Polycentric Law

What is polycentric law? Wikipedia offers as good account as any, and better than most. It cites me as a pioneer. I've stuck with it, too. Brian Doherty, reporter for Reason magazine and author of Radicals for Capitalism, a leading history of modern libertarianism, says, "Bell has effectively cornered the market in legal advice for the startup-city crowd."

My interest in polycentric law, and the related topics of consent theory and special jurisdictions, spans decades and has generated many papers and presentations. The Freeman published a series of short essays that offer a quick introduction. For a single comprehensive volume on the facts, theory, and practice of polycentric law, see Your Next Government? From the Nation State to Stateless Nations (Cambridge University Press 2018).

In addition to scholarship, I have for several years consulted for clients in the special jurisdiction industry. Through Archimediate LLC, I design, install, and support legal systems for private and public parties across the globe.

Polycentric Law

Consent Theory and Constitutional Law

Special Economic Zones and Startup Cities

Columns in The Freeman


Just as Linux offers an open source alternative to closed operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Apple's OS, Ulex offers an open source alternative to political legal systems.

Consulting Services

I advise clients on the design, installation, and support of private legal systems through two channels, Through Archimediate, LLC, I handle discrete and relatively small projects. Clients with complicated and large projects may find it more economical to enter into a Sponsored Research Agreement with Chapman University under which my hours can be had at bulk rates. For instance, this 2017-18 academic year finds me working half-time for Chapman and half-time on various special jurisdiction projects managed by an outside investment capital firm.

I began practicing polycentric law in 2012 as a consultant to Future Cities Development, Inc., a startup run by CEO Patri Friedman and funded by Peter Thiel. After the Honduran Supreme Court struck down the RED statute on which its MOU relied, and FCD had to roll up operations, Elevator Cities Development hired me to pursue opportunities under the Honduran ZEDE statute and elsewhere in the world. Other small projects have burbled up, here and there. Always a sucker for a good cause and/or story, I've done pro bono work for various Liberlander efforts--mostly in the design of legal pamphlets and anti-arrest cards--and for the Seasteading Institute. Back on the paying side of the practice, I've most recently been giving legal counsel to Blue Frontiers Pte. Ltd. in its effort to create a land-and-water SeaZone in French Polynesia.

Whatever the project, all of the polycentric gigs boil down to the kind of work that software coders and computer network engineers everywhere will recognize: The design, installation, and support of legal systems. If you think about it, it looks a lot like coding - not of computers, but of laws. And these days think about it a lot.

The practice of polycentric law involves such things as counseling public and private parties on how to create the necessary preconditions for a successful special jurisdiction, drafting statutes, designing and customizing private legal systems (see, e.g., Ulex), and analyzing diplomatic and international legal issues. It easily ranks as the most challenging, interesting, and rewarding legal work I've done in my 30+ years as an attorney. Here you will find some materials related to the field.

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Tom W. Bell, Polycentric Law - tomwbell.com/polycentric.html - v.2017.10.12