governance Handbook,” a guide to the governance of a new jurisdiction. It will likely take about 9 months to complete, and that is just for the handbook, not implementation…

Residency costs $1300 annually, unless you’re Honduran, in which case it costs $260. Becoming a resident also requires signing an “Agreement of Coexistence,” a legally binding contract between Prospera and the resident. Prospera, therefore, cannot change the terms without exposing itself to legal liability. Most governments have sovereign immunity, this goes a step beyond removing that, with a contract that clearly defines the rights and obligations on both sides.

After signing the Agreement of Coexistence, all residents are required to buy general liability insurance which will ensure themselves against both civil and criminal liability. General liability insurance, as well as criminal liability insurance, has been proposed by economist Robin Hanson, among others


What AIDS taught us about fighting pandemics: Don’t live in denial..

May 19, 2020

William A. Haseltine, infectious disease expert, in this Proj Synd piece:

After HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS, and other recent epidemics, periods of heightened awareness and important scientific research have given way to complacency and reduced funding. If the response to COVID-19 follows a similar path, we will have only ourselves to blame when – not if – an even more lethal biological threat emerges.

AS I argued earlier, Hubris, Luck and Ignorance explains much of our lack of preparedness for each crisis.

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