13 Comments
Feb 5Liked by Rasheed Griffith

I like a lot of these ideas, especially dollarization. One aspect I'd change though is underpinning these ideas as a contest between socialism and libertarianism. I think that's misguided. There is likely to be a need for a social component to these nations as a number of forces create volatility (tourism cycles, natural factors, and quality of leadership when working with small pools).

A number of your suggestions feel like they work to acknowledge that these nations are not in full control of their destinies, and that the fictions they create to pretend that they are do more harm than good. Local currencies don't reduce their dependence on the dollar, they just create additional frictions and new opportunities to make fiscal errors. Excluding non-local talent does not make them self sufficient, but instead exposes them to cyclical and random perturbations in their own talent pool, which by it's second order effects undermines the creation of institutions that maintain a predictable talent pool, which exacerbates the first problem further.

It's probably a bit down the road, but I'd suggest if you had some success here, you'd also want some kind of socialization of risk across a wider area, or with external support. To some degree that's already the case (external support), in an an effectual way, when disaster's occur, there is outside support that comes, but it's incomplete, non-explicit and subject to the vagaries of individual choice and the public opinion in those external areas.

There's another side effect of not delivering these ideas as a libertarian conquering of socialism, but rather an an acceptance and formalization of what's currently a de-facto but broken federalism, is that you won't be placing your ideas in opposition to the remnants of ideological socialism that definitely is still an influence.

In a short form, the cure to ideological socialism is not ideological libertarianism, and what in some way is most necessary is the removal of fictions of independence. In some cases, that would mean acknowledging dependence on the United States and International community, and in some cases it would mean building more interstate connections

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Rasheed, thank you for such an interesting Substack. Definitely subscribing.

First, some disclosure: I am profoundly ignorant about much of the Caribbean. I live on, I understand, a fairly atypical island, Saba, and have only lived here for 10 years. Most of my travel to other Caribbean islands has been to other Dutch islands (St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Bonaire), and that has been as a tourist. So take what I'm gonna say here with that in mind.

Something that strikes me about the observation on preferences for socialist styles in governance vs. libertarian ones throughout the Caribbean that you mention is that, as someone who moved here from the USA, I definitely notice this, too. But I wonder about whether there are deep practical reasons to have a socialist-inclined political psychology in the Caribbean, both historically and in the present day.

First off, in the present: You note that we're all a bunch of small communities, more aware of our lack of control over our destiny than larger nations are. Not only can we get pushed around by other countries, but we are much more subject to the caprice of weather than big countries with a lot of land mass are. This makes community-mindedness a necessary practical good in a way it isn't in the bigger places. For instance, if a hurricane looks like it's coming, it's in everyone's interest to clean the debris out of the yard of the slacker who refuses to do so on his own: It may not be fair, but that won't stop crap from his yard from damaging my house when the storm comes in. Relatedly, we're all going to be a lot less likely to say "well, it's his right to keep his yard the way he wants" when we know the costs that could have to everyone else. Also, we are all living in small communities, where neighbors know each other much better than they do in larger places (at least in my experience.) I think it's human nature that people want to help their neighbors in a time of need—even at their own significant expense—but are less inclined to want to help strangers who are needy, or even inclined to feel like strangers in a bad situation are responsible for it in some way, and therefore individually responsible for pulling themselves out. Right now, it seems to me, that basically everyone in the United States are strangers to each other—but I feel like I’m a neighbor to everyone on Saba, even the people I have the most negativity towards. I think that those feelings of neighborliness/we’re-all-in-this-together naturally lend themselves to socialist political leanings, while feelings of individualism/everyone-is-a-stranger naturally lend themselves to more libertarian political leanings.

Also on a personal socialist practical note, I must say I’m a huge fan of the largesse the Netherlands throws at Saba. Thanks for the buried power lines, solar field, healthcare, after-school programs, art programs, and nature conservation programs, Dutch taxpayers! There is no way that our tiny island would be able to have such nice things left on our own.

Also, historically, it seems that mutual support would have been even more important for survival on islands. Even the wealthiest person could lose everything from a hurricane or a drought, and would then have to rely on the charity of their neighbors for basic needs. I think that this is less the case for people living on the mainland in the past.

Another thing historically that I think might contribute to socialist leanings now in the Caribbean is the history of slavery, which I think might have played out differently here than it did in the much more libertarian-leaning United States, in part because people are isolated on islands.

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Feb 7Liked by Rasheed Griffith

I didn't know about these long-ruling Caribbean governments

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Feb 2Liked by Rasheed Griffith

Terrific write-up! I'm looking forward to reading more from you.

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what are the most effective ways to substitute for imported fuel?

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Is there, in fact, a Caribbean think tank? Or, is this speculative—or perhaps, a pitch document?

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