Disney’s Special District Is Not a “City-State” or “Private City”

The Disney circumstance is not nearly as ground-breaking as most think it is. In fact , the Disney World model only proves that—with an army associated with lobbyists—large property owners can enter into a special arrangement with the government to exempt themselves from some local ordinances. That is all.

One of the stranger narratives coming out of the controversy over Disney’s “ special district” in Florida is the thought that Disney’s Florida property is some sort of truly self-employed self-governing entity operating with no government oversight.

Most claims regarding this wildly overestimate the degree that Disney enjoys self-governance. Some also claim  that Disney’s Florida special district symbolizes some sort of model for a really “ private city” within the model of a sovereign town state. Or as one Twitter commenter put it, “ unironically, Walt Disney style personal city-states is my ideology. ”

Yet, the Disney “ special district” means just this:

  • Its “ self governance” exempts it from local ordinances only.
  • It is a plot of private land fully subject to almost all state and federal laws.
  • The special district  does not have any sovereignty, and exists only at the pleasure of the state legislature.
  • It offers no veto power  in regards to laws that could affect this or abolish it.
  • It is not a peer  of government entities that will exercise some level of actual sovereignty, such as a US condition or an Indian booking. It doesn’t even rise towards the level of a “ self-rule city. ”  

Nothing in regards to the creation of a  “ special district” is unique here either.     The us has literally  thousands   of specific districts which are corporate organizations with special prerogatives and which are governed by planks separate from local city and county and county governments. Particular districts have been created for a lot of purposes, such as fire suppression, water and sewage, private toll roads, or training. The only thing that’s arguably distinctive about the Disney special district is that it was created explicitly to benefit a single, private for-profit corporation for general purposes. This also means Disney is basically a private corporation that can concern tax-free “ municipal” bonds.  

On the other hand, the fact that Disney has its own police force, maintains its own highways, and can exclude people who may “ follow the rules” indicates nothing special at all. All of this means is that Disney Entire world functions in this respect like a massive shopping mall that employs its own private security and maintains the roads, parking constructions, and general infrastructure in the immediate vicinity. (It would be quite wrong, for instance, to consider that Disney’s law enforcement organizations are somehow independent through state and local law enforcement. Disney parks are very much  within the jurisdiction of the local county sheriff . ) 

So , needless to say, this idea that Disney World is some sort of groundbreaking form of “ privatization , ” a city-state,   or  the shining example of a “ private city”   is misleading and unhelpful.

For example , the use of the phrase “ city-state” would imply that Disney Entire world is in the same league since modern-day polities like Vatican City or Monaco— or even Renaissance states like  Cospaia   or the Republic of Florence. Certainly, to look at  real  city-states— which simply by definition enjoy some actual  de facto   degree of sovereignty— demonstrates just how very wrong it is to portray the Disney World model as revolutionary or even somehow contrary to the prerogatives of centralized states. Disney doesn’t even enjoy the status of a “ client state” or a “ protectorate” which may generally by definition exercise independence in internal matters. No, Disney World is  directly   subject to state law and is in every way a fully included part of the political jurisdiction known as “ Florida. ”  

In fact , the particular Disney World model is better portrayed a just another “ public-private partnership”   employed by the state government to benefit the state government . The provenance of the Disney exclusive district lies in nothing more than a calculation made by state agents that exempting Disney Entire world from some local government ordinances would benefit the government from the State of Florida over time. In this, Florida politicians were probably right, and the Disney special district has assisted produce immense amounts of taxes revenue that have allowed the particular Florida government to significantly expand its powers somewhere else. ( In this state-corporate bargain, it is Disney’s potential competitors who lose many . )

One can certainly argue in support of exempting property owners from certain building codes and fees. That’s a good thing. Moreover, decentralizing municipal power into smaller jurisdictions is also a good thing and— like all political decentralization— helps to disperse and limit political power. But in this particular, the decentralization created by Disney’s status is  not essentially different from a situation in which  a neighborhood secedes from a city and produces its own smaller city .   There’s nothing revolutionary  about this.  

However, one will still from time to time hear from a libertarian activist  that Disney world is really a radical model for total  “ private governance” apparently independent from government oversight. The Disney situation is not nearly as ground-breaking  as a result statements imply.   Actually the Disney World design only proves that— having an army of lobbyists— a large property owner can enter into a unique arrangement with the government in order to exempt said property owners from some local ordinances. Gowns all.


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