Acadia University, Canada
At the outset, it should be indicated that I am a West Indian (Jamaican) and a strong supporter of independence. However, as an economist, I think it necessary to indicate that there are certain fallacies which appear to prevail in logic and methodology utilized by Mr. Reckord in his FORUM contribution, High Season 1967. Firstly, it is necessary to indicate that Puerto Rico’s recent economic development is not accepted as an economic success only in those quarters where as he asserts there is a double standard in the measure of black and white economic development.
The Puerto Rican economic development defined in terms of per capita income, and many other economic indicators, is unquestionably an economic success based on prior or immediate post World War II conditions.
This success is self-evident without having any undertone of a racial bias. There are many white countries which would have liked to have enjoyed a parallel rate of growth, and its present standard of living.
To assert that Americans have come to think of black as destined to inferiority and blacks on the whole to have accepted this status is far too sweeping a statement; which does not reflect the recent mood either of the militant negro, or some of the strides being made to alleviate some of the problems.
(The causes of the civil rights movement have been espoused by many respected citizens in our society.)
Of course, the unemployment rate may lie between 12 to 15% for coloured people in Puerto Rico, but I daresay this percentage would perhaps apply for most underdeveloped countries – white or black. One reason why it might not show up so readily for some of the other countries is due to the lack of a proper set of statistics, a condition which Puerto Rico has in great measure eradicated.
Now, this is not to indicate that I support having a 12% unemployment rate; of course not, but rather that arguments or hypotheses which are developed which takes this as an ‘a priori’ condition conjointly with a racial variable (blacks) will in all likelihood not produce the type of synthesis one expects. Economic development, I contend, has to be assessed within its own framework which has an underlying notion of welfare maximization. The attempt to incorporate into one ‘level’ the three variables political, economic, and social, plus a ‘racial variable makes any analysis suspect.
For example, as implicitly indicated in his final paragraph on page 67, a programme of limited expropriation while it might have an initial attraction could lead to much greater hardships for the very individuals for whom the action was taken for in the first place. In other words, expropriation based on a racial pretext could be a two-edged sword. Further, expropriation might very well be punitive to some of those very people whom you infer should own the industries – namely, the middle class investor.
There has also been a failure to give adequate cognisance to the fact that each country has a government which can pass the necessary legislation to restrain certain types of behaviour by an international firm without resorting to nationalisation. Too often this aspect is not given enough attention, though I am sure this criticism would not apply to Barry Record who like myself has been witnessing a prolonged and sometimes heated debate of the problem of foreign ownership of industry as it applies to the Canadian economy.
It should also be borne in mind that we have been witnessing a dual phenomenon, namely, one trend whereby a host of countries are seeking and obtaining independence and a ‘reverse’ trend whereby countries are trying to form common markets or trade blocs. But the latter process by its very nature will to some extent circumscribe the policies of a country.
In conclusion, it is to be noted that while racism is a fact, (whether it be colour, religion, or some other identifiable feature), nonetheless the world has ‘shrunk’, due to the great strides in communication technology, and thus makes the Caribbean Area somewhat closely related to North America as a matter of fact. The evolving economic development of the Caribbean region will, therefore, take on some of the colouration of that of North America. This need not, however, create undue alarm as even a cursory examination of the North American economy today shows that it is significantly different from that of the turn of the century, or even since World War II.