If you had the opportunity to live in a free-market utopia -- complete with its own currency and government -- would you do it?
Well, you just may get your chance.
While the city of Detroit continues to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, one developer is proposing a radical and revolutionary idea to rekindle the American spirit and bring Detroit back into prosperity.
The driving force behind the plan, developer Rodney Lockwood, wants Detroit to sell the city's Belle Isle Park for $1 billion to private investors who will then transform it into a utopia free of big government and ideally full of job creation and innovation. Belle Isle is an uninhabited 928-acre island in the Detroit River, between the U.S. and Canada.
Under the plan, the island would be developed into a U.S. commonwealth or city-state with around 35,000 people. Citizenship for the "remarkable new nation" would cost $300,000 in most cases. The community would also have its own laws, transportation, customs and currency.
The Detroit News has more details on what the Commonwealth of Belle Isle would really look like:
Here's the scenario for the Commonwealth of Belle Isle that Lockwood and others want to see: Private investors buy the island from a near-bankrupt Detroit for $1 billion. It then would secede from Michigan to become a semi-independent commonwealth like Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Under the plan, it would become an economic and social laboratory where government is limited in scope and taxation is far different than the current U.S. system. There is no personal or corporate income tax. Much of the tax base would be provided by a different property tax — one based on the value of the land and not the value of the property.
It would take $300,000 to become a "Belle Islander," though 20 percent of citizenships would be open for striving immigrants, starving artists and up-and-coming entrepreneurs who don't meet the financial requirement.
Among the citizenship requirements are a command of the English language, a good credit rating and no criminal record. Mogk adds that such a scenario would make the island "a drain of talent and resources" at the expense of Detroit.
Though it is still considered a long shot by some, the plan has some influential supporters, including Mackinac Center for Public Policy senior economist David Littmann, retired Chrysler President Hal Sperlick and co-founder of Detroit's Conerstone Schools Clark Durant. The group, along with Lockwood, presented their plan to city officials last week.
Lockwood first laid out his vision in his novel titled "Belle Isle: Detroit's Game Changer."
"I think it could be a model for America to show what efficient, value-based government can do for a community of 35,000 to 50,000," Lockwood told TheBlaze, adding that the concept could also be used as a model on a much larger scale. "In the book, we offer $1 billion and form this community with free market ideas and an efficient, transparent government. There is no income tax and no tax on investments."
"You have to put ideas out there — especially now, when so much is up for debate," he said in a previous interview.
Lockwood told TheBlaze he doesn't plan to make any formal offer to the city until the idea is thoroughly discussed and considered. He also explained that the island has fallen into disrepair and the city is considering letting the state take over the park and handle the maintenance.
But don't get your hopes too high. George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., says the plan won't go anywhere. He said the island will likely be turned into a state-run park.
"Belle Isle will get fixed," Jackson said. "It won't be that plan. But it will be fixed."
Detroit City Council held a public hearing on Monday where residents debated the city's plan to lease Belle Isle to the state of Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports.
If it ever comes to fruition, would you consider living in the Commonwealth of Belle Isle?