Without economic freedom there is no freedom

In recent days there have been events that illustrate reasons why there is no climate conducive to development and help us generate wealth. We live in a society plagued with obstacles to the free exercise of economic activity, which makes it difficult for Puerto Ricans to become protagonists of their economic activities and promoters of benefits for all. 

The first event that generates consternation is the urgent claim of the Association of Members of the Medical Cannabis Industry (MICAM) to the Regulatory Board of this product to “close the open call for licenses”. MICAM is concerned that the Board has 311 license applications pending, which, if approved, would “collapse” the activity of existing dispensaries. Unusual, simply unusual. The supposed beneficiaries of the capitalist system and the laissez-faire doctrine that allowed them to enter this business, wince at the “harm” they would face if other entrepreneurs were allowed to do exactly what they were allowed to do. Instead of competing with new market entrants to attract customers, based on their ability to offer a better product at a better price, they pretend to prevail by closing access to progress to other Puerto Ricans. 

Gas station owners who operate motor vehicle inspection centers have taken a similar stance against the free market. This business group achieved the approval of Law 8 of 2002 which, among other things, prohibits the opening of new inspections centers, one in front of another or in the next block. In other words, in Puerto Rico, the State has helped to consolidate the hegemony of the existing centers, instead of protecting the consumer, facilitating the opening of new facilities, so that the public has more options to obtain these services. This action is the opposite of what is supposed to happen in a free market system.


Pretending that the owners of the properties located in Puerta de Tierra cannot dispose of their properties and generate legitimate profits, selling them to whomever they wish and at the prices they deem appropriate, is dangerous, says Carlos Diaz Olivo. (Paul Martinez)

On the other hand, Senator Maria de Lourdes Santiago and Representative Denis Márquez denounced the sale of properties at “inflated” prices in the Puerta de Tierra area to investors benefiting from the old Law 22 of 2014, today Law 60 of 2019. The legislators expressed opposition to the opening, in this area, of establishments aimed at tourism and demanded to stop these sales by eliminating the benefits of this tax legislation. That complaint contains worrying attacks on economic freedom. 

To pretend that the owners of the real estate located in Puerta de Tierra cannot dispose of their properties and generate legitimate profits, selling them to whomever they wish and at the prices they deem appropriate, is dangerous because it violates fundamental rights guaranteed by our legal system. The underlying assumption is that whoever controls the State can prescribe how we can dispose of our assets and may even prohibit or restrict who we can transfer them to and the conditions under which we can do so. This position also promotes division and intolerance in social coexistence, since it belittles and considers certain “foreigners” undesirable, particularly Americans. Its final effect is backwardness and social poverty because, without a free movement of people and products, economic development is not possible. 

As if the insults to our possibilities of full development were not enough, the Municipality of San Juan promotes a new code of public order that would limit the activity of businesses and the sale of drinks in the capital city until 12:00 at night. Once again, it is assumed that allowing the free movement of citizens, the development of their initiative and the exercise of their will as consumers is dangerous and it is up to the State, as the supreme connoisseur of what is correct, to intervene to prohibit it. 

These four examples or modalities of citizen oppression, based on the restriction of the free exercise of our economic activity, make it impossible for Puerto Rico to improve the quality of life and expand the offerings for our population. Without economic freedom, there is no full development, and neither is there political and individual freedom. 

This article was originally published in Spanish at El Nuevo Dia.

Scroll to Top