Being wrong is as natural as standing upright. All of us make mistakes, miss the obvious and make predictions that, in retrospect, were hilariously stupid. I predicted that the neocons, despite their rhetoric, were going to find a Pinochet to install in Baghdad after they ousted Saddam. After all, no one could be so dumb as to think that Western self-government would work in the Arab world. I think a lot of people on the Right look back at the Bush years and wonder how so many could be so wrong about the neocons.
Error is supposed to result in reflection and reconsideration. The only way to learn from a mistake is to actually learn something from it. The take away from the Bush years, for me at least, was that the Buckley Conservatives are yesterday men untethered from reality, so it’s time to go another way. Many reading this learned from the Obama years that democracy is a suicide pact with the dumbest people in your neighborhood. The solutions lie outside the political process. Who knows what we will learn in the Trump years.
One of the remarkable aspects of the managerial class is they don’t seem to learn much from their errors. The neocons are still claiming that elections will somehow turn the Arab world into a membership meeting of The Harmonie Club. After every Muslim atrocity committed in a Western city, the Progressives tell us the solution is more Muslims. Now we have Puerto Rico, which should be the example that puts some reality back into public policy debates, but that will never happen.
Puerto Rico has been a US territory since the Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War. It probably would have been setup as an independent country, but the US Navy thought it was useful and the sugar growers liked being a US territory. Even though it no longer has any value to the Navy and they no longer grow much sugar, Puerto Rico remains a territory. It does have a strong manufacturing base, mostly due its status as a tax haven, but also as the result of US policy to encourage industry on the island.
It was not too long ago that the Official Right was championing Puerto Rico as an example of how fixing the institutions, reforming the economic polices, could fix even the most backward society. It was an obvious ploy to peddle open borders to their voters. After all, if Republicanism could work on the PR’s, it would work on those Mexicans imported into your town. Here’s an old Cal Thomas article talking about the wonderfulness of the Republican governor of the island at the time. I love this quote.
“I think the Republican Party has done an awful job handling this issue,” he says. “It makes no sense for us not to bring more Hispanics into the party because Hispanics are naturally conservative. The tenor of the public discourse surrounding this issue has sounded anti-Hispanic at times.”
What would he recommend to change the tone?
“First, show up; show respect. Most Republican candidates don’t do that. They talk about 15-foot fences and then try to address the issues of greatest concern in the Hispanic community. They are no different from other communities most of the time. On immigration, Republicans say, ‘we want legal immigration and we are the country, thanks to legal immigration,’ so we need to try to address this issue with a different tone than we’ve had so far.”
In case you’re wondering, Luis Fortuna, the subject of that column, now lives in DC at the insider law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The reason for that is those “naturally conservative” Hispanics voted him out of office. Despite all that, Puerto Rico is still Puerto Rico. It has a crime rate higher than every US state, something close to Baltimore. It also has a corruption rate triple the typical US state. In other words, despite the best efforts of the US, Puerto Rico is the product of the people who populate the island.
Now that the island is going bankrupt, it would make sense for the conservative cheerleaders to take stock and maybe reconsider those wonderful economic policies they were sure would fix anything. Similarly, libertarians, who are sure that tinkering with the tax code can fix everything, might want to take a look at Puerto Rico. Of course, that will never happen. Being a public intellectual in the modern era means never having to say you’re sorry for being wrong. Heck, you don’t even have to admit to being wrong.
Our rulers should also reconsider the wisdom of importing tens of millions of Hispanics into America. After all, California turned itself into Puerto Rico demographically and is now on its way to transforming itself into Puerto Rico financially. The underlying premise of open borders is that people are the same everywhere. It is the dirt that makes them into law-abiding, prudent Americans. We have spent a century pouring magic into our Caribbean colony and it is no better than the Dominican Republic.
The island has a per capita debt of $25,000 and per capita GDP of $28,000. Throw in the $16,000 in per capita pension liabilities and you have, well, California. The two biggest financial basket cases in America are also the two greatest examples of the prevailing ruling class orthodoxy. The fact that both are looking a lot like bust outs is probably not a coincidence. You would think some of the people in the political class would take note, but no one will learn anything from the Puerto Rican bankruptcy. They never learn.