FAQs

The book was written to provide an economic and social laboratory for a society which effectively addresses some of the important problems of America, and the western world.  However, the primary beneficiary of the Commonwealth of Belle Isle will be the City of Detroit, due to its proximity.
Belle Isle is a 982 acre island located in the Detroit River, which separates the cities of Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.
It is owned by the City of Detroit.  It is uninhabited and functions as a public park.
Belle Isle is sold by the City of Detroit to a group of investors for $1 billion.  The island is then developed into a city-state of 35,000 people, with its own laws, customs and currency, under United States supervision as a Commonwealth.  Set 29 years into the future, the book is a fictional, although the main characters are based on real people.
Yes.  The city-state of Monaco has 33,000 people on land half the size of Belle Isle.
The term “Midwest Tiger” is a play on the label given Singapore as the “Asian Tiger.”  Singapore, in recent decades, has transformed itself into the most dynamic economy in the world, through low regulation, low taxes and business-friendly practices.
The primary industries are expected to be finance, insurance and investments.  As land is very limited, no large plants will be built on Belle Isle.  However, it is highly likely plants will be built across the Detroit River in Detroit, with the engineering and management functions on Belle Isle.  Companies from all over the world will locate on Belle Isle, bringing massive amounts of capital and GDP to the area.  Detroit, the State of Michigan and the U.S. will benefit from this influx of capital and ongoing GDP growth.
Again, citizens will come from all over the world.  People who desire to live in a beautiful city, free from excessive government and oppressive taxation, who want unlimited opportunity to lead a life of their own making will emigrate to Belle Isle.  Perhaps 50% will come from the United States, and the balance from other countries.  This diverse population will make Belle Isle a very cosmopolitan city, with an interesting culture.
There will be an application process which will be reviewed by a citizenship board.  Applicants will have to post a citizenship fee, which will probably be in the $300,000 range, plus have a working command of English.  The citizenship fees will repay the investors who funded the purchase of the island from the City of Detroit, plus built the infrastructure such as sewer, water, paving, electric and gas utilities and the monorail.  The monies remaining will be used to back the currency.
No, only if the home country requires it.  It is not expected the U.S. will so require.

There are three:

1)      Government is limited in its scope and provides only services required for the benefit of all citizens.  This is the fundamental enabler of low taxation, itself a key factor in competitiveness.  Competitiveness in turn drives the economy, providing both job and wage growth.  Also, the government is highly transparent and overseen by an active “Anti-Corruption Group”, which employs strict measures to prevent, as opposed to catch after the fact, corruption.  The government operates at or below 10% of GDP, by constitutional dictate.  The social safety net is operated by charities, which are highly encouraged and supported by the government.

2)       Belle Isle has exceptional aesthetics.  It is a walking community without motor vehicles, except service vehicles in the middle of the night.  A monorail provides the primary transportation, both around the island and to the Transportation Center located on the Detroit side of the river.  The buildings conform to high architectural standards, overseen by a talented planning director, who is advised by the best architects and planners from around the world.

3)      One of the core values is respect for all its citizens, no matter their station in life.  Belle Isle doesn’t encourage anything which might cause divisiveness or envy among its citizens, by segmenting people into groups.  The culture is one of bringing people together, not dividing them.  Also, a command of English is required to be an immigrant, as a common language fosters common understandings.  Probably the most important personal value we like to see is that of “Self-Reliance.”  It is so important to individual freedom and a sense of worth, and is the key to limited government (55% of U. S. government spending is for entitlements).  It was one of the key principles on which America was based and has gradually been forgotten over the years.

People involved in government are deemed to be servants of the society, not masters.  Government is an equal player in the quid-pro-quo value equation, not adictatorial power.  Government only has the right to receive compensation for the value it gives the citizens of Belle Isle.  Actually, the word “Government” is discouraged and replaced with the word “Service” in the naming of buildings.
Considerable time is spent on the legal system, how it is slow, expensive, with unpredictable outcomes.  Reforms are outlined to address that.   The health system is also addressed to make it more effective and less costly.  The problem of government programs crowding out charities is addressed.  Democracy and elections are covered as well.  Many of the ideas can be attributed to the country of Liechtenstein, which, although a monarchy, has a very effective government.
No.  Being a Commonwealth, there will be free access in both directions for all people.

Taxes have to conform to three basic principles.  They need to be transparent, never levied on what is encouraged, and the costs of collection low.  Importantly, there are no income taxes on individuals or companies, and no taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains or estates.

There are three sources of revenue.  The first is user fees, which apply primarily to the monorail.  A 10% sales tax provides a second source.  Importantly, sales taxes encourage thrift and are collected outside the cost structure of the products. Real estate taxes provide the third, but the system is radically different than that employed in the U.S.  Only the raw land value is taxed, not what the owner builds on it.  This follows the principle of government only receiving compensation for what it provides.  Government didn’t pay to construct buildings on the owner’s land, nor does it bear the risk of loss.  We encourage development of property, not discourage it.

The goal, which is very achievable, is to have total tax expense limited to 10% of GDP of Belle Isle, compared to the 40% of GDP government expense in America.

Yes.  As a Commonwealth of the United States, Belle Isle relies upon the United States for its defense.  Belle Isle pays its share of the U.S. defense budget, based on its population.  It amounts to about $2,000 per person per year.
Belle Isle will need to establish a taxation agreement with the U.S. and other countries of the world.  Most international tax agreements provide for taxes to be levied on businesses and individuals based on where they are located.  Thus a Belle Isle citizen who owns a manufacturing plant in the U.S. will likely have to pay income taxes on the profits generated by that plant.  But a citizen who lives on Belle Isle who operates an investment fund with world-wide customers will pay no income taxes.
It will probably gain revenue.  The influx of foreign capital and jobs created in the U.S. will be huge.  Entrepreneurs from around the world will locate on Belle Isle and headquarter there, but often have their plant operations in the U.S. because the island is so small. Businesses producing products in the U.S. will still be taxed at U.S. corporate tax rates.  One of the key goals of a nation’s government is to facilitate the importation of capital as a key to job growth.  Limited government does this well, whereas large governments like that in the U.S. are a deterrent to growth of the private sector, the key to job growth.  When counting up the many ways America will benefit from this great social and economic miracle, don’t forget the multitude of new taxpayers created as Detroit trades destitution and the dole for dignity and jobs.
The size of government is only 10% of GDP on Belle Isle, as compared to 40% in the U.S. and even higher in many other industrialized countries.  Ultimately government costs have to be included in the price of products and services through taxation, or borrowed. The cost advantage will be huge for Belle Isle resulting in lower prices or higher margins.  As a result, businesses on Belle Isle will out-compete any other business in the world.  Belle Isle will become what might appear to be an economic miracle, but in reality, this will simply be the inevitable result of good policy and the laws of economics.  The portion of the cost of government that a nation borrows (40% for our Federal government) may serve to defer the damage it does to the economy in the short term by not immediately cost burdening products and services, but unfortunately, it imposes severe economic damage on subsequent generations who will have to pay for some of our current government.  Belle Isle will have dramatically smaller government as a percent of GDP that the U.S. and, most importantly, will pay for the costs of government as they are incurred.  This not only is the greatest gift we can leave our children but the absence of deficits or debt will make investments here even more  attractive.  Between the absence of tax on capital or investment income and the strength of the currency, Belle Isle will be the best place in the world to put your capital to work.
Belle Isle achieves 10% in substantial measure because people here are able to take care of themselves throughout their lives.  That’s where self-reliance begins.  Self-reliance will be possible as a result of the  abundance of jobs and strong wages arising from Belle Isle’s economic advantages.  The question Washington should ask every morning is “what can we do to permit our people to become more competitive?”  Small government, , low levels of taxation and taxing the right things, and competitive levels of regulation are where the conversation should start.  This is the question we asked when we envisioned Belle Isle with high levels of efficiency and a minimal governmental burden on her people.
Actually, in the book Belle Isle does use the U.S. dollar for the first several years, but chronic U.S. budget deficits lead to a devaluation of the U.S. dollar and loss of world reserve currency status.  This caused instability in Belle Isle’s investment and financial center businesses, so Belle Isle converted to its own currency.  One interesting facet is the Belle Isle currency is 100% backed by a basket of commodities, including gold, silver, oil and other stable currencies such as the Swiss Franc, funding made possible by citizenship payments of the original settlers.  Also, Belle Isle doesn’t run deficits.  As a result of this strict monetary policy, there is no inflation in the Belle Isle world, and investments made here appreciate strongly against other currencies.
Is that a real question? You’ve got to be kidding. See question above. The author, when writing the book, had no idea what the South African currency was called.
Yes.  Two K-12 schools are on the island.  They are private and compete with one another.  These schools will be based on the 11 month school year principle, similar to Cornerstone Schools. There is also a technical education school which trains high school graduates to become skilled construction tradesmen and artisans, among other vocations.  School choice and competition are the keys to educational soundness and efficiency.
Detroit will see many benefits.  The $1 billion dollars Detroit receives from the sale will be used to help with blight removal and train people with the skills needed to fill the thousands of construction jobs created on Belle Isle.  About $4 billion of public infrastructure will be required on the island plus another $20 billion of private construction.  Also, the huge influx of capital into Belle Isle will cause spin-off factories, businesses and retail services which will have to be located in Detroit near Belle Isle.  In the book, a new community called Jefferson is one of the beneficiaries of the Belle Isle Midwest Tiger, as it is located on the other side of the Belle Isle bridge.  Jefferson itself will bring thousands of construction jobs as housing, restaurants, hotels, retail and golf courses will be built to support the Midwest Tiger, creating an additional $20 billion in construction activity.  It is likely a second monorail connecting Jefferson to downtown Detroit will be built, again creating more jobs and an explosion of new construction activity in Detroit.
That is the $64 dollar question!  The hurdle is entirely political.  Will the U.S. allow this experiment to happen?  There are other commonwealths of the United States- namely Northern Marianas and Puerto Rico, so there is existing precedent.  The compelling political argument in favor of letting this happen is the benefit of Belle Isle being a game-changer for Detroit, which many will argue is the city in the U.S. most in need of a turnaround.  The influx of capital and jobs will be staggering.  The author estimates 200,000 job years will be created in the construction phase alone.  And the psychological and marketing advantage of hosting the “Midwest Tiger,” possibly becoming the most dynamic economy in the world, will be huge.  The author has no doubt, if allowed, it will happen as the book describes.  And once the discussion turns to the feasibility of the ideas in the book, rather than the politics of permitting it, the “impossible” will become the “inevitable.”  Detroiters will see this vision as the answer to their prayers, and how could the federal government deny Detroit a chance to turn itself around, accelerate its re-birth, all at no cost to the taxpayer?  How could they deny this long suffering population of over 700,000 their first real shot at the American dream.
Anything that benefits Detroit benefits Michigan.  Michigan’s poster city defines its image, on a world-wide basis.
According to Investopedia and other sources, a “tax haven” is a political jurisdiction that offers non-residents a secure place to secretly deposit money with minimal or no reporting to their home country.  There are between 50-60 tax havens in the world.  Belle Isle does not meet that definition, as only residents will be able to enjoy the low tax advantages it will offer; Belle Isle will not be a money center for non-residents and will cooperate with the world authorities in ensuring non-residents comply with all reporting requirements.

That said, Belle Isle will be a place where high earners and people of wealth will want to live.  But so will people of modest means and they will be welcome.  Twenty percent of Belle Isle residents will be invited to live on the island with reduced or no citizen fees.

Meanwhile, the off-island jobs Belle Isle will create along the Jefferson corridor, in addition to the Islanders’ demand for cultural, medical, retail and other off-island services, will be a huge financial stimulus for Detroit and its residents.  So while Belle Isle may be a haven for the wealthy (and the non-wealthy), it will also be a wealth creator that will benefit the entire area.

First, Detroiters would be welcome to use Belle Isle in its new form, but they would have to pay a monorail fee to get there, the only way for anyone to get on Belle Isle in the future.

Second, a new Belle Isle park would be created on the Detroit side of the bridge of substantial size and running along the river.  It would be newer and better equipped in many ways than the old park.  It would be beautiful and it is anticipated that it would include all the features that Detroit families might want for family recreation.

It would be available at no cost.

No!!!  And that’s where Detroit plays a big part.  Detroit will provide a large part of the culture for Belle Islanders.  The art institutes, theaters, sports teams, shopping, restaurants and other entertainment venues will be widely used by citizens of Belle Isle.  In addition, Belle Isle will have its own culture and events.  It is projected 100 restaurants will be on the island.  The performing arts center, football, baseball and hockey complexes will be well patronized.  The Detroit Yacht Club will continue and grow plus the Detroit Boat Club will be restored.  The spine road on the island will be a Formula One race course, where F1 and other races will bring people from all over the world to attend.  Summer events will include the hydroplane Gold Cup races, the Red Bull air races, biker races and runners’ races.  Winter events will include the “Big Chill” outdoor hockey game, a winter festival and the Sled Dog Marathon.  The appetite of the new Belle Islanders for what the central city can offer will drive a new resurgence down town.  And Detroit will move to the top of the list for convention business and tourism, as people from all over decide to check out how Democracy is really supposed to work.  Read the book for details!

One final thought.  The views from this island “nation” will be spectacular.  The Detroit and Windsor skylines are superb, day or night, and a two minute boat ride puts you on Lake St. Clair, one of the most beautiful in the world and arguably the best bass and Muskie fishing on the planet.  A few more minutes north and you are on the first of the Great Lakes, a paradise of endless water and picturesque ports.  Chicago is a heavenly trip around our mitten.  Our rugged and undiscovered Upper Peninsula is on your way. There is the beauty of endless miles of waterfront of Michigan and Canada, and traveling south and east are Toledo, Cleveland and perhaps the best amusement park in the world.  You can drive your boat from Belle Isle to Antarctica without getting off, if that’s what floats it, and return via Australia and New Zealand.

So much to do…..natural, cultural, educational, recreational, and spiritual….and so little time.

One finds unlimited everything…….but isn’t that what freedom should be all about?

Perhaps if we can dream it, we can become it.

Please come see us.  And oh yeah, bring your capital.