Founder of Puerto Rico Libertarian Party makes case for independence over statehood

Frank Worley-Lopez (L-PR)

via PanAm Post: 

Independence is the only real option for Puerto Rico. This is not to say that statehood isn’t a valid option, because within the American union statehood represents political equality. The majority of the people of Puerto Rico, however, do not consider themselves “Americans.”

Culture and language aside, the main reason that independence is the best option for Puerto Rico is economic. Under the US flag, as a commonwealth or a state, Puerto Rico is buried under a mountain of federal laws and regulations that inhibit economic growth and forbid the country from experimenting with new economic models and new trade agreements.

While the pro-statehood party will promote the increased money in federal programs Puerto Rico would receive under statehood — which is true — it fails to address the staggering debt burden that the people of Puerto Rico will eventually be required to pay. Today the island territory has its own US$73 billion debt and is not required to pay federal income taxes.

However, as a state the people of the island would be required to pay federal income taxes, and those taxes would increase as the United States’ staggering $18 trillion national debt and $61 trillion total debt starts to bite.

Puerto Rico is currently seeking a bailout from the federal government. If they succeed, other states and jurisdictions will follow suit, significantly increasing the burden in terms of both credit status and actual debt per citizen. Should the US dollar or the global economy collapse under this burden, which many analysts believe is coming, all of the short-term financial gains provided by statehood will evaporate.

Puerto Rico will be left without the promised financial aid of statehood while being stuck with a debt burden of biblical proportions.

The problem with statehood is that it is a short term economic fix that would only increase dependency on federal subsidies, instead of helping Puerto Rico become independently wealthy. Statehood would promote the continued poverty and cultural malaise that comes with a massive welfare state. Yes, it would provide equal representation in Congress, but what about equal representation in the world?

Moreover, independence will free Puerto Rico from the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also referred to as the Jones Act; the previous Jones Act of 1917 granted US citizenship to Puerto Rico). These shipping regulations that require the use of US-flagged vessels and crews, which drive up the cost of shipping goods in and out of the island.

Once freed from this burden, Puerto Rico and its businesses could contract with foreign shipping companies or develop shipping companies of their own, which could then lower consumer prices and create more local jobs.

Independence also allows Puerto Rico to free itself from the suicide pact of the War on Drugs. It allows the rewriting of environmental regulations to actually protect the environment instead of focusing on destroying business, which is what most environmental regulations do today.

There is no question that independence brings great risk and responsibility. However, if done correctly, it could herald a new dawn for the people of Puerto Rico.

Frank Worley-Lopez is one of the two founders of the original Libertarian Party of Puerto Rico and its first state chairman. He is the author of Toy Farm Lemonade, a former radio and TV host, and a former aide to the Puerto Rican Senate. Follow @FrankWorleyPR.

22 thoughts on “Founder of Puerto Rico Libertarian Party makes case for independence over statehood

  1. EJ

    What currency would Puerto Rico use and what would be the exchange rates should Puerto Rico become independent?

  2. paulie

    Why would it have to be just one? There have been countries that have allowed a free market in multiple currencies, and chaos didn’t ensue.

  3. Andy Craig

    They could even continue to use the dollar if they wanted to. Most nations in the Caribbean do, either with a local currency officially pegged at 1:1 and both circulating side-by-side, or by not even having a local currency at all and just using US dollars. It’s not like the US gov’t can do anything to stop them from doing that, nor has it granted any permission for it.

    For the same reason, the “threat” that Scotland would be forbidden from keeping the pound if they voted for independence was a bunch of nonsense.

  4. paulie

    The future of currency is a free market in currencies. Cryptocurrencies, metals, bank- and credit-card issued currencies, corporate stock, store credit, community currencies and labor/skill exchanges, currencies of multiple governments exchanged on an open market… with the spread of information technology, governments won’t be able to successfully suppress currency competition, although they will keep trying.

  5. langa

    Paulie’s right. In fact, I would say the ability to have a more flexible system of currency, instead of being tethered to the dollar, is another argument for, rather than against, full independence.

  6. Luis Pérez

    Abogar por la independencia como via para mejorar la situación de Puerto Rico no da en el blanco sobre el verdadero problema de Puerto Rico. El status no es el problema de Puerto Rico.

  7. George Phillies

    When I ran for National Chair, I urged that the LNC should organize Libertarian Parties in all American Commonwealths and territories. I am happy to see that Puerto Rico has now done this through spontaneous self-organization.

    Also, the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts is trying to reach the Libertarian Party of Puerto Rico directly, but we do not appear to have a valid email address.

  8. Emmanuel Caceres


  9. Andy Craig Post author

    In the Puerto Rico debate, “free association” (a la Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau) is usually treated as a separate position from full-blown independence. I believe one of the referendums they’ve had listed it is as a separate option.

    Under a Compact of Free Association, Puerto Rico would cede defense and much of its international diplomacy to the U.S., and in return get special economic and immigration provisions and allow the continuance of U.S. military bases on their soil. They would be a sovereign nation though, with their own seat at the U.N. and the ability to unilaterally revoke the CFA if they wanted to. It’s basically the “split the difference” solution between the status quo or statehood on the one hand, and complete independence on the other.

    I could be mistaken about this, but I think that’s what he was YELLING about. 😉

  10. langa

    I seriously doubt that either PR or DC will ever be admitted as states, except in the unlikely case that another state manages to secede, and they need a replacement for it. I think the people in charge really like having exactly 50 states. In fact, I think that’s the main reason they agreed to admit AK and HI, so that they would have a nice, round number. It may seem silly, but remember, much of the government’s perceived legitimacy is based on symbolic factors.

  11. Andy Craig

    I agree there is a lot of symbology built up around the number 50, but I don’t think that’s the real hold-up.

    I could see Puerto Rico finally getting it in the next couple of decades. The GOP establishment has pretty firmly swung behind it (and public opinion in PR also seems to have done so), and the Dems have always in theory backed it. There will be some noise and debate, but if push came to shove (i.e. if a sitting President was making a big push for it), then I think the votes would be there in Congress to do it.

    DC is a whole other can of worms. I agree statehood will never happen, and I’m disinclined to think it should happen. The most logical solution- retro-cession in some form to Maryland, if not fully then at least for Congressional voting purposes- has no support in either MD or DC. Since they’ll never get statehood (the U.S. doesn’t do city-states), that pretty much dooms them to putter along with some form of the status quo forever. Which is a shame, because they do have legit complaints, but they’ve fixated on an unreasonable and impossible solution.

    After that, the next possibility is some kind of existing state split. Jefferson (NoCal & Southern Oregon) probably has the best chance of that, and if paired with Puerto Rico and/or DC could serve as a sweetener to balance out the partisan impact for Republicans. But it’s still pretty unlikely, I’d say less than 5% chance of it ever happening.

  12. langa

    The GOP establishment has pretty firmly swung behind it…

    That may be true, but I’m sure it would be far less popular with the xenophobes that still make up a significant portion of the GOP base. And as far as the President making a big push for it, they probably could in theory, but in practice, I doubt it will happen, because it seems like kind of a waste of political capital, with no obvious payoff.

  13. paulie

    My mistake. In that case, while association is marginally better than the status quo, I’d rather see complete independence.

  14. AndyCraig

    2012 was the most recent referendum on the question. It was two-part: first yes/no on keeping the status quo, which No won 54-46. The second part was to pick one of three choices other than the status quo. Statehood got 61.6%, FA got 33.34%, and full-blow independence got just 5.49% These results are contested due to the weird multi-part multiple-choice nature of it, with a lot of blank votes cast on the second part, so any final result will probably have to be an up-or-down vote on just statehood or not. It isn’t clear if that would pass, but I do think it’s trending that way. Independence doesn’t seem to have nearly as much support as it once did, the two main parties respectively favor statehood and the status quo “commonwealth” arrangement.

    Whatever merits I think independence might have, I think their decision should be respected. If they want statehood, I see no reason to deny it to them.,_2012

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