Some of you are old enough to remember the U.S.S.R. and its seemingly endless litany of "5-year plans" that ultimately decimated the economy and led to the collapse of the union into the fragmented republics of today. Ended the Cold War, it did.
The defining characteristics of the old Soviet economy-wrecking process were top-down planning, a complete elimination of entrepreneurial development and a huge black market. Over the past 40 years, Puerto Rico has had a seemingly endless litany of government-sponsored "this year's plans" yoked to increasingly anti-entrepreneurial legislation that has nearly decimated Our economy, while simultaneously creating a huge black market. We're a democracy with an economy run (into the ground) as a communist state.
"Now wait a darn minute, Jenius," some of you might say, "You can't call Us a communist state 'cause We're a capitalist democracy." Semantics. If a man invites a minor to his workplace and then rapes the child, the end result is a crime, right? Now replace "man" with "priest," "minor" with "altar boy" and "workplace" with "church" and the end result is...what? Not a crime? Really?
We call Ourselves a democracy, but Our "leadership" has the almost nil turnover rate of the Politburo. We call Ourselves a capitalist economy, but We have a business creation process that practically bars the creation of new businesses and laws in place that forbid Us from actually engaging in trade with foreign nations. We call Ourselves a capitalist democracy when in fact, We evince every major hallmark of a communist-led stagnant economy.
Face the facts: We are a capitalist economy only to the extent that We have a Constitution that allows free elections to elect the same idiots and an economy that lets dollars buy politicians openly (only We call it "lobbying" and "party support" rather than what it is: bribery.) Other than semantics, the end result is the same: an economy in a downward spiral, sucking worse than ever.
The good thing about this is that the solutions are self-evident (except for statehooders):
1) Stop electing the same idiots: We may be stuck with idiots, but electing new idiots changes the system. At this point, any change has a better possibility of being an improvement than a step backwards. (But then again, never ever underestimate the power of stupidity.)
2) Sweep away legislation that slows down business creation: Most business legislation in Puerto Rico is protectionist, i.e., meant to make it difficult for new businesses to compete with established one. Blame the local business organizations and professional associations like the Centro Unido de Detallistas (whose acronym--CUD--makes perfect reference to them being dumb as cows), the Chamber of Commerce (whose acronym--COC--means they're screwing Us) and the local Bar (who are lawyers...enough said.)
3) Use the Internet to create foreign trade: Let's see the U.S. of part of A. try to keep Us from selling goods and services to the nations of the world. Oh, right! We don't know that there are other nations in the world...
4) Embrace the black market: Not the illegal aspect of it, but the sheer vitality and can-do spirit of it. What has remained of the former U.S.S.R. economy? The black market's ugly side. The truism here is "If you can't beat them, join them...before they take over."
And lest the commonwealthers feel slighted, most of the blame for this crapfest of an economy falls in your bailiwick, since 1952 in fact. So don't go pointing fingers, unless you're looking in the mirror.
The Jenius Has Spoken.
[Update: 20 Sept 2010: John Stossel describes how misguided/crooked politicians are further undermining entrepreneurship in the U.S. of part of A. in order to benefit their established competition, fronted by money-flinging lobbyists. Ah, corruption and communism as evil twins.]