Principles of Contracts for Governing Services

21 Griffith L. Rev. 472 (2012)

27 Pages Posted: 22 May 2013 Last revised: 20 Jun 2015

See all articles by Tom W. Bell

Tom W. Bell

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Date Written: 2012


The state provides governance services within a specified territory, demanding payment in the form of taxes, regulations, and compulsory service. Some citizens expressly consent to that bargain, as when the President of the United States swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. With regard to many of its subjects, however, the state can claim no more than hypothetical consent, leaving its use of force only weakly justified. Governing services provided under contract, founded in express consent, enjoy a more justified relationship with their citizen-customers. Private institutions already provide the same legal services as the state, offering rules, dispute resolution, and armed security, often on a large scale. The success of quasi-sovereign territories such as Hong Kong and Chinaʼs Special Economic Zones has encouraged some countries to consider outsourcing government services more comprehensively. Honduras, for instance, has passed legislation that could allow owners or long-term leaseholders to exercise largely independent authority over city-sized territories. The world may soon contain many such regions, called ‘charter’ or ‘free cities’, where an owner or master leaseholder provides governing services to tenants, sub-tenants, invitees, and others by contract. What terms should we generally expect to see in contracts for governance services? Examples from history and theory suggest such features as respect for consent, protection of fundamental rights, independent adjudication, and freedom of exit. The specifics of contracts for governance services must respond to market demand, of course; we speak here not of rules but of guidelines. Field tests can tell us more about how best to serve citizen-consumers, offering millions of people the prospect of better government.

Keywords: governing services, free cities, charter cities

JEL Classification: L33, L38, K40, H11

Suggested Citation

Bell, Tom W., Principles of Contracts for Governing Services (2012). 21 Griffith L. Rev. 472 (2012), Available at SSRN:

Tom W. Bell (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2503 (Phone)
714-628-2576 (Fax)


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics