February 8, 2014

Independence for Puerto Rico

From the NYT:
Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus

 At the beginning of the 20th Century, the world was divided up into great empires, but the dominant political trend of the 20th Century was nationalism. After much turmoil, most of the empires are gone, and we live in a world of a couple of hundred independent countries. 

And, strange as it may seem from watching the 24-hour-news, the world is more peaceful and prosperous than ever. Sure, lots of former colonies remain badly run, but the general trend is toward slow improvement: after all, its their problem and they have incentives to get better at ruling themselves.

But self-rule is ideologically passe. Globalism is the default assumption: diversity, you know? Thus, the ongoing failure of imperialism and open borders in Puerto Rico is seldom portrayed as the ongoing failure of imperialism in Puerto Rico. The notion that maybe, after 116 years it's getting toward time for Puerto Rico to stand on its own two feet simply doesn't come up in 21st Century thinking.

Much of the problem is simply that we've replaced old-fashioned conceptual thinking with who-whom thinking. See, imperialism wasn't nice, and American elites believe in being nice to Puerto Ricans, so therefore it's not really imperialism.
     

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

"And, strange as it may seem from watching the 24-hour-news, the world is more peaceful and prosperous than ever.

That's just because the big powers are afraid of nuclear weapons. Nothing to do with nationalism or imperialism. I would guess that crime rates in most places are higher now than 100 years ago. There's been a lot of dysgenics recently - that doesn't make people more civil. The culture's gotten coarser. If not for nukes, we would probably be in the middle of WWV right now.

Anonymous said...

If the Puerto Ricans wanted independence, we would have given it to them decades ago. They don't want it; they get more aid from the US as a US "commonwealth" than they would as an independent country and they get unlimited, completely legal right to immigrate to the US, allowing the higher classes in PR to somewhat ameliorate their social problems by exporting their underclass.

Art Deco said...

I am not really sure why you regard Puerto Rico's tour as a dependency a failure. It is the most affluent Latin American territory; only the Southern Cone countries approach it in standards of living. Contrary to what one of your votaries says, that is largely due to domestic production, though they are not without some remittances.

There are some quality-of-life issues that do not show up in the stats. The homicide rate is wretched in Puerto Rico, a good deal higher than in the Southern Cone or Costa Rica and similar to that of Mexico.

Now, Puerto Rican migration to the United States has been a social disaster. That migration stream does not have the sort of screens others do so does not select for 'entrepreneurial' vigor in the manner of migration from parts elsewhere. Also, and in contrast to Italian and East European migration ca. 1900, there was a great deal of outdoor relief available for Puerto Ricans arriving in New York. In 1914, the 'welfare state' meant asylums, sanitoriums, orphanages, and poorhouses.

Art Deco said...

One other thing: how does it qualify as 'imperialism' when

1. The territory has been our possession for 115 years; and

2. The separatist party on the island is good for 6% of the vote

???

Anonymous said...

When Roman empire bestowed citizenship to non-Romans, I guess it was no longer an empire but a commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

"If the Puerto Ricans wanted independence, we would have given it to them decades ago."

They don't want it because they defacto have it. They have the best of both worlds. As Puerto Rico isn't part of the US, people there can flatter themselves that they control their own affairs.
But since it's part of the American commonwealth, they have automatic US citizenship and all the welfare.

What's not to like?

They don't have to fully join America to reap most of the benefits of being a full American.

Anonymous said...

I say deep sea drilling around PR. If we find oil they will want independence so as not to share. If we don't find oil they will demand independence to stop us from drilling. Either way.

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico has de-facto independence. It just doesn't have to pay for it. Its a great deal for Puerto Rico, plus they have the safety valve of dumping their underclass on Uncle Sap(m).

I am utterly baffled as to what America has ever seen in the place or what benefit the USA gets from it.

roundeye said...

Anon:

It would do the US well to pay for exploration in the area. Start bidding up the exploration leases, pay for two or three drilling rigs, salt the hell out of that mine, do a quick vote for independence....magic. Then start a rumor that there will be a PR sovereign wealth fund like Alaska or Norway...

As Castro said, we will flush the toilets.

roundeye said...

Anon: the original benefit of PR was an unsinkable dreadnought coaling station at Roosevelt Roads to protect the Panama Canal. Seeing how we no longer coal, have
the Panama Canal or Roosevelt Roads, we best get to steppin'.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Jerry Ford wanted to make PR the 51st state and change the USA to the Metric system?

Stupid is, as stupid does.

Power Child said...

Recently, Robert Kaplan over at Stratfor just happened to write about the end of imperialism being one of the major reasons for all the present unrest in many parts of the developing world.

Meanwhile another Caplan, this time with a "c", amusingly held Puerto Rico up as a model for open borders.

Anonymous said...

We should have gotten rid of PR at the same time we got rid of the Philippines. Why didn't we? Mostly because of a lot of deadhead "imperialists" who wanted us to sacrifice to make life easier for the PR's and because they liked "owning" a Caribbean island.

Typical American Dumb-think.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Jerry Ford wanted to make PR the 51st state and change the USA to the Metric system?

Stupid is, as stupid does.


What's wrong with the metric system? It's much better and consistent.

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 5:34 PM asked: What's wrong with the metric system? It's much better and consistent.

Hunsdon said: 1. History and tradition help form the little platoons that form society. 2. The French Revolution's blood cost (and that of its offspring) was simply way too high.

bjdubbs said...

Luis Gutierrez, the most loud supporter of amnesty in congress, is also a PR nationalist. This is what he told the Chicago Tribune:

"Gutierrez, a proponent of independence for Puerto Rico, observed leading up to the House vote that Puerto Ricans rejected statehood in votes in 1967, 1993 and 1998.

In remarks from the House floor, he said he could support statehood if Puerto Rico still could field an Olympic team, keep Spanish as its main language and retain other aspects of its identity.

"Maybe these 4 million American citizens don't want to become a state because they love their language; because they love their culture; because they love their idiosyncrasies; because they love applauding their Olympic team…because so many Miss Universes come from Puerto Rico," he noted."

Nationalism for us, but not for you (sounds familiar).

So amnesty is an extension of PR nationalism. It would be as if the Ukrainians were fighting for separatism AND seats in the Duma. Republicans should start to really emphasize the assimilation aspects of amnesty. Maybe even include renouncing foreign citizenship as a precondition of amnesty. That would really make Gutierrez head explode, because then the Dems would be forced to defend both amnesty and dual nationalism, making the contradictions more explicit.

josh said...

fuck the metric system. thats whats wrong with the metric system.

Anonymous said...

It's moments like these where big changes can (should) occur. Puerto Rico's on the verge of bankruptcy. They're going to need a bailout...or something. The appropriate response would be to use that as leverage - a bailout in exchange for their independence. They could even have a free trade agreement to go with it.

The problem is that every Puerto Rica can come to the US and claim citizenship, and the moment independence was on the table, 80% of them would do so. In the good old days, the political branches would be able (and even willing) to do that. But the Supreme Court has emasculated the political branches of government, who don't have the spine (in the case of Republicans) or are run by ideological extremists (in the case of Democrats). We're stuck with P.R.

anony-mouse said...

Is there an example in history of a peacetime situation where a country wanted to give up a colony, the colony explicitly and vigorously wanted to stay, but was given up anyhow?

Art Deco said...

Remember when Jerry Ford wanted to make PR the 51st state and change the USA to the Metric system?

The U.S. Metric Board was set up by Congress. Mr. Ford acceded to it, but it was not his initiative. It was a fad of the times. His suggestion that Puerto Rico be admitted as a state was made weeks before he left office and subsequent to an electoral victory by the New Progressive Party on the island.

Art Deco said...

Why didn't we? Mostly because of a lot of deadhead "imperialists" who wanted us to sacrifice to make life easier for the PR's and because they liked "owning" a Caribbean island.

Typical American Dumb-think.


The separatist party was good for 19% of the vote on the island ca. 1946. We did not unload the island because sentiment on the island was opposed.

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico's capital and largest city of San Juan sits directly on the island's north coast, which will be hit one day (could be any day, really) with a large earthquake and probable tsunami from activity along the Puerto Rico trench.

When the subduction zone finally ruptures (as it did back in 1787), the resulting quake will probably be in the 8.0+ range, and will generate a tsunami 40-60ft. high. That kind of wave will crash against coastal escarpments in some places, but will flood up to two miles inland in others.

It will be a very large and expensive disaster. Large portions of the San Juan metro will probably be wrecked. Sort of like a stronger version of the Haiti quake, and with more water. If the US is still directly responsible for PR's affairs when that happens, it'll probably be a $100 billion+ relief/recovery/rebuilding effort.

Anonymous said...

"Puerto Rico's on the verge of bankruptcy".

If after 116 years of association with the USA, (plus being able to dump its surplus population on her,) this is so, then what is the value of having the island?

Anonymous said...

"...because they liked owning a Caribbean island".

Crikey. You have the Virgin Islands. Plus Hawaii. And Florida. And California. And the whole gulf coast.

From my frozen Canadian perspective, that looks pretty bloody good already. I can't travel south to escape the tundra because I can't get health insurance. Canada is talking about annexing some small island in the Caribbean. Maybe there is hope.

Corn said...

"In remarks from the House floor, he said he could support statehood if Puerto Rico still could field an Olympic team, keep Spanish as its main language and retain other aspects of its identity."

*facepalm*

Anonymous said...

"What's wrong with the metric system? It's much better and consistent."

I am not aware of educational studies finding that switching to metric had a beneficial effect on students ability to learn the system. (But it's been a long time since I looked, does anyone know of some?)

I think the converse was found. English units are more intuitive than metric for elementary students first learning them. (I think there's some big sounding educrat word for this.) An English foot is about the size of a... foot. A mile a thousand "to your lefts!". Simple things that stick conceptually in your mind.

I rib people sometimes about the advantages of teaching kids English measurements of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc., and the advantage this gives to kids learning binary in the computer age. Sometimes I might be so low as to mention the metric system was clearly designed for serfs who hadn't got much beyond counting on their fingers, poor devils.

I recall the days of the arguments about switching to metric. There was a rump guard of US physicists who were really against it. "Change the system? Ok, but change it to something actually modern and sensible, if you are going to go to all that trouble..."

Clearly the biggest argument for it was really just the advantage of having large markets with a single common system, regardless of the merits of the system.

Reg Cæsar said...

The plebiscite I would like to see would make the Boriqueños choose between independence and our sale of the island to China to pay down our debts.

Oh, and the same referendum would be on the ballots of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida and Illinois.

Reg Cæsar said...

…the converse was found. English units are more intuitive than metric… --anon


This is not just right, it's almost tautological. The English system grew the way it did to bake cakes. The metric system offers to tell you how many of those cakes it would take to reach the moon.

If the metricists were serious about rationalizing our measures, they would ditch the clumsy base 10 for a duodecimal system. Then we could divide by three.

Funny, though, that the US is last to adopt metric weights and measures; we were the first to adopt metric coinage.

Anonymous said...

If the metricists were serious about rationalizing our measures, they would ditch the clumsy base 10 for a duodecimal system. Then we could divide by three.

Duodecimal systems are mystical nonsense. Metric systems are much more rational and organized.

Reg Cæsar said...

Duodecimal systems are mystical nonsense. Metric systems are much more rational and organized. --anon

Only in base 10. And what's so damned holy about base 10?

You metrick guys mock one tradition, yet never question the other. That's irrational.

CJ said...

anony-mouse said ... Is there an example in history of a peacetime situation where a country wanted to give up a colony, the colony explicitly and vigorously wanted to stay, but was given up anyhow?

Depends what you mean by explicitly and vigorously. Post-WW2 Britain was determined to cut most of its possessions loose, and proceeded to do so even in cases where most of the population appeared content with being a British possession. Many Caribbean island territories had no serious independence movements.

Anonymous said...

By the time Britain got shot of its colonies in the 1950s, it was calculated that they were already a net economic drain - so much for the oft quoted meme that Britain made money by 'exploiting' its colonies. They were probably a dead loss for a good deal longer than that, right from the 1900s in fact.
Anyhow, it's just as well that Britain got rid of its empire when it dead, so much for the national angst it caused at the time, since the case of Puerto Rico and the USA tells us that the liabilities are enormous and open ended and go on forever really. Britain's immigration disaster - until 1997 when the depraved New Labour made it an international problem - was basically another cost of Empire, a long delayed and long tailed liability that more or likely wiped out all of the financial gains ever made by Empire in the days when it was profitable.
The moral is that 18th and 19th century imperialism - in the very long run - was a national and economic disaster for all the nations that practised it.

sunbeam said...

Hmmm I'm trying to think of famous or successful Puerto Ricans.

Not really my area. Doesn't seem like they have done a whole lot, and they have been in this country a long time.

Anyone know much about this?

Anonymous said...

My biggest problem with the metric system is that it doesn't have any units as convenient to use as the foot and the pound. Everything seems to be big or small with nothing on between. You don't get the same perspective saying someone is 1.83 meters tall as by saying someone is 5 ft. 10.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

*Yakov Smirnoff voice*

In rest of world, imperialists exploit colonies...

In United States, colonists exploit imperialists.

What a country!

Mr Drab said...

"By the time Britain got shot of its colonies in the 1950s, it was calculated that they were already a net economic drain - so much for the oft quoted meme that Britain made money by 'exploiting' its colonies. They were probably a dead loss for a good deal longer than that, right from the 1900s in fact."

The "White Dominions" - Australia, Canada, New Zealand and, depending on some definitions, white-run South Africa - were probably still profitable for Britain, even though all had achieved independence by the mid 20th Century. All were rich, well-developed, well-governed and blessed with natural resources. Britain sent them people and know-how while they sent back commodities. As these dominions were largely peopled by British settlers and their offspring, they could be trusted with self-governance, meaning London didn't have to spend vast sums governing these territories and trying to keep the local populations in line. Nor did they have to spend vast sums trying to civilise the locals.

Of course, the relationship between Britain and its settler dominions was vastly different to the relationship between London and the rest of the empire.

jody said...

"That's just because the big powers are afraid of nuclear weapons."

yup. missile delivered or jet delivered fusion devices are what has created this era of less major wars. without them, we'd be having crazy wars right now. there's so many more humans on the planet today than 100 years ago. the battle for space and resources would REALLY be on.

small time battles and internal political violence and revolutions actually seem more widespread now than when i was growing up. seems like a dozen nations are in a civil war or revolution right now.

think it's mainly the first world were there are no wars anymore and the violent crime rate is down (from only 20 years ago, when it peaked, and 20 years is not that long ago). i'd bet violent crime is higher now in a lot of the third world than ever. we know for sure this is the case in puerto rico, the nation of topic here, as well as mexico. heck, might even be the case in russia, speaking of the winter games.

Art Deco said...

Many Caribbean island territories had no serious independence movements.

Britain had about three dozen insular dependencies and about nine coastal settlements. About 40% of these were retained, mostly those most proximate to the mother country and those with the smallest populations.

Art Deco said...

since the case of Puerto Rico and the USA tells us that the liabilities are enormous and open ended


Citation needed.

Steve Sailer said...

Rhodesia.
Northern Ireland.

Cail Corishev said...

I think the converse was found. English units are more intuitive than metric for elementary students first learning them.

That's what I've found in teaching both. Yeah, the math is easy on the metric side, but the units themselves are harder to learn. They constantly have to check the chart to remember whether centi- means 100 or 1/100, and at least that one has English relatives like "century" that get them that far. How many non-scientists know off-hand which is which between deci- and deca-?

I recall the days of the arguments about switching to metric.

I still remember the video they showed us in grade school about 1980 or so, where a guy got arrested because he saw a sign that said 90kph and started driving 90mph. That was the whole argument: you'd better learn this, because Any Day Now the backwards USA will catch up to the enlightened rest of the world on this, and then you'll be lost. As far as I can tell, we'd already hit "peak metric" at that point, and if anything there's less of it around now. I had cars from the 1980s that had metric sized bolts, and more recent ones with Imperial sizes. You see metric where the government requires it, like on food labels, and that's pretty much it.

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rican Independence party (Socialist). I would suggest the US let PR default on it's debt in exchange for becoming an independent nation.

http://www.independencia.net/index.php?lang=es

Hey, why don't y'all give'm an invite to the next Amren shindig.

How about Scottish independence, they are actually going to vote on dissolving the Union?

Anonymous said...

"largely due to domestic production" - Like Microsoft?

Anthony said...

Canadian anonymous at 8:07, be careful what you wish for. You might get Haiti.

Art Deco said...

Rhodesia.
Northern Ireland.


This is supposed to be a reference to the costs and benefits of having Puerto Rico as a dependency of the United States?

--

I cannot even figure out to what you could be referring. Rhodesia was a fairly prosperous agricultural colony up until 1965 and remained in good order for about seven years after UDI. It would certainly be an involved research project to demonstrate it was an economic drain on the UK. The war post-dated British sovereignty.

As for Northern Ireland, that's an integral part of the British state. What's next on your agenda? Sovereignty for central Liverpool? You could have partitioned the territory yet again. That would have required having greater Belfast straddle the frontier and it still would not have satisfied the IRA after 1968.

Anonymous said...

…the converse was found. English units are more intuitive than metric… --anon


This is not just right, it's almost tautological.


Prefaced with I'll work in any system in which you'll pay me... I want to see comparative studies, experiments, that show that metric units are more intuitive than English. The most comprehensive study I recall seeing, something that actually tried to do a formal study based on actual elementary students learning, found the inverse. I believe the study was in the UK and I probably saw it in the 90s. Perhaps it was biased, but perhaps not, my guess at the time was if anything it was biased towards finding that students would fare better with metric. I think the learning issue was that with metric the math was simpler, but the units were harder (to reason and think about in practice). It may also depend at what level you are talking about, 12 year-olds or PhDs. In any case, I suspect studies like this are pretty much spiked... So is metric really better, or does it just sound better?

Here's something that illustrates things from a quick random google, a woodworking site, not pro-English or pro-Metric but dealing with both:

"A centimetre of course is ten times larger than a millimetre and a metre is one hundred times larger than a centimetre. That’s a perfect relationship for simple mathematics but it isn’t very well balanced when visualising it on a tape measure. A centimetre divides up nicely in to small and accurate millimetres but compare a centimetre to a metre and it’s so small it gets lost. To aid this problem we tend to find that tape measures use a visual queue (a bold line or red number) at every ten centimetre interval and some goes as far as to miss any extra emphasis when we come to a metre instead continuing by calling them 100, 200, etc. ...

By contrast imperial units come without the ease of having to only understand your ten times table. ... This makes life difficult at the drawing board but just look at the photo to see how much clearer it makes things in the real world of full scale measurements. Long distances can be read simply with the bold and continuous markings of both inch and feet and if accuracy is required every 1/16″ is also noted. Finding 49″ inches or 4′ 1″ on that tape certainly jumps out much clearer and quicker than searching for 1.24m ...

The relationship between an inch and foot makes heaps more sense than that of a centimetre and metre ..."



Here's a fellow in the comments section making an interesting argument that I haven't heard before, that the English system is less error-prone (at least for what he normally does, presumably):

"The overwhelming advantage of Imperial over metric is that you never accidentally misplace the decimal point."

Melendwyr said...

Duodecimal? Please. Hexadecimal all the way - or at least some power of two. I'd settle for base eight.

sunbeam said...

Geez guys. If you want I'll dig up some old Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics problems and get you to do them with English units.

Just remember: If it is way too big, or way too small when you get the answer, divide or multiply by 32.2 ft-lbm/lbf-s^^2.

You might get lucky.

Seriously, in my opinion it doesn't matter that much in everyday life, but if you are doing Engineering or anything technical you are a madman to do it in English units.

roundeye said...

Singapore was given independence by Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Regarding metric units, in the spirit of good clean fun, I can't resist asking if you use metric units on your desktop publishing systems or typesetting systems.

"On many digital printing systems (desk-top publishing systems in particular), the following equations are applicable...

1 pica = 1/6 inch (British/American inch of today) = 4.233 mm.

1 point = 1/12 pica = 1⁄72 inch = 127⁄360 mm = 0.3527 mm."



Just remember that: "The contemporary computer pica is 1⁄72 of the Anglo-Saxon compromise foot of 1959..." (not one of those other smelly old foots.)

There have been efforts to metricate this, but: "The advent and success of desktop publishing (DTP) software and word processors for office use, coming mostly from the non-metric United States, basically revoked this metrication process in typography. DTP commonly uses the PostScript point, which is defined as 1⁄72 of an inch (352.(7) μm)."

There's no escape: "Cascading Style Sheets defined by the World Wide Web Consortium use “pc” as the abbreviation for pica (1/6 of an inch), and “pt” for point (1/72 of an inch)."

Perhaps it's like domain specific languages or useful alternate coordinate systems. In particular domains, particular systems of units are most useful, there's not one best language.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of imperialism...

How about we let PR go and how about Israel lets us go?

http://www.juancole.com/2014/02/brokers-colonial-project.html?utm

Anonymous said...

"...imperialism - in the very long run - was a national and economic disaster for the countries that practiced it."

I agree completely. Countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, etc, are much better off and happier then countries like Britain, Spain, Italy and France. At least in my view. I have spent time in all of these places. Additionally the former group seems to have avoided wars much more effectively too. Perhaps partly due to avoiding imperialism as well.

José M. López Sierra said...

Dear Partner,

After the approval of the 33rd United Nations’ resolution by consensus on June 23, 2014 asking the United States (US) to immediately decolonize of Puerto Rico, we should work together to force the United States government to comply with it.

The facts that the United States government has maintained Puerto Rico as its colony for 116 years, has had Oscar López Rivera in prison for 33 years for fighting for Puerto Rico decolonization, and has ignored 33 UN resolutions to decolonize Puerto Rico, confirm that the US government has no intentions of ever decolonizing Puerto Rico. Therefore, we need to form a tsunami of people to force the US to comply with the 33 resolutions.

We should peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until we achieve our goal. The first one will be a march up to the US Courthouse in Puerto Rico on the Abolition of Slavery Day on March 22. The second will be another march in Puerto Rico on a day before the UN’s Puerto Rico decolonization hearing. The third one will be a protest in New York City on the same day the UN holds its Puerto Rico decolonization hearing.

These 3 protests are indispensable, because those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.

Sincerely,
José M López Sierra
Jlop28vislophis@gmail.com
Comité Timón del Pueblo
United Partners for the Decolonization of Puerto Rico
www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com

José M. López Sierra said...

Not true that there are 3 political status options for Puerto Rico

The United States (US) government has made Puerto Ricans believe that there are 3 political status options for Puerto Rico. That is a lie. The purpose for that is to have Puerto Ricans fight amongst themselves. The plan has been a huge success! Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States for 116 years, and judging by the 80% voter turnout in the colonial elections, the majority of us has not realized that we have been lied to.

In reality, there is only one option. The United Nations (UN) in 1960 determined that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Therefore, the only thing that Puerto Rico can do is to become her own nation. That means that the US must give Puerto Rico the sovereignty that the US illegally took away from her by virtue of the July 25, 1898 military invasion.

Thus far, the US government has ignored the 33 UN resolutions asking it to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. Instead, it has tried to hide these petitions, and at the same time appear to believe in democracy by pushing for plebiscites so that Puerto Ricans could decide between colonialism, being a US state, or independence (decolonization as required by the UN).

The problem with the US pushed plebiscites are that they:

1. don’t comply with international law that prohibits a nation to have a colony.
2. don’t comply with international law that requires the empire to give the sovereignty it illegally took away to its colony.
3. don’t comply with international law that requires that to have free elections, that country must be free first.
4. have 2 options that are not permitted by international law- continuing being a colony and becoming a state of the country that has the colony. For the option of becoming a state of the country that has the colony to be considered, the colony must first become her own nation (decolonized).

This is why we have to peacefully protest 3 times a year until the US government complies with the UN resolutions for Puerto Rico decolonization.

José M López Sierra
www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com