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Puerto Ricans Choose Statehood, But They Need to Choose Capitalism, Too

Free market principles are more important to Puerto Rico than becoming the 51st state.

THAIS LLORCA/EPA/NewscomTHAIS LLORCA/EPA/NewscomVoters in Puerto Rico overwhelmingly chose statehood in a non-binding referendum on Sunday.

Yet statehood, or independence for that matter, is not a panacea for Puerto Rico's fiscal troubles—the island has been mired in a debt crisis for years and some supporters of statehood point to the inevitable bailout that would accompany accession, according to Frank Worley, a co-founder of the Puerto Rican Libertarian Party.

"Let me be absolutely clear, Puerto Rico's economic woes begin and end in Puerto Rico," Worley says. "The near religious devotion to big government policies, high taxes, public sector unions and expansive regulation are the primary forces driving Puerto Rico's economic and debt crisis. The biggest appeal of statehood is the increase in federal spending on the island that would in essence kick-start the economy."

Roughly 23 percent of registered voters, about 500,000 of a total of 2.2 million cast ballots. Statehood captured 97 percent of that vote—independence won 1.51 percent of the vote, and 1.32 percent voted for the current status.

Maintaining the current status was not originally an option in the plebiscite, but was added at the request of the US Department of Justice.

The two major parties on the island, the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) boycotted the plebicite. The PDP tried to spin the results as a loss for statehood, which was supported by the ruling New Progressive Party (NPP) and the NPP governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló.

"The collective well-being surpasses individual interests and the country understood that," Hector Ferrer, the president of the PDP, said. "Eight out of 10 voters responded to the boycott. The boycott defeated statehood today. Time has proven us right. The greatly defeated today, besides statehood, is Ricardo Rosselló," Ferrer said.

Worley, a founder of the pro-independence Republican Independence Movement (MIRE), doesn't buy that framing.

"The boycott from the other parties should take nothing from the results," Worley tells reason. "Consider the mid-term congressional elections, no member of Congress has ever stepped down due to low turnout in the midterms. That will be the strongest argument the [ruling New Progressive Party] NPP will have. They will push forward; elections have consequences."

Rosselló indicated if the plebiscite passed the government would follow the "Tennessee plan," sending a delegation to Congress and trying to force the body to recognize statehood.

"Statehood offers the most practical civil rights guarantee and long term access to U.S. markets and thus world markets by virtue of being a permanent part of the U.S," Worley says. "It also fulfills the most egregious shortcoming of any territorial status: lack of voting rights. The 3.5 million people in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president and have only one non-voting member of congress to represent them."

"However, neither that nor a change in status to any option will solve the economic crisis until the island fundamentally changes the way it does business, attacks corruption and limits government interference with the marketplace," Worley says. "It is extremely difficult to fire employees in Puerto Rico and benefits are expensive. If I were planning to open a business, I would not open it in Puerto Rico."

The pro-independence PIP also rejected the results of the plebiscite after calling for a boycott.

"I was genuinely disappointed with the decision by the pro-independence side to boycott this vote," Worley says. " I've long argued PIP doesn't really want independence since they seem to have done everything they can to thwart their own efforts."

Worley argues independence is the best option for American taxpayers, which he says are often ignored in the debate.

"The question that is never asked is 'which option would be best for the United States and the U.S. taxpayer?" he says. "The answer to that question is a well thought out plan for independence. Even if the U.S. agreed to refinance or renegotiate Puerto Rico's debt and agreed to make massive investments in infrastructure (which are desperately needed) the long term cost of independence would be lower to the U.S taxpayer than statehood."

MIRE has just such a plan, featuring "limited republican government with four branches of government executive, legislative, judicial and a governing board." The board would provide direct oversight of the other branches and manage a national investment trust fund, loosely based on the Alaska Permanent Fund or the federal Thrift Savings Plan. The moeny for the funs would come in part from vice taxes imposed after the legalization of drugs and sex work.

"We are a very small group," Worley says. "The majority of independence supporters are socialists while I am a capitalist."

Photo Credit: THAIS LLORCA/EPA/Newscom

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  • Sevo||

    "Puerto Ricans Choose Statehood, But They Need to Choose Capitalism, Too"

    California says: "Ha and ha!"

  • NoVaNick||

    How about PR and California swap status? California no longer deserves statehood-not sure about Commonwealth or Territory status either. .

  • Sevo||

    BTW, along with the Dills Act, this deserves to be smeared in moonbeam's face every time he opens his yap. You know how he's 'filling the leadership vacuum' since Trump bailed on the Paris Accords, since he's all sciency and stuff, right? Well:

    http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/jer.....e-not-hoax
    "Jerry Brown on California drought: 'Climate change is not a hoax'

    Yep, that climate change stuff is causing a permanent drought in CA and we sinners had better get right with his god, or else!

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Can we strip CA residents of the right to vote? Confirmed communists shouldn't be able to vote anyway.

  • Eric||

    Or blacks. Amirite?

  • ToCa81||

    Damn would you people all kindly fuck off? I know my state produces a bunch of nonsense, but there are still some sane people here. And yeah, we still produce a majority of the food that you assholes eat. Actually, I don't think they use fruits and vegetables in hot pockets. Yay for generalizations!

  • I can't even||

    Maybe they chose "Banana Republic"?

  • BambiB||

    We NEED Puerto Rico as the 51st state - because we don't have ENOUGH people on welfare. (That's why we let beaners cross over from Mekkiko too!)

  • Presskh||

    Amen, BambiB. Just what we need - 3.5M more people both on welfare and lifetime voting Democrats.

  • colorblindkid||

    I don't think the delegation is going in with a particularly strong hand, since only 22% of voting age Puerto Ricans voted for statehood.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    So what you are saying is that the delegation needs to work on their pimp hand.

  • MoreFreedom||

    That's because the commonwealth and independence parties boycotted the vote (PR politics is based on island status, PDP commonwealth about 45%, NPP statehood about 45% and independence about 10%).

    I have to agree (having lived on the island) they don't choose free markets or capitalism. E.G., if a company gets a distributorship for a US company, it turns out they get exclusive rights, and often the US company has to buy them out to get a good distributor so they can sell their goods. It's just one of many means the islanders use to screw over mainlanders. I knew some other fellows who setup a company and got a huge contract from the electric company there, and after delivering part of the order (and spending all their money to obtain the goods they wanted) the electric company decided they wanted to delay delivery. The owners told me they could sue, but then they'd likely go bankrupt before getting their money. And they went bankrupt as a result. PR is a lousy place to do business, unless you have family or friends in the government.

    IMHO, we ought to make them independent.

  • Brandybuck||

    Only Nixon could go to China.

    Only Trump could bring in Puerto Rico.

  • DaveH||

    Kick-starting? No how, no way. That's just nonsense. Please scrub that word out of your vocabulary.

  • ||

    You mean beating a horse to death and then getting a team of 50 other horses to drag its corpse along behind them isn't kick-starting it?

  • widget||

    "The question that is never asked is 'which option would be best for the United States and the US taxpayer?" he says.

    Let me answer that: INDEPENDENCE!

  • Rebel Scum||

    the 51st state.

    This is gonna make the flag look kinda awkward. Where do we put the new star?

  • ||

    At this point, just take the 50 white ones off an replace them with a big red one.

  • widget||

    Where's the rainbow in that, shitloard?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I am shitlord, ya ya ya.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    The stripes?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Replace the red and white stripes with a rainbow pattern, then replace the blue patch and 50 white stars with a red patch and a single yellow star. While we're at it, change the country's name to the United Socialist States of Wokeness.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

  • Cynical Asshole||

  • ||

    Replace the red and white stripes with a rainbow pattern, then replace the blue patch and 50 white stars with a red patch and a single yellow star. While we're at it, change the country's name to the United Socialist States of Wokeness.

    Then successfully pass legislation making it illegal to burn.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Make it out of recycled asbestos.

  • GroundTruth||

    Just stick with the Gadsden, it's easier.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Easy. Limit the number of states to 50, so if a new one enters, another must leave. Kinda like reality (politics) TV. Just imagine: "New Jersey, you're fired!"

  • BYODB||

    Texas: We quit.


    On the plus side, California would probably do the same only to instantly fall off into the ocean of debt.

  • hpearce||

    "Puerto Ricans Choose Statehood, But They Need to Choose Capitalism, Too"

    Another bad rationale by Reason

    Politically the only question is whether they support a free market - whether it is capitalism or not is totally irrelevant

  • Zeb||

    While I do think that is a worthwhile distinction to make, I don't think it matters much in this case. Given the world we live in, if they choose a free market, they will get capitalism (as well as the other things a free market allows)

    And in casual speech, people often use the terms somewhat interchangeably.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    While it is possible to have a free market without capitalism (it is what we had as hunters-gatherers), it is highly unlikely in modern society, as most products and even services require capital to get going.

  • JFree||

    Not sure 'capitalism' is merely about using capital. It's about favoring it relative to the other factors (labor/land) and favoring those producers/consumers that are most capital-intense/dependent relative to those that aren't.

    Given that Puerto Rico is currently in precisely one of those situations - 'capitalism' essentially meaning give creditors exactly what they want in order to punish debtors for their moral turpitude - I think they actually need to choose between free markets and capitalism - not capitalism and socialism.

  • Memory Hole||

    There was a 19% turnout in the most recent state legislature runoff in my district with the winner capturing 64% of the vote. 97% of 23% is amazing in comparison.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Not many people are talking about it but I would suspect that some Puerto Ricans fear the USA dropping them like a bad habit.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Would we really actually lose anything of worth by giving Puerto Rico and a lot of other territories their independence? Seems like that island is as dysfunctional as Haiti, which doesn't really bode well for how their elected representatives would vote in Congress if admitted.

  • ||

    You understand that Haiti is almost unnaturally productive, right? After they fought France for their independence, France demanded that they repay it *the entire monetary value of the country plus the value of all of its citizens as slaves* to compensate it for its loss. AND THEY DID. They finished paying off France in 1947, which is pretty damn recently. We could stand to import more Haitian entrepreneurs to the US and learn from them.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    You're seriously comparing what Haiti did in 1947--70 years ago--with how it is today. Get the fuck out of here.

  • TGoodchild||

    Hah - I was scrolling through his comment slowly thinking to myself "hmm, maybe Haiti isn't a complete shithole as honestly I don't know much about the island beyond the earthquakes, corruption, and lamentations thereof" and then he goes back to WWII.

    Yeah, we have enough of everything we need from Haiti, thanks.

  • colorblindkid||

    Apples to oranges. Your runoff election was due to indifference and not caring. The Puerto Rico turnout was the result of a widespread and very popular boycott campaign.
    I doubt 23% is that far from a regular midterm election, whereas the 2012 Puerto Rico referendum election had a 78% turnout.

    In 2012, 834,000 voted for statehood in the second part of a two-question ballot.
    In 2017, 502,000 voted for statehood.

    Hardly a mandate.

  • Memory Hole||

    Boycotting the poll was a chicken shit way of expressing.... why were they boycotting the poll? And that's what happens when you take abandon the field before the sun sets and run home. You do that where I play ball then you fucking lose and you're a pussy. You don't get to say, "Well, I would have won the game had I not quit and run away".

  • colorblindkid||

    I think the boycott was dumb and immature, but in the end it will probably accomplish the goal they wanted, which is to undermine any election result. Unfair? Absolutely. But what's fair doesn't matter in politics, and when it comes to something this consequential, 22% simply isn't a mandate.

  • Brian||

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Elon Musk, human paladin, will change that soon. Mars, here we come!

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Musk is a Paladin? I saw hime as more of an Illusionist. Or maybe a multi-class magic-user/thief.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    the island has been mired in a debt crisis for years and some supporters of statehood point to the inevitable bailout that would accompany accession

    Probably still not as much as bailing out CA will cost. Can we kick CA out if Puerto Rico becomes a state?

  • widget||

    If you kick CA out the Nork marines will land in San Francisco about 2 days later, to cheering crowds ready for liberation. Puerto Ricans, for all their faults, would not be so hospitable.

  • Robert||

    That's my boy, Norton Nork.

  • DarrenM||

    What inevitable bailout? Puerto Rico should not be bailed out any more than California.

  • jelabarre||

    But if we were able to successfully kick NYC out of NY State, we'd still end up with 51 stars.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Since CA progtards don't believe in individual rights anyway, can we enslave them and harvest their organs until their debt is paid off.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Reads to me like Puerto Ricans mostly chose to stay home on election day.

  • sameat2||

    We wouldn't be bailing out puerto ricans...we'd be bailing out banks that made terrible bets. Those banks and other "capitalists" in america have been screwing puerto rico for decades and decades with more power than many governments have.

    The moral thing to do is to make the cheating banks eat this bailout and welcome puerto rico to the union. I'll start holding my breath now.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    It takes two to make a loan. PR government was a willing and eager party. Both parties probably expect the federals to bail them out. The bankers get no grief from me, since they are just following the incentives which promise the best return for their shareholders.

  • sameat2||

    The banks have quite literally been in charge of puerto rico for a long time. They have been acting as the government with US military providing support.

    There aren't two parties to the loans...there are banks on one side and their employees that they appointed to run the country on the other.

    The only incentive they are responding to is their reasonable belief that the us government will step in and "bail the puerto ricans out" (read: give the banks a tidy profit and leave PR and it's people f*cked).

    The American Revolution was a response to eerily similar circumstances.

  • ||

    >"Let me be absolutely clear, Puerto Rico's economic woes begin and end in Puerto Rico," Worley said.

    Bullshit. Puerto Rico has been economically screwed over by US policies such as the Jones Act (google it), which makes it illegal for foreign ships bound for the US mainland to stop in Puerto Rico on the way and do any significant business. Until recently, Federal tax policies compensated for this by offering companies special advantages for parking their money in PR; those advantages were just taken away, but the severely distorted market they created remains. Puerto Rico's economic woes begin and end in Congress.

    Statehood wouldn't automatically fix this, but maybe a Puerto Rican state could ally with Hawaii and Alaska to phase out some of the ugliest of US colonialist craziness.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Statehood wouldn't automatically fix this, but maybe a Puerto Rican state could ally with Hawaii and Alaska to phase out some of the ugliest of US colonialist craziness.

    What kind of rich fantasy is this? Puerto Rico becomes Caribbean Detroit the minute it's admitted as a state.

  • colorblindkid||

    Is there any civilization in history that didn't conquer or colonize people they encountered that had inferior technology and military prowess? I still make the argument that the positive developments in the world today thanks to the European conquest of the world have more than made up for the horrors of colonization. The Spanish wouldn't have been able to conquer the Mayans without the support of the hundreds of tribes the Mayans had brutally enslaved and oppressed for centuries. The noble savage fallacy has made a huge comeback over the last generation.
    Is there any point at which we will stop apologizing?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You mean the Triple Alliance, better known as the Aztecs. The nearest thing to a centralized Mayan civilization had collapsed several hundred years earlier for reasons that are still unknown, and the remaining Mayan city-states were so fractured that the Spanish spent the next several decades conquering them one at a time.

  • colorblindkid||

    You are correct, but the society was still fueled largely by warfare and conquests, often far more despotic than the Europeans. I don't think the Europeans were morally superior to anybody. I just hate the equally false but increasingly common notion that colonized peoples were mostly tolerant, peaceful, and innocent before the evil white man showed up and corrupted them. Had the Native Americans or Native Africans invented guns and oceangoing ships first, they would have conquered the world in a similar, if not even more brutal, fashion. What's important is what the world is like today, and how we can continue to improve it.

    Dwelling too much on the past and fostering collectivist guilt/anger, instead of simply studying the past and taking lessons, will be our downfall.

  • ||

    Obviously I summoned you by using the word "colonialist'; maybe I should have avoided it, because it's a distraction. The US has a lot of shitty, anti-free-market policies and plenty of them have nothing to do with colonialism at all. Even the Jones Act may have been motivated more by pure trade protectionism than a real desire to keep our non-mainland properties impoverished. It serves that purpose very effectively though, which makes it even more harmful than other kinds of trade protectionism.

    But you know, when people rail against colonialism, it isn't just the conquering and pillaging and murdering that they're objecting to; it's also the policies that colonial powers put in place *afterwards* to keep the conquered territories poor and make sure that as much as possible of whatever wealth they *did* have got boxed up and shipped to the conquering nation. Things like making it difficult or outright illegal for the colonies to build an industrial base of their own, so they'd stay dependent on the conquering nation. You know, the crap we in the US fought a war of independence over.

    My point is, I think Puerto Rico would love to choose capitalism, but it's hard to know, because historically the US Federal government has prevented them from doing so. It's awfully rich to then turn around and blame them for the mess we created.

  • The Last American Hero||

    The US forced them to make it nearly impossible to fire employees, engage in corruption, take on infrastructure projects they can't afford, and create a mess of bureaucratic regulations?

    Sure.

  • ||

    Not only that, the mainland essentially handed them free money in an era when trade (protectionism) was rather literally making and breaking empires and they effectively squandered it. PR, Cuba, Haiti, etc. weren't US property and effectively outsourcing shipping/shipbuilding to islands that would later become independent or fall under foreign control would've been idiotic/disasterous. Moreover, it's a bit of bullshit as, even then, it was no problem to board a plane to PR and, from PR, board a ship to C. America/Europe/Africa/etc.

    David C seems to be invoking it like the mainland owes PR reparations or something rather than the 'nowadays and moving forward, The Jones Act is a bit idiotic.' notion colorblindkid is proposing. There are some relevant distinctions, but it's a bit like the notion that the US upset petroleum markets and should feel obligated to do something about Venezuela.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    I don't think the Europeans were morally superior to anybody. I just hate the equally false but increasingly common notion that colonized peoples were mostly tolerant, peaceful, and innocent before the evil white man showed up and corrupted them.

    One of the ironic arguments of anti-colonialist academics is that the European powers drew arbitrary borders that didn't take tribal rivalries into account, and the proximity resulted in genocidal warfare after the Europeans pulled out. Yet in the same breath, these same academics will argue about the awesome benefits of diversity, and how proximity breeds understanding.

  • mtrueman||

    "Yet in the same breath, these same academics will argue about the awesome benefits of diversity, and how proximity breeds understanding."

    Colonized and colonizer understand each other perfectly well. It's not a lack of understanding that has fueled the Israel/Palestine conflict, for example, any more than the arbitrary borders that the UN drew up. It's more about freedom and self determination, which are essentially Libertarian values.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Colonized and colonizer understand each other perfectly well.

    Doesn't really apply when the colonizer isn't around anymore.

  • mtrueman||

    History remains. If you know your history, you will know where I'm coming from.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    History remains. If you know your history, you will know where I'm coming from.

    I know my history. Your example is not applicable.

  • mtrueman||

    Not following you. Care to expand?

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Not following you. Care to expand?

    No. It should be plain enough to anyone who can read.

  • mtrueman||

    Forgive me if this sounds condescending, but let's pretend for the moment I can't read. Will you explain yourself now?

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Forgive me if this sounds condescending,

    How else would we recognize you?

    but let's pretend for the moment I can't read. Will you explain yourself now?

    There's nothing about myself that requires explanation.

  • mtrueman||

    I was only asking you to expand on a comment that I didn't understand. You're not obliged to respond if you don't wish to, for whatever reason.

  • Chip I. Alhazred||

    Then you wouldn't have to ask me who the heck do I think I am.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    "Is there any point at which we will stop apologizing?"

    I never started. They can ALL fuck off.

  • DarrenM||

    You mean bad policies such as applying the Federal minimum wage rate to Puerto Rico? This is one thing that has hurt the economy there.

  • mtrueman||

    "The majority of independence supporters are socialists while I am a capitalist."

    A capitalist who supports vice taxes. Should be right at home in the USA, or any other socialist country.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Puerto Ricans Choose Statehood, But They Need to Choose Capitalism, Too
    Free market principles are more important to Puerto Rico than becoming the 51st state.

    Doubtful.
    One thing I noticed about most political parties is they develop a taste for socialism once the tax money starts to roll in.
    BTW, how much money is PR in debt now?

  • Dick Puller, Attorney at Law||

    That's fine for Puerto Rico, but do the rest of us get to vote on whether we want a 51st state?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yes.

    For it to become a state will literally take an act of Congress. So "we the people", through our duly elected Representatives, would get a say before it could become a state.

  • Mongo||

    These United States of America -- the more the merrier.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Not if they vote for people like Bernie.

  • ||

    It can be worse. There are some who have alreeady chosen the state, but still are in a desperate need of a hood AND capitalism.

  • Enemy of the State||

    One of PR's biggest problems was having the federal minimum wage jammed down its throat a few decades ago. Pricing half your work force out of the local labor market is not good for prosperity...

  • ||

    DO Puerto Ricans make Mexican food. Cuz if not no way an I voting for statehood

  • SQRLSY One||

    There's no WAY we can let Puerto Rica have steak-hood!!! Next thing ya know, they want to have baked-potato-hood, too!!! WHERE will this craziness STOP?!?!

  • ||

    WHERE will this craziness STOP?!?!

    Pie-and-coffee-hood. Duh.

  • nicmart||

    Free market Puerto Rico? If not for US law and subsidies PR would be Cuba. I found little affection for free markets when I lived on the island.

  • LarryA||

    The moeny for the funs would come in part from vice taxes imposed after the legalization of drugs and sex work.

    Nominate for Freudian Slip of the Year.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Wait! What? I thought the headline said "embrace cannibalism".

  • Eric||

    I'm thinking Mississippi would welcome PR into the union with open arms. A new demographic bottom dweller.

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