Of Neoliberal Bureaucracies and Micro-Socialism in Puerto Rico

    One of the particular and distinguishing features of Puerto Rican politics is the alignment between colonial status positions and philosophies of socioeconomic orders.  The statehood party tends towards a conservative-republican position, the independent party leans towards a liberal socialist advocacy, while the popular democratic party includes a mix of the two.  Yet, there is no particular reason why social order and political relation should necessarily be correlated.  Ironically, so closely bound are the two in the public mind, that it is quickly presumed each political party will hold a particular 'social order position', whereby each will tend to denigrate that of its contenders, as if the  former would necessarily lead to the latter.   "Don't let socialism enter into the house by the kitchen door", is one such example that has appeared in Congressional debates during the 1970s when debating the purchase of the PRTC.  Socialism is implicitly "bad" because it would lead to independence or (vise versa) the neoliberal order is "evil" because it will lead us to statehood.  In actual practice, statehood has a predominant socialist character, while the active competition between diverse independent groups mark it as more 'neoliberal' than they would care to admit.

    Yet each social order, capitalism and socialism, has their own set of benefits and setbacks that could be targeted to specific social domains in order to minimize their respective losses and maximize their respective gains.   

    For example, socialized medicine is generally "good" because, as any psychologically well-grounded and rational human beings believes, human life is unique and universally valuable.  The price of medicine should not be so unequally distributed in a community that only a few can pay its exorbitant fees, therefore limiting care only to a particular class in that community--usually the middle and upper classes.   (Somewhat ironically, physicians, dentists, and veterinarians often demonstrate a very poor understanding of basic economics.)   If you have ever had to go to a hospital for an emergency, the last thing you would want is to be rejected for lack of insurance, as Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" so eloquently testified.   On the other hand, the neoliberal order (when truly competitive instead of a rhetorical justification for subsidized corporate malfeasance) does lead to dynamic systems with high rates of innovation and 'evolutionary change'--as has been typically the case of the computer industry during the last thirty years or so.  The benefit of true competition, alongside other elements such as interchangeable parts and standardization, in a nearly magical fashion (in hindsight) led to unprecedented and truly new revolutionary products as is the modern computer.  

    Inversely, each side also has their own respective weaknesses.  Being charged a 50% tax (75% total in some cases, if we include the sales tax), as occurs in some socialist countries places clear restrictions on a person's individual resource allocation criteria--particularly troublesome in the case of industrial/technological innovation as some garage companies in Silicon Valley could testify.  (You cannot make creative or innovative decisions  because the state preemptively makes the decisions for you.)  Manuel Castells has shown there were a clear and distinct causes for the creation of the internet in the Soviet Union in spite of its highly talented scientific-technological workforce.  But neoliberalism, on the other hand, also clearly has its flaws. There are certain social realms which simply do not need to undergo  'radical change' and 'constant innovation'--one whose elevated socioeconomic costs of rapid change and continual obsolescence simply overwhelm their general benefits as is again the case with medicine.  According to many physicians and health experts like Johnny Rullan, a great many modern illnesses are preventable simply by eating better and doing more exercise.  In spite of Milton Friedman's suggestion that medical prices would drop while increasing its quality with 'deregulation' and 'competition', the opposite has occurred (price increase)  or simply there has been no change whatsoever.   The notion that a 'bureaucracy' and 'red tape' is only restricted to the public-governmental realm is simply an all-too convenient myth that distorts the reality of actual institutional structures and practices of the corporate world.

    When considered in light of these elements, the problem with the Puerto Rican political culture in its totality is that it is "irrational."  The implicit purpose or function of each social system is not explicitly and objectively analyzed relative to the particular needs, wants, and economic realities of the communities within the island.  This naturally undermines the government's ability to create social structures that are in greater harmony with particular values and needs, resource capabilities, and existing social conditions.  If a socialist countries like China or Norway are willing to undergo a mix of capitalism and socialism to best suit their needs and changing realities, one would think that Puerto Rico would as well.  Certainly we do not want either ONLY one or ONLY the other, but rather opt for the most suitable combination of each which would be appropriate to their respective social niches: the 'perfection of  an imperfect world', as the economist Francisco Catala so admirably writes.  If "imperfections" are naturally built into engineering design to improve their functionality (planar surfaces increase friction, therefore introducing irregularities will increase speed--as is the case with golf balls), then political scientists could follow their lead  as well for the benefit of all.

    Hence it seems more appropriate to subdivide social orders according to respective domains which most closely match their explicit benefits while minimizing their hidden costs, and in the process completely separating these from political status positions.  In other words, the government should create what might be termed 'micro-socialism' in those areas (medicine) where "rapid rates of innovation" (diminishing returns in actual practice) are simply unwarranted visa viz.  their costs (vastly unequal distribution of medical assistance), while encouraging 'micro-liberalism' in those areas (renewable energy) where rapid innovation is highly beneficial and expansion a clear requisite in light of the character of our economy and future threats (increasing cost of petroleum).   

    We should not be tied too strictly to "gringolas" with regard to the amplitude or applicability of diverse social systems, either by avarice, ignorance, or just plain habit.  

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