Can an independent Puerto Rico work out?

by on September 28, 2017 at 1:15 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

I don’t think so, here are a few points:

1. Any deal would involve a transition period.  During that period, many more Puerto Ricans would move to the mainland than if there were no deal.  You may or may not think that is a good outcome, but it is not exactly what the “cut them loose” proponents have in mind.  “Let’s make Puerto Rico independent so we can have more Puerto Ricans in the United States” is not a winning rally cry for anyone.

2. The Caribbean as a region has been doing dismally for a few decades now.  Puerto Rico is by far the wealthiest part of the Caribbean, small tax and finance havens aside.   Without a connection to the United States, Puerto Rico might regress to Dominican Republic levels of income, GNI of roughly 24k vs. 15k.

3. The best thing about independence is that the deal might allow a “pure default” by the Puerto Rican government.  Still, that could be arranged under a version of the status quo.  Default plus independence would shred the Puerto Rican safety net at least for a few years, perhaps forever.  If you think their future is one of falling per capita income, that safety net never would recover.  You might believe that such a safety net is in some ways holding Puerto Rico back (true), but if the natural trajectory is to lose both population and per capita income, removing that safety net won’t do much good either.

So it’s simply not clear what is to be gained from independence.  On top of that another referendum would be needed, given that Puerto Ricans have rejected the notion in the past.  What if they still opt for a continuing attachment to the mainland?  That process then will have produced a few years of electoral uncertainty, with no change in the final outcome, as if the UK suddenly decided to reverse its Brexit decision.

Puerto Rico is very likely to remain a part of the United States, one way or another.

1 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 1:38 am

There is something surreal about seriously talking about removing American citizenship from millions of Americans, and to consider that within the realm of serious political discussion, even at the best satire site on the Web. Particularly as every single Puerto Rican is already in the United States, in contrast to this – “Let’s make Puerto Rico independent so we can have more Puerto Ricans in the United States” is not a winning rally cry for anyone.’

2 msgkings September 28, 2017 at 1:42 am

Should we have kept the Philipines too?

3 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 2:24 am

Good question.

A few questions whose answers just might add up to answer.

Did Puerto Rico fight a 3 year war before the United States defeated its independence government? – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine%E2%80%93American_War

Is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico a transitional government, in the fashion of the Commonwealth of the Philippines? – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_of_the_Philippines

Was Puerto Rico one of the founder nations of the United Nations? – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines#Postcolonial_period

But the question that actually matters is were people born in the Phiippines automatically granted American citizenship? As the answer to that question is no, the major difference is that Filipinos born in the Philippines, having never been automatically granted American citizenship, were not deprived of their American citizenship after the Philippines became independent.

Guam is the same as Puerto Rico in terms of Spanish-American War acquisition, by the way, and in terms of those born on Guam being automatically granted American citizenship.

When talking about Puerto Ricans today, we are talking about fellow citizens. That was never the case with the Philippines. Prof. Cowen’s formulation of that last sentence in point 1 is a particularly crass example of how some people don’t see Puerto Ricans as American citizens.

4 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 2:58 am

You are such a bore.

5 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 4:12 am

I’m curious Art – how do you feel about citizenship for people who pretty much don’t speak English at home ever, and who are proud to retain their distinctive culture in contrast to American norms?

Not that the Amish care much about your opinion, admittedly.

6 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 10:57 am

You should address that question to the Mercatus employee who appropriates my handle.

7 Tyler Cowen September 28, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Art, enough is enough.

8 The Other Jim September 28, 2017 at 10:29 am

A bore? The guy just put more effort into his comment than Ty did for his original post, and contains far more useful information.

9 IVV September 28, 2017 at 10:57 am

Yeah, but it makes surreptitious trolling of the response so much harder. That’s what’s boring for Art Deco.

10 Max September 29, 2017 at 2:34 pm

In essence the idea is more about secession and not independence. Perhaps similar to Scotland / Ireland / Catalonia than the Philippines? What about India or other ex UK colonies although they were not per se UK citizens? Is an American commonwealth perhaps a possibility?

11 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:08 am

For the sake of the Philippines yes, but Filipino’s were not US citizens, so we never needed to concern ourselves with them, or at least not much more than the political and business classes we left behind to run the place.

Puerto Ricans are fellow citizens and they won’t be stripped involuntarily of that. So it is different.

12 So Much For Subtlety September 28, 2017 at 10:22 am

There is no reason Congress can’t simply pass a law removing citizenship from residents of PR.

13 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:38 am

Be extremely careful what you wish for – stripping citizenship from groups of people is the hallmark of a tyranny.

And to be honest, it would probably take an amendment to the Constitution to allow Congress such power – after all, there is a reason for the 14th and 15th Amendments.

14 Ricardo September 28, 2017 at 11:49 am

Puerto Ricans have had U.S. citizenship for 100 years now. That means young Puerto Ricans are already 4th or even 5th generation Americans and some of their parents or ancestors may well have been born in the continental U.S. I doubt your claim that Congress could strip such people of citizenship without warning is based on any actual legal scholarship.

15 Ben September 28, 2017 at 10:48 am

The 1916 Jones Law or the Philippine Autonomy Act essentially settled the issue about Philippine citizenship being distinct from American citizenship. From 1916 to 1935, Filipinos were Philippine citizens with American nationality. The Philippine Independence Act established the Commonwealth of the Philippines (a 10 year transition of self government to independence) in 1935. WIth the enactment of the Independence Act by the US Congress and the ratification of the Philippine Constitution by Filipinos and confirmed by Roosevelt, Filipinos lost American nationality. Even when the islands were under US sovereignty, they were essentially citizens of an independent state in association with the US, somewhat analogous to Palau, the Marshalls and Micronesia’s arrangements today. That associated state status was lost on July 4, 1946.

If the US Congress by law declares Puerto Rico independent (unlike in the Philippines case, Puerto Ricans have never had their legislature resolve that they will be independent), it is likely that Congress like when it became sovereign in the Philippines after the collapse of the Philippine Republic in 1902, will give residents a choice. The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 gave residents the choice to remain in allegiance to the King of Spain or to take Philippine citizenship. Likewise a Puerto Rico independence act will likely give the following choices for residents, to retain US citizenship or to take Puerto Rican citizenship in a sovereign nation.

Puerto Ricans will not be stripped of US Citizenship without their consent.

It will be up to the independent Puerto Rican republic on how to treat residents who have decided to retain US citizenship. I guess the PR republic’s Congress will enact a dual citizenship law. Most Puerto Ricans likely will hold two passports like some Filipinos who hold American and Philippine citizenships today.

16 Ben September 28, 2017 at 10:26 am

We gave the Americans a bloody nose and their first Vietnam. By 1908, America had enough and looked for a gracious exit out of our land.

17 The Other Jim September 28, 2017 at 10:30 am

Hey look, Thiago has yet-another name!

What are you up to now, six?

18 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 10:39 am

It’s probably one of the Mercatus interns the hosts of this blog hire to troll people.

19 msgkings September 28, 2017 at 12:11 pm

How do I get paid for something I enjoy doing for free? Nice work if you can get it.

20 Jeanine Taylor October 13, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Just curious – regarding this question: 2. The Caribbean as a region has been doing dismally for a few decades now. Puerto Rico is by far the wealthiest part of the Caribbean, small tax and finance havens aside. Without a connection to the United States, Puerto Rico might regress to Dominican Republic levels of income, GNI of roughly 24k vs. 15k.
I don’t believe that even in their current state they are doing better than Barbados economincally.
What are your thoughts. Just curious.

21 dan1111 September 28, 2017 at 4:14 am

“There is something surreal about seriously talking about removing American citizenship from millions of Americans”

This is not about unilaterally kicking them out. There is a significant independence movement within Puerto Rico, and Tyler’s assumption here is that if they leave it would be by self-determination.

“every single Puerto Rican is already in the United States”.

This would be a dumb point even if you were correct, but you are not. “The United States” typically refers to the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

22 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 4:47 am

‘There is a significant independence movement within Puerto Rico’ – Pales compares to the sort of independence movements one finds in Virginian or Texan history, though (or ‘Texican’ as John Wayne’s character in True Grit says).

‘and Tyler’s assumption here is that if they leave it would be by self-determination’ – no, his stated assumption is that they remain Americans, one way or another. Which is kind of him, to allow millions of fellow Americans to remain in the United States.

‘This would be a dumb point even if you were correct, but you are not. “The United States” typically refers to the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.’ – Nice to include DC, as so many people seem to think it isn’t really part of the U.S. either. Oddly, though, I consider the United States to encompass, at a minimum, all territory where Americans are automatically granted citizenship at birth.

How does one explain the Virgin Islands of the United States ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Virgin_Islands ) – not part of the United States, regardless of what the name says?

And the nice people who control the borders of the United States most definitely do not agree with your assumption. Though one assumes we can both agree that the southern portion of Guantánamo Bay is not part of the United States by anyone’s definition. Particularly a Cuban’s definition.

23 dan1111 September 28, 2017 at 6:56 am

“Oddly enough” the definition in your head is not the same one everyone else is using.

24 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:32 am

If you had used ‘continental U.S.,’ while recognizing that Hawaii is not quite included in that definition, you would have been on firmer ground.

And if North Korea were to carry through its threat to bracket Guam with ballistic missiles, I doubt very much that most Americans would say ‘so what, no big deal, it isn’t as the North Koreans were actually threatening American citizens.’

25 S. Tire September 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

“How does one explain the Virgin Islands of the United States ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Virgin_Islands ) – not part of the United States, regardless of what the name says?”

Simple: not part of the United States, regardless of what the name says. Just like the British Virgin Islands is not part of Britain, despite what the name says.

26 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:30 am

Actually, did you even read the link? The U.S. Virgin Islands are as much a part of the United States as Alaska was in 1910 – ‘Previously the Danish West Indies of the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway, they were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916.’

27 Viking September 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm

@Prior

Those islands ceased to have anything to do with Norway in 1814.

28 Max September 29, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Yes but given the restrictions on representation – are they really full American citizens in Puerto Rico?

29 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:13 am

There is no longer a significant independence movement, that is like saying that the Democratic Party is doing great in Idaho.

30 Dick the Butcher September 28, 2017 at 9:12 am

What if at the Little Big Horn, Custer had machine guns?

After independence, PR’s $70 or $80 billion in bonds could trade like Shanghai RR bonds after the Maoist take-over of China. Never happen! Wall Street, as under Obama, runs Congress and the White House.

In recent years, nine percent of Puerto Rico’s (mostly educated, energetic, young) population relocated to the continental US.

Each four years, for as long as I can remember, the people of Puerto Rico voted in referenda with three choices: independence, remain an associated commonwealth with the US, and statehood. The remain-associate option has prevailed.

Recent referenda have seen rises in votes for statehood. Independence not only is economically impossible, it has been repudiated by PR citizens.

When the PR population votes for statehood, there will be a Legislative procedure for admission. I imagine that it can/could be denied.

Let’s never allow facts to intrude on the echo-chamber cacophony, navel-gazing, virtue-signaling.

31 That Guy September 28, 2017 at 3:29 pm

TC wrote (inaccurately) “On top of that another referendum would be needed, given that Puerto Ricans have rejected the notion in the past.”

No referendum is required. PR is not a State, so per Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the US Constitution, Congress may dispose of Puerto Rico by normal legislation. Congress could grant PR independence or transfer it to another country (for example, the Dominican Republic, or Canada).

Congress is not obliged to accept Puerto Rico as a US State, and would be foolish to do so. Puerto Rico’s economic problems are almost all caused by its unnecessary association with the US. The Jones Act, the Federal minimum wage, the astonishing morass of Federal legislation which was written without regard to conditions in PR– all those prevent PR from enjoying a reasonable local economy. They push PR’s people into welfare dependency, patronage jobs, and emigration. Worse– much worse– is the fact that for decades the PR government has borrowed money, not on its own small credit, but against an implicit Federal guarantee. That borrowed money has been spent on welfare/patronage, further damaging the local economy, and on criminal enrichment of PR’s government functionaries (*before* the recent hurricanes, the PR and Federal governments were investigating the peculation of something north of a billion dollars from Puerto Rico’s government-owned electric power utility– the same utility which neglected its plant so that all power on the island has now failed). If Puerto Rico became a US State, the PR economy would never get out from under inappropriate Federal laws, and the PR government would borrow– then steal– even more money.

Congress should grant Puerto Rico independence along with some nice parting gifts. Sure, that might reduce the Puerto Rican government’s ability to borrow money, but that would be a huge benefit to Puerto Rico in the long run. TC mentions that a newly independent PR would likely default on its current debts, but PR has *already* defaulted– independence would simply enable complete repudiation, which (again) would be a huge benefit to PR.

Current US citizens, whether or not they reside in Puerto Rico or were born there, cannot be deprived of their citizenship involuntarily. After Congress grants independence to Puerto Rico then people born there will be PR rather than US citizens (unless they obtain some kind of derivative citizenship). Residents of PR can be given a choice at independence, whether to abjure US citizenship or retain it.

32 Mark Brophy September 28, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Puerto Rico gain greatly from independence because they wouldn’t be subject to the Jones Act. Hawaii would be a winner as an independent country for the same reason.

33 Anon7 September 28, 2017 at 3:01 am

If Puerto Rico continues to make a mess of things as an independent country, then it will be entirely their problem, so only #1 is really an issue. Some carrot/stick combination would need to be added to induce more of its population to remain there.

34 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:15 am

The vast majority of Puerto Ricans aren’t stupid enough tontake any carrot we would be willing to give them.

35 So Much For Subtlety September 28, 2017 at 4:40 am

There is no reason to accept that the Continental United States would have to accept a single Puerto Rican. Not even those that are here already. Many countries have changed the ethnic make up of their lands. Algeria drove one tenth of the population – the indigenous Jews and the descendents of European settlers – out of the country for instance. Threats tend to work. But even if we assume that is mean and cruel and not something civilized people do, a gradually rising poll tax would persuade many people to go back.

Yes, Puerto Rico is living off welfare. It is rich because the Continental United States pays so much money to have them. But why? It is just a historic legacy. Time to recognize the mistake and force them to be independent. Singapore did not want to go either but Malaysia decided it wanted a more pure ethnically Malay Malaysia and so they went.

36 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 4:54 am

‘Many countries have changed the ethnic make up of their lands’

American citizenship is granted by birth or application, not ethnicity. The United States is quite revolutionary in that sense, actually, regardless of how many people seem unaware of that fact. An American born overseas to two American parents needs to apply for their birth as an American citizen to be officially recognized through a Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America – https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/abroad/events-and-records/birth.html

37 So Much For Subtlety September 28, 2017 at 5:35 am

For now. Although Birth Right citizenship has not always been part of the law of the land.

There is still nothing that says we cannot look at the evolving meaning of the Constitution. As a living document that has to change according to the needs of society at the time. Should there be a consensus among enough of the right lawyers that the Constitution means whatever we want it to say, then that is what it will say.

38 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:19 am

But stripping US citizenship by fiat is a problem. And every new Puerto Rican has at least one US citizen parent, most likely two.

39 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:26 am

Nobody born in the United States needs American parents, and children born outside of the U.S. to two American citizens are not automatically granted American citizenship due to their parents being American citizens. As noted above with the link to the necessary application process for a child born outside of the U.S. to two American citizens to be recognized as an American citizen.

40 JonFraz September 28, 2017 at 12:48 pm

It could easily be found unconstitutional since it would be very similar to an Act of Attainder which is flat out forbidden.

41 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:23 am

‘Although Birth Right citizenship has not always been part of the law of the land. ‘

True, but the Civil War ended slavery. And the Yellow Peril age was capped by American citizens being rounded up, deprived of their property, and being placed in internment camps.

42 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 10:27 am

Vote Jimmy Kimmel for President!

43 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 10:39 am

They’ve been working the interns hard at Mercatus.

44 Oced Tra September 28, 2017 at 11:06 am

And, in your reinterpreted Constitution, what would your criteria for U.S. citizenship be?

45 JonFraz September 28, 2017 at 12:47 pm

We are of course free to amend the Constitution, but otherwise we’re not going back on birthright citizenship. the language of the 14th Amendment is not at all vague and there’s are no penumbras lurking in its vicinity.

46 Anon September 28, 2017 at 9:33 pm

Complete BS the legislative history says it was all about ex-slaves, not at all about birthright citizenship.

47 JonFraz September 29, 2017 at 2:29 pm

The legislative history can say anything it wants. That is not what was ratified as a part of the Constitution. The amendment as drafted and and ratified is what counts– non-legally binding stuff people said and wrote about it means nothing*. And the text of the amendment says nothing whatsoever about ex-slaves. The people who drafted the amendment were not idiots and they were not drunk or stoned. If they had wanted it ti apply only to ex-slaves they could easily have included that much in the text. They didn’t.
Don’t like liberal judges citing penumbras and emanations? Sure, I’ll listen to that argument. But don’t turn around and try to brew up your own penumbras by exhuming the graves of men long dead and putting your words in their mouths like some Gypsy medium wit ha Ouija board.

* It can be valid to cite original public commentaries where the text of the Constitution is vague or contradictory. The 14th Amendment is not– it is concise and clear.

48 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:18 am

There is this Constitution thing, even without all those pesky amendments. After all we have already granted every Puerto Rican citizenship.

Of course if we got rid of it and committed ourselves to genocidal policies I doubt Puerto Ricans would be even close to the first target.

49 Chuck September 28, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Indigenous to Algeria. And Israel. And Germany. And the United States. And wherever else they end up.

50 Todd K September 28, 2017 at 4:41 am

“Without a connection to the United States, Puerto Rico might regress to Dominican Republic levels of income, GNI of roughly 24k vs. 15k.”

wiki says the nominal GNI of Peurto Rico is $19,000 and the Dominican Republic is $6,000 (2015)

Here is the real GDP per capita (PPP) in 2016, the way I’d look at it.
$38,000 v. $15,000

Peurto Rico would not come close to falling to Dominican Republic levels.

And if Canada became independent of the United States, its GDP wouldn’t change much, either.

51 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:21 am

He didn’t say instantly, but over time I bet it would happen, even if just by convergence, and even if not the regression toward DR standards would not take that long to begin.

52 Todd K September 28, 2017 at 12:12 pm

No, Puerto Rico would not regress at all, to say nothing of around a 50% drop. There are two areas I don’t think Tyler understands: 1) technoloy (obviously) and 2) quite a bit of international economics. I think of this as the “Cowen Strauss/IE imbalance”.

53 JCC September 28, 2017 at 4:49 am

PR cannot service its debt so bail it out and impose restriction on government expenses until they get their act right. That’s the IMF recipe. 🙂

54 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 5:01 am

Not to mention the Washington Consensus – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Consensus

55 The Other Jim September 28, 2017 at 10:33 am

Not to mention a plan that will be utterly murdered by Dems who will call it racist and imperialist, and has no chance of happening.

56 Axa September 28, 2017 at 5:18 am

Bahamas is richer than Puerto Rico. The islands are independent but well connected to the US.

57 JonFraz September 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm

The Bahamas are also in the Commonwealth (and a monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II) giving them another means of external support.

58 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ September 28, 2017 at 6:27 am

It is tempting to think problems like this can be simplified. Statehood or out, etc. A “territory” is messy. So are Indian reservations. Dual citizenship for native born natives, etc. Actually now dual citizenship for any native who wants it. We have this ridiculous combination of population
39 million states and 0.6 million states. A mess all over.

So big deal. It is a territory of the US. We should be able to deal with that.

59 Paul September 28, 2017 at 7:09 am

What’s the problem? At all?
Why do Puerto Ricans have to have some number of per capita GDP? Or anything else. It seems individually and collectively they have, do, act as much as they want. Cool,

Debt. Happens all the time. Note holders problems.

I’ve spent most of my life in costal construction. It used to be that beach shacks, were shacks, for a reason. Storns. Now vastly more expensive homes, but basically a shack compared to storms are built. They fail, oddly, like shacks. This is quite puzzling to now generations of the western majority that live in structures they can’t build, let alone economically, cars they can’t repair, even to change a flat, food they don’t grow and a country they and most everyone they know has not and will not defend. In short, physical reality is a educator.

The non problem of Puerto Rico is the is there of Puerto Ricans. By and large they seem as happy and healthy and wealthy as the want, or not, to be. As like mountainous West Virginia, or American indian reservations .

Lastly, shacks are easy to rebuild, even if they offend the Martha Stewart sensibilities of authentic historical commision approved vinyl siding faux claps

60 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ September 28, 2017 at 7:14 am

×2

61 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:27 am

God yes! And I am not breaking the second commandment either.

62 DanC September 28, 2017 at 7:17 am

Puerto Rico seems to have done better then other Caribbean countries in large part because of their ability to borrow, transfers from the US, and some tax shelters. Did bond holders assume the US would in some way save Puerto Rico, or really the bond holders?

An independent Puerto Rico would not improve living standards, certainly in the short run. We helped break it, we own it. (Not literal) It is possible that faced with dealing with an independent Puerto Rico, the citizens might make the reforms needed for real prosperity, or they might not.

How to fix it? Perhaps depopulation is the best short term answer for the citizens on any path they might take. Government programs to save Detroit and other distressed areas don’t seem to work well. We haven’t been able to raise Mississippi out of poverty. (Although by Caribbean standards, Mississippi standards of living would be a step up.)

The greatest hope we offer Puerto Ricans is mobility.

63 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ September 28, 2017 at 7:40 am

×2

64 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 9:11 am

Jimmy Kimmel for President!

65 B.B. September 28, 2017 at 9:14 am

Perhaps PR wants to retain commonwealth status, perhaps not. But if the majority of the USA wants PR independence, doesn’t utilitarianism require that PR be given its independence whether it wants it or not?

To me, it makes no more sense to have PR a US territory than Cuba or Haiti, both of which are closer.

I also do not think that PR benefits from US laws. The Jones Act is a restriction, and so are US tariffs and minimum wage laws. Independent, let PR simply adopt all of Singapore’s laws and become the Singapore of the Caribbean.

Security is win-win. The US can guarantee PR security so PR does not need to have a military, just like Hong Kong has no military. In exchange, the US can maintain naval and air force bases there.

I agree that simple independence for PR just after Irma is cruel. Let us commit to rebuilding PR as part of the independence deal. Let’s used Bermuda as a guide. If one lives in Hurricane Alley, one needs to build right.

The colonization of PR is the fallout from an unnecessary war and an imperial venture. Let’s bring this sorry episode to an end.

66 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ September 28, 2017 at 9:32 am

You missed the logic in point 1. These are American citizens. You may push the territory out, but that will be a huge impetus for migration.

And if you worry about such things, how will Florida vote with an extra million former Puerto Ricans?

Perhaps that is already baked in, by act of God.

67 Albigensian September 28, 2017 at 10:53 am

It is barely possible to revoke the citizenship of those who became citizens through naturalization, but, as Puerto Ricans are not naturalized citizens, I’d have to assume that all Puerto Ricans who had citizenship prior to independence would retain that citizenship, for what constitutional means exists to take it away?

Children born in Puerto Rico after independence would not be American citizens if they were born in Puerto Rico, but, since their parents would retain citizenship, they could choose birthright citizenship for their children by traveling to the USA to give birth. Which, as American citizens, they would have as much right to do as any other citizen.

Messy, isn’t it? Even before one questions whether Puerto Rico should be free to choose independence (although it seems increasingly unlikely they’d ever choose to do so), or whether the rest of the USA can or should force Puerto Rican independence even if few Puerto Ricans want it.

68 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:20 am

‘PR be given its independence whether it wants it or not’

Yet another commenter having seemingly no problem depriving millions of Americans their citizenship.

69 TMC September 28, 2017 at 10:31 am

“On March 2, 1917, Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, under which Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship, meaning that citizenship was granted by an act of Congress and not by the Constitution (thus it was not guaranteed by the Constitution).”

May not be as simple as you’d like it to be. Also, could we not make PR independant and still allow current citizens to be American citizens living in a foreign country?

70 prior_test3 September 28, 2017 at 10:42 am

Granting citizenship is one thing, taking it away another, as noted above regarding the 14th and 15th Amendments.

That Congress has the power to grant citizenship is clear. Its right to strip away citizenship from an entire group of people is not clear in the least.

71 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ September 28, 2017 at 10:43 am

An independent PR and dual citizenship for everyone in it? A weird solution, but sure. Again though it might depend on how you want to drive migration.

The thing Tyler did not say exactly is that the Right would like to keep people in PR, without spending any money to do so. Can that work?

We will probably find out because “fix nothing” is this Congress’s charter.

72 Ricardo September 28, 2017 at 12:22 pm

If Puerto Rico were to become independent, it may be possible for Congress to pass a law saying that anyone residing in Puerto Rico after such and such a date who voluntarily takes Puerto Rican citizenship loses his/her American citizenship. But this would lead to the problem Tyler highlighted above of large numbers of Puerto Ricans rushing for the exits in advance of that date and all the disruption that would cause. Some Puerto Ricans have citizenship by virtue of having been born in the continental U.S. or being born to one or two parents who may have been born and raised in the continental U.S. so their claims on citizenship would be more difficult to revoke.

73 Roy LC September 28, 2017 at 10:44 am

Also your point 2 is nonsensical, 3 could just as easily apply to Galveston, Texas, and as to 4, losing Subic Bay needs to be kept in mind. I long ago argued that if PR were a state the Navy would still have its firing range at Vieques.

Your argument can also be seen as an argument for having kept Cuba, btw we rejected the Dominican Republic by only one vote in 1876.

Anyway Hawaii is 2,500 miles away and we have a town in Alaska that has a BC area code.

74 Floccina September 29, 2017 at 11:32 am

Perhaps PR wants to retain commonwealth status, perhaps not. But if the majority of the USA wants PR independence, doesn’t utilitarianism require that PR be given its independence whether it wants it or not?

So what your saying is the rest of the USA should secede from Puerto Rico.

75 Floccina September 29, 2017 at 11:38 am

Seems to me there has been quite a change, countries used to like to take over other countries and to some extent to get more citizens but we now want to get rid of parts of the country and many want fewer citizens. Seems like a bit of an anti-human attitude.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

76 poorlando September 30, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Letting people govern themselves is antihuman?

77 Art Deco September 28, 2017 at 11:12 am

There are three million people resident in Puerto Rico. That’s adequate for notional sovereignty if a country has a foreign patron.

The real problem with Puerto Rico that’s out of the ordinary would be its low levels of labor mobilization. If you want to correct that problem you have to cut the federal minimum wage applicable there and reduce benefit payments available there to sums about 1/2 the levels available on the mainland and then adjust pari passu with changes in local gdp per capita. The labor market there will take some time to heal – 15 years conservatively. Scrapping regulatory schemes which damage external trade unduly would assist, as would some adjustments in the federal tax regime.

As for the territory’s other problems, a conservatorship would one suspects be necessary. Assemble local governments into federations – a half-dozen cities and a half dozen counties; agglomerate the local police forces into a dozen or so city and county departments; impose updated payments systems; replace the public schools with voucher-funded private schools; scrap local welfare systems apart from Medicaid and some custodial care programs; streamline the tax system and improve tax enforcement; impose haircuts on bondholders; institute a balanced-budget requirement for all authorities; limit mean public sector compensation to no more than 110% of local private sector compensation; make public employees more-or-less terminable at will; replace defined-benefit pensions with defined-contribution schemes, &c.

You might irritate the local politicians so much that they’ll want to leave.

78 Viking September 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm

#3: “The best thing about independence is that the deal might allow a “pure default” by the Puerto Rican government.”

Is that good because Puerto Ricans deserve to be let of the hook for borrowing without making provisions for paying back?
Or is it good, because a “pure default” would nullify any pension obligations?
Or is it good, because a serious bondholder haircut would finally inoculate investors against lending to government?

79 Harun September 28, 2017 at 2:01 pm

I am confused why it would be a big deal if PR people moved to the USA.

80 msgkings September 28, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Because to most of these folks, they are dirty Mexicans

81 Floccina September 29, 2017 at 11:26 am

+1

82 Harun September 28, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Also, Hong Kong was given back to China, and not everyone was granted UK citizenship…they got some weird passport instead.

83 Viking September 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm

My recollection is that HK Citizens were in general offered the UK overseas passport ( https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports ), however, there were certain opportunities to get regular UK passports, and the HKnese never reached their quotas due to lackluster demand.

HK got a raw deal, there were never any carrots and sticks to nudge China to uphold their end of the bargain. The stick could have been getting kicked out of WTO, and re recognition of Taiwan.

In one sense though, the HKnese are responsible for their own misery. They could have chosen to be anglophones instead of Cantonese speakers, and require the PRC overlords to speak English to them, this would allow for some serious stonewalling, if they didn’t have traitors that bent to the Chinese language.

84 The Lunatic September 28, 2017 at 3:43 pm

All talk of a major status change for Puerto Rico is contingent on one of two things:

A) A change in the opinion of Puerto Ricans from what it has consistently been for fifty years, or
B) Forcing more than half of Puerto Ricans to a status they currently object to.

At least statehood has the excuse that a high 40s percentage of Puerto Ricans actually want it. Independence has never managed more than 5% of the vote.

85 Anon September 28, 2017 at 9:36 pm

if we cut welfare entirely, like good libertarians, lots of PR people would be eager to move back to low COL country. 2018 Congress might be conservative enough to make good on this, finally.

The other obvious solution is to re-uathorize poll taxes so only contributors to society can vote. Its ridiculous that welfare leeches can vote themselves more free stuff.

86 Axa September 29, 2017 at 7:40 am

On a second thought………Puerto Rico is a disaster zone: no water, neither electricity.

Puerto Ricans are coming anyway to the continental US, therefore there’s no reason to worry about point #1. It may be already happening.

87 Floccina September 29, 2017 at 11:24 am

Puerto Rico will get over this and will be doing fine again.

Puerto Rico’s median household income was $19,518 during the post-recession period of 2010 to 2012, statistically unchanged from 2007 to 2009.

That is great viewed globally:

The median annual household income worldwide is $9,733, and the median per-capita household income is $2,920, according to new Gallup metrics. Vast differences between more economically developed countries and those with developing or transitional economies illustrate how dramatically spending power varies worldwide. Median per-capita incomes in the top 10 wealthiest populations are more than 50 times those in the 10 poorest populations, all of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

I just gave $20k to help with the famine in Africa, I will not be giveing to Purto Rico becuase people there will soon not be so bad off.

We should celebrate places like Puerto Rico instead of allways comparing them with the very top countries.

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