IF, like me, you are not impressed by the hogwash being pushed by promoters of freeports, “green” or otherwise, then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The latest wheeze from neo-liberal think tanks and other corporate interest groups is to establish charter cities. These represent a huge threat to our whole way of life and to our democracy.

What are charter cities? They are privately owned and operated cities where everything from health care, education and the police force to the legislature and the judicial system are not controlled by the state but by a private corporation accountable only to itself. The corporation sets the rules and enforces them with its privately owned judicial system.

“Don’t be daft. It couldn’t happen here,” you will say, but think again. As you would expect, the idea comes from the USA where it is being pushed by the Heritage Foundation, Charles Koch and hedge-fund guru Robert Mercer, all billionaires or pressure groups for billionaires.

Enthusiastic support in the UK comes from the usual suspects, the free market think tanks like the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute and the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TA).

The IEA had 14 members of Johnson’s first Cabinet while Matthew Elliott of the TA was the CEO of the Leave campaign. Remember the drive to leave the EU was to get away from the regulations it insisted upon to protect citizens and from international law. Sunak is a keen disciple and was spearheading the charter cities plan for the UK.

As with freeports, proponents claim charter cities will create huge economic growth (is that really what a world threatened by climate change needs?) and reduce poverty but there is little evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence about the exploitation and corruption that actually follows. For example, we know already that freeports will lead to an erosion of workers’ rights and environmental protections.

In Honduras, billionaire money helped to set up a corporation city called Prospera. Then the neighbouring town of Crawfish Rock had its water supply connected to Prospera’s.

A dispute followed and the residents of Crawfish were threatened with having their water supply cut off and they were further enraged at the lack of transparency over plans for future acquisition of land. The outcry which followed led to a new Honduran government being elected – a government which repealed the legislation which had permitted Prospera in the first place.

We know already that the austerity policies pursued by the Tories for most of the last 12 years were inspired by a desire to shrink the state but also to run down the services we expect the state to provide so that we are more amenable to the notion that privatisation will somehow make things better.

These policies are demanded by the mega rich, who through their party donations now effectively have control as even Conservative journalist Peter Oborne has noted. Charter cities would simply accelerate that process further.

Charter cities are essentially a ploy to enrich the rich even further and increase inequality for the rest of us. American billionaire Peter Thiel, a key financier of the Trump campaign, sees them as a route to replacing the US Government with corporate power.

It is ironic that the libertarians and free marketeers who are the loudest supporters of deregulation should want to replace what we have with a system which would control our lives ever more tightly.

Andrew M Fraser