A billionaire wants to build a brand new city in the American desert

Can a billionaire make a single-tax, sustainable city in the desert work?


September 10, 2021

This is not the plot of a new Netflix sci-fi series.

Ex-Walmart executive Marc Lore recently announced plans to build Telosa — a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly, $400B city to be designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels somewhere in the western US, per Dezeen.

Here’s the plan:

1. Lore buys a chunk of empty desert land, then donates it to a community endowment.

2. Telosa keeps the land, while residents pay ground leases to rent it.

3.That income, plus appreciation, funds the city and services like education and health care.

Telosa’s goal is to receive its 1st residents in 2030 and expand to 150k acres and 5m residents over the next 40 years.

Features include:

  • Self-driving electric cars and aircraft
  • Renewable energy
  • Aeroponic farms
  • A big central tower called “Equitism”

Though Telosa’s a long way off…

… the concept isn’t new. It’s based on economist Henry George’s Progress and Poverty (1879), which spawned the “Single-Tax” movement, now known as Georgism.

Under Georgism, citizens pay a single tax to rent land, but aren’t taxed on improvements to the land, income, or labor.

Some much smaller Georgist communities still exist:

  • Free Acres, New Jersey — founded in 1910, it has a population of ~250 people
  • Arden, Delaware — founded in 1900 by an architect and a sculptor — and its neighbors Ardentown and Ardencroft
  • Fairhope, Alabama — founded in 1894, making it the oldest single-tax colony in the US

Fun fact: “Telosa” is derived from an ancient Greek word for “highest purpose.”

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