"Special Economic Zones in the United States: From Colonial Charters, to Free-Trade Zones, to a US SEZ Program" (draft v. 2015.08.03):
Special economic zones (SEZs) have spread across the globe in recent decades, exploding in number, diversity, territory, power, and population. They have proven popular almost everywhere except the United States. That seems surprising when you recall that the United States traces its lineage back to the proto-SEZs that Old World royalty created when they sold entrepreneurs charters to build New World colonies. True, the US hosts a growing number of Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZs), but these do little more than exempt a select few companies from federal customs burdens and local ad valorem taxes. This paper proposes that the United States adopt a new approach to SEZs, one especially adapted to domestic institutions and needs. The United States Special Economic Zones (US SEZs) herein described would arise on federally owned property—most notably, on some of the millions of acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management. A US SEZ’s enabling grant would completely preempt the effect of state law and largely limit the effect of federal laws and regulations (including taxes). This would make the zones attractive venues for investment, spurring economic growth, and help resolve a festering conflict between the federal government and western states over rights to public lands. The federal government and adjoining states would share the revenues generated by US SEZs, winning the program allies at both national and local levels. So structured, US SEZs offer a fair prospect of promoting economic growth, human welfare, and individual freedom.