A Vision for a New Puerto Rico
Español I recently had a discussion with a friend on Twitter regarding the kind of republic that would be created under my proposal for Puerto Rico. Specifically, he wanted to know about the rights and protections offered by government under the plan. It made me think that it might be time to update my readers on what it is that I am proposing, and why it’s better than the current commonwealth or statehood.
First, let’s be honest. Statehood for Puerto Rico would bring legal equality: full voting rights and representation in Congress, and even more funds than the island currently receives. Despite a staggering US$21 billion per year, the island is still considered the poorest jurisdiction under the US flag by most accounts.
Roughly half of that money is in direct payments to individuals (see page 27 at the bottom of this document for the totals for Puerto Rico in fiscal year 2010). Mississippi, with a slightly higher population of around 4 million people, receives US$31 billion. Therefore, under statehood, the island could theoretically see an increase of up to 30 percent in federal spending for as long as that lasts.
Under my proposal, many of the programs paid for by US taxpayers would either go away completely or would be replaced by an economically sustainable system. My use of the word “sustainable” should not be misinterpreted as a socialist catch phrase. I mean a system based on actual earnings and profits, as opposed to a system based on regulation.
What Would Government Look Like?
For starters, my proposal includes a four-branch government: executive, legislative, courts, and a governing board. The board would have two primary functions: operate a government for profit, and provide oversight over the other branches of government. It is a nonpartisan organization where members have to sever all ties with political parties and will face felony charges if they violate this rule, even after they leave office. The justice secretary and comptroller would fall under the jurisdiction of this board and out of the hands of elected officials and political parties in order to ensure a more balanced approach to prosecuting corruption.
The presidency and the courts would also be a nonpartisan offices, but political parties would still have candidates in the legislature and municipal governments.
The governing board would also manage a national investment trust. A percentage of profits from vice activity, and initially some tax revenue, would be put into the trust to be invested in a wide variety of instruments, including stocks, bonds, precious metals, commodities, currencies, research and development, and venture capital, to name a few. From these direct and indirect earnings, citizens or “members” of the country and trust would receive payments.
For more information on this system, you can read my previous article detailing one version. Most important, this system would eventually lead to the elimination of all taxes.
Rights and Responsibilities
The new country would guarantee what we have become accustomed to in Western democracies in terms of rights, and some new ones would be added as well. Rights to free speech, religion, press, peaceful assembly, and petition would be protected. New rights would include protection from losing property under eminent domain for the profit of others or tax revenues derived from those activities. In other words, government would be prohibited from taking your home to build a shopping mall.
In the wake of the NSA scandals, I made sure to include protection from government monitoring of private electronic conversations and files. While reemphasizing the right to be “free from unreasonable search and seizure,” I have also included a clearer definition of what constitutes “unreasonable” and added private electronic communications to the list of things government would not touch.
Marriage equality for all is protected under the free association clause. This includes protection from coerced association, making the new country a “right to work” country, so that union membership cannot be a condition of employment. Unions would also be prohibited in all government services and primary services like water, energy, ports, and hospitals.
The new country also constitutionally guarantees the right to keep and bear arms and self-defense. However, as an added responsibility, those who have weapons have to agree to use them in either the defense of the republic (militia) or as auxiliary police officers. The theme of rights and responsibilities as a unified concept, instead of separate issues, runs continuously throughout the document.
Part of the way government services are maintained is through a service requirement in exchange for credits or “shares” of the national trust. The system is voluntary, in that if you don’t want to give service, you don’t have too. However, if you don’t, you cannot receive payments from the trust or any assistance from government should you find yourself in a financial crisis. This part-time service (similar to National Guard or reserve duty hours) also keeps the cost of government down.
Government’s permanent workforce would be reduced by as much as 50 percent. People would only be required to provide service for four to eight years, a couple of days a month, in order to be fully “invested” in the system.
Dealing with Puerto Rico’s Crime
This new nation’s system could be described as being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. This definition also fits how we would deal with crime and punishment. Mandatory work programs, a swift death penalty, and civil fines for crimes would all be included in our anti-crime program.
Yet, keeping with the socially liberal side of this equation, vices, like prostitution or gambling, would be legalized in red-light districts. Instead of continuing a senseless war on drugs, this proposal would legalize drugs, as well as prostitution and gambling, in specifically designated districts. Those who wish to engage in such foolishness will have a designated place to do so. Such legalization would help eliminate the primary cause of most of the murders on the island and most sources of corruption.
Crime prevention will be focused on violent crime and crimes against property. Statutory crime would be eliminated for the most part.
People who own weapons would be part of the police force. Any time, day or night, that they are outside their home and witness a crime in progress, they will have the authority — and the duty — to intervene. This in essence puts a plain clothes police officer on every street 24/7/365. However, instead of that police officer being part of an organization that is separate from you, that police officer is you, your neighbor, and your friend. For the first time in recent Puerto Rican history, the “good guys” would outnumber the ‘”bad guys” on the street.
Among the new industries this new country would work to develop is a true government-free internet network. Under the authority of the sovereign government, we would create a commercial, privacy-protected, encrypted data network. While some of these are around now, they exist as “darknets” and do not have the protection of a sovereign government. In fact, privacy in communications and online systems is usually the enemy of government; here, it would be an asset.
Another opportunity is the creation of a new virtual currency to compete with bitcoin. The difference is that this currency would be the official currency of the new country, and would be a hybrid of crypto and fiat currency. Our currency would only be issued based on holdings in the national trust, so that it maintains a true value. However, the value of the currency would be allowed to float, so that it could take advantage of market forces.
Imagine buying into a virtual currency where the money you spend goes toward purchasing financial instruments to support the value of that currency, and being paid interest for your purchase of the currency. This element alone could produce tens of millions, if not billions, of dollars for the new government over time.
Limited Regulations, Freer Markets
The new government would go through all current federal, state, and local laws and repeal the vast majority of them. Taxes would be streamlined and reduced. Outside of the limited industries directly involved in the national trust, the economy would function as a simplified free-market system.
Private property rights would be guaranteed; business owners would be free to try new models without permission from government, and going into business would involve a single page of government paperwork or less. Business owners would not have to go through extensive paperwork, regulations, or payments systems in order to stay in business. They would also face limited liability from lawsuits due to the simplified system.
The entire system is based on some simple common sense and real world experience. It is not a utopia. That bears repeating: this is not a perfect system. It is intended to be a better system, and one that works within the reality in which we live.
It is time for us to take the steps necessary to make the world the kind of place we want to live in. We’ve got the plan; the only thing missing is you.