Tag Archives | Puerto Rico

The Opposite of Secession

While secession by U.S. states is often seen as the domain of kooks, America also has an accession movement – and a parallel succession movement that seems to have relatively significant support in its locality and is certainly not treated as kooky.

One of the more significant, but less discussed questions in the last election was the question of Puerto Rican statehood. The matter was put to the island’s inhabitants; 54% of voters said “no” to an up/down question about maintaining the current territorial status. A second question asked about preferred alternatives; a clear majority favored statehood over full independence or some kind independent associative status.

(The formulation and ordering of alternatives is key here, as the three alternatives introduce the possibility of intransitive collective preferences. The coming Scottish independence vote could turn on a turn of phrase.)

The United Nations has long described the U.S. control of Puerto Rico as a form of colonialism, and demanded that the island’s inhabitants be allowed to exercise their rights to sovereignty and self-determination. (Americans tend to laugh off such decisions, but it is a fairly typical exercise at Turtle Bay.)

The Puerto Rican vote raises many interesting questions about accession. First, is a simple majority enough to determine the will of the Puerto Ricans on this matter? Here, the rules of secession are important for determining the rules of accession. Normally, a simple majority, or even a plurality, is good enough for most democratic decisions. However, if those decisions become automatically entrenched (require a supermajority to reverse), they should and generally do require a supermajority to enter as well

If succession is illegal, as Eugene and the Supreme Court have suggested (a matter I will question in subsequent posts), joining the Union as a state is an almost irrevocable […]

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