Individualism is a term that, in our Puerto Rican political and social reality, raises many passions, because it is related to selfishness and considered alien to our culture. This is the hostile characterization that dominates contemporary rhetoric on the island.
However, the results of the Institute for Economic Liberty’s survey The Free Market in Puerto Rico 2022 reflect that, behind that rhetoric, Puerto Ricans are individualists.
Individualism is a defining characteristic of modernity. Previously, in traditional societies, the identity and position of the individual were dictated by a single way of living; but a new moral practice emerged within Western civilization creating the main root of modernity. This root is individualism - the ability of the individual to pursue his desires, his ends, and his moral identity.
The survey results reflect that most Puerto Ricans are modern and see the moral value of this individualism reflected in support for individual liberty and limited government. These results are proof that Puerto Ricans understand that, in order to live in a society of civil association of individuals with different purposes, desires and identities, the role of government must be limited to maintaining a rule of law that allows for the coexistence and cooperation of individuals.
Respondents highlighted the importance of individual freedom to decide what is best for their individual lives and economic circumstances, writes Ojel Rodriguez.
Respondents stressed the importance of individual freedom to decide what is best for their individual lives and economic circumstances. They also stressed that the reality of individualism requires a limited government that places confidence in the ability of Puerto Ricans to manage their own affairs.
The support for individualism in the survey, however, is only reflected within a theoretical and individual framework and not within a public policy framework. The results reveal a very latent thinking in our political culture, which we can summarize in the phrase: the government must act, that is, the tendency to make any problem a social problem and to seek a political solution by the State. In areas related to the economy, most respondents see the free market as the leading actor; but, in many other areas, they favor a mixed responsibility of the free market and the government, denoting resistance to extrapolating individualistic logic to public policy.
This is the greatest challenge revealed by the survey, because the individualistic theoretical and life bases are present, but limited in the realm of government policies. There is a misguided hope that if the government acts in many of these areas, the outcome would be positive for the Island. However, as former President Ronald Reagan said at his inauguration, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.
Solutions lie not in the hands of enlightened bureaucrats, but in individuals pursuing their desires within a state of rules and norms. This survey highlights the need to ground that Puerto Rican individualist base with a practice of individualism in public policy.
This article was originally published in Spanish by El Nuevo Dia