Late yesterday, Pramila Jayapal tweeted, in response to a CNN story about a billionaire's city creation fantasy, "What if-- and I know this might sound a bit radical-- we just pass a wealth tax?" I think the $400 billion price tag for Telosa got her. The billionaire whose vision it is, Marc Lore, calls it a "moonshot" and he expects it to be, at least partially, up and running, somewhere-- maybe Arizona or Utah, perhaps Idaho, Nevada, Texas or Appalachia-- by 2030, which is pretty soon.
Things like this have happened before. Driving from Kabul to Delhi in 1969, I went to take a look at a giant building site outside of Rawalpindi. There wasn't much activity. Today that building site is Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, albeit just the 9th largest city in the country. Washington DC was a planned city, as was the capital of Australia, Canberra. In my lifetime Brazil built a new capital, Brasilia and Nigeria built Abuja. I believe Egypt is building a new capital city between Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula. Did you know that Kuala Lumpur is no longer the capital of Malaysia. In the '90s they built Putrajaya for around $8 billion and it is (population 91,900). And didn't Israel claim to be building a city named Trumpville on the Golan Heights? Actually it's named Ramat Trump, Trump Heights and is considered illegal under international law. there's nothing there but last month a family settled down on the site-- Daniel and Tzofit Bieber and their 2 month old daughter Noam Odelia.
Oscar Holland filed a report on Telosa for CNN yesterday. Aside from needing that $400 billion, Lore "promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. A so-called '15-minute city design' will allow residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes."
The first phase of construction, which would accommodate 50,000 residents across 1,500 acres, comes with an estimated cost of $25 billion. The whole project would be expected to exceed $400 billion, with the city reaching its target population of 5 million within 40 years.
Funding will come from "various sources," project organizers said, including private investors, philanthropists, federal and state grants, and economic development subsidies. Planners hope to approach state officials "very soon," with a view to welcoming the first residents by 2030.
In addition to innovative urban design, the project also promises transparent governance and what it calls a "new model for society." Taking its name from the ancient Greek word "telos" (a term used by the philosopher Aristotle to describe an inherent or higher purpose), the city would allow residents to "participate in the decision-making and budgeting process." A community endowment will meanwhile offer residents shared ownership of the land.
Maybe they should scratch Texas off their list of possible building sites. Maybe Idaho too. "On Telosa's official website, wrote, Holland, "Lore explains that he was inspired by American economist and social theorist Henry George. The investor cites capitalism's 'significant flaws,' attributing many of them to 'the land ownership model that America was built on. Cities that have been built to date from scratch are more like real estate projects,' Lore said in a promotional video for the project. 'They don't start with people at the center. Because if you started with people at the center, you would immediately think, "OK, what's the mission and what are the values?" The mission of Telosa is to create a more equitable and sustainable future. That's our North Star.'"