Friday, August 01, 2008


Puerto Rico is a place where stereotypes of a welfare society or better yet, “social dependency”, are common and can be seen daily in public. It is very common to see a young woman followed by a cortege of children stocked with foodstuffs of little nutritional value at the cash register line in your average supermarket.

It is common to see a public employee working alone in some ditch while three or four “supervisors” or co-workers hang around drinking coffee or talking on their cell phones. It is not uncommon to see in neighborhoods known as “poor”, such as La Perla, new cars and satellite dishes in almost every roof.

Closed government institutions and museums, when tourist guides say they are open, are also common. In those institutions, the sense of service to clients, and even in the best hotels, is a sense of service in reverse. That is, the employee is not at the service of the consumer but the service is at the service of the employee. In other words, the goal is not the satisfaction of the consumer but a means, a bother that needs to be put up with in order to keep the job.

The welfare system completes itself in a cycle of elections, government, partisan unions and economic dependence on the federal system of the United States, or better said dependency on North American taxpayers.

That system makes possible that those who could have more children do not and those that shouldn’t do so at the expense of those that can. Even if you plan your family you end up paying for the rearing of children that are not yours. The responsible citizen ends up with a family known to him and an extended family he doesn’t know and yet supports financially.

This system is a vicious circle without apparent end and logic, except for that of self-preservation which leads to the irrational impression that a third of the employed population works in government, a third are retired from government and the last third lives from the first two. In reality, the portion that works and lives paying taxes to upkeep this system in the island, is growing smaller while employment in the private sector decreases with an increase in the closings and flight of large businesses.

The social fabric suffers when a large part of the population grows under a system of values which holds a notion that they are equally entitled to what others obtain by their own efforts. New generations growing under that system remain straggling in dependence, partly due to cycles of bad nutrition, poor education and self-expectations.

That system provokes a general sense of social insecurity, violent crimes, lack of civism, lack of care for public property and public spaces, trash everywhere, brain drain and flight of talents, employment and government inefficiency based on jobs distributed according to politics and not merit, lassitude and indolence.

Recently, while the national historical archives were closed for lack of maintenance in the air conditioning system, the greatest debate on the radio waves was the “debacle” of not having won “Miss Puerto Rico”. Notable exceptions to the carelessness of the cultural patrimony by the government are those efforts by private citizens such as The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, and the historical reenactment group the Fixed Regiment of Puerto Rico.

What is the future? In recent visits to Puerto Rico candidates Clinton and Obama offered Puerto Ricans more entitlements and the local politicians, who have become the dominant class administering that system, rejoice. What about the government? In bankruptcy.

The people of Puerto Rico are strong, hardworking, resistant, diverse, its graduates and professionals and their talents are highly valued. Its lineage has synthesized the best of three races and four cultures. But whoever wants to see what a welfare state does to a people must study “Puerto Rico Welfare USA, and its new extended family.

Spanish version


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