Annex the Philippines?

In light of the recent vote by the population of Puerto Rico in favor of becoming a full-fledged state, the prospect of the United States of America continuing with its history of admitting new states is once again becoming a reality. However, now that the West has been “won”, outside of Puerto Rico and much less populous U.S. holdings like Guam and American Samoa, and outside of simply taking land by force, the only way of admitting new states would be by annexing countries with existing civil governments through legitimate democratic referendums. In the past, there were movements to legally annex all or part of Mexico and Canada, but both of those countries are so proud of NOT being part of the U.S. that the idea would be laughable at best. There are other possibilities, such as Taiwan: when I was there, I met people who seriously intended to make that island of over 23 million inhabitants into the U.S. state of Formosa. However, despite the fact that the Taiwanese tend to like us more than most, that movement is still very small, and even if it were not, by holding and honoring a referendum in Taiwan to that effect, we would basically be declaring war on China. After Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state (if that ever actually happens), the most likely candidate of becoming the 52nd would be the Republic of the Philippines. Of course, this is strictly theoretical and not very likely to happen, but let’s consider the aspects and implications of the possibility a bit.

Why the Philippines?
Many people in the U.S. do not even know it, but we once controlled the Philippines. In the Spanish-American War of 1898, we took Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines from Spain. While we quickly granted sovereignty to Cuba, to our shame, we immediately forsook our anti-colonial roots and tried to colonize the Philippines. (One excuse for this was our intent to “Christianize” them, even though they were already Catholic.) This led to a series of armed conflicts between our military and Philippine rebels. However, the decades-long American occupation of the Philippines came abruptly to an end as a result of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. In short, we told the Filipinos that we would leave them alone in the future if they would help us fight the Japanese.

Despite this not-so-glamorous history, we currently do have good relations with the Philippines, largely as a result of our cooperation in the Second World War. Also, there is perhaps an even stronger cultural connection there than there is with Puerto Rico: roughly 70% of Filipinos speak English respectably well, compared to about 15% of Puerto Ricans. This English proficiency has led to a high level of cultural connection, with Filipinos appreciating American movies, shows, books, and music even more than people in most other countries. Add to this the fact that the Constitution of the Philippines is written in English and was based upon the Constitution of the United States. As candidates for statehood go, no one else can compare.

(Considering this possibility, some will argue that all we did in our westward expansion was cut up land taken from the natives rather than admitting sovereign states. However, this is not actually true: Texas, California, and Hawaii were all sovereign states prior to being annexed.)

Barriers
Obviously, there are various forces that would discourage such a massive annexation. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Public opinion: Put simply, public opinion in both the Philippines and the United States would most likely be against the measure in the beginning. Despite the friendly feelings that exist, Filipinos still remember that they were once treated as a U.S. colony – with little hope of ever becoming a full-fledged state at the time, despite their population. As for folks in the U.S., the main issue would probably be the expected economic burden, which I will talk more about in a moment.
  • China: The world’s #2 power is currently involved in border disputes with pretty much everyone it could possibly have a border dispute with. The Republic of the Philippines is included in this list, with both countries trying to lay claim to valuable sea property. Long story short, with quite enough tensions between the U.S. and China as things are, we are not be in any hurry to get into an actual border dispute with China. Also, China just might not be all that crazy about our national population suddenly increasing by over 90 million right on its doorstep.
  • Possible inner turmoil: As things are, the Filipinos have to deal with Islamic separatists killing people and generally wreaking havoc, and those problems would become our problems. (One quick fix would be to grant independence to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.)
  • Economic disparity: On average, Filipinos currently live on about one tenth of what we live on in the United States. Of course, making the Philippines a state or states would immediately lead to all kinds of issues such as whether or not the same minimum wage applies, the extent to which Filipinos can collect on federal benefits, etc. Basically, all of the current debates about economic equity and government intervention would suddenly get multiplied.
  • Sharing problems: With our political dysfunction, economic malaise, and fiscal idiocy, we would not exactly be asking the Republic of the Philippines to become a part of a city on a hill. We would have to fix some of our own problems first.
  • Our name: We get away with calling ourselves the United States of America even though we have non-American places like Guam and American Samoa under wing because they are very small and not full-blown states. With the Philippines joining the club, though, we would not be able to get away with that any longer: we would have to change our name to the United States of America and Asia or something to that effect. (And I’m pretty sure that would only contribute to domestic angst over the issue.)

Benefits
It isn’t all bad, though. There are many benefits to be had, even if this scenario is impossible.

For the Philippines…

  • Despite the problems that exist in the U.S., our government is still stabler and less corrupt than that of the Philippines, believe it or not. In many ways, we might be able to improve things there in a relatively short time.
  • Many people throughout the world complain that it is not fair that they cannot vote in U.S. Presidential elections, as the decision affects them too. Well, Filipinos would gain that ability. (And wow! I think we would see a big change in the way elections play out here!)
  • With virtually all political and economic barriers between the two countries suddenly disappearing, both public and private investment in the Philippines would drastically increase, resulting in much-needed infrastructure improvements in a relatively short amount of time.

For the United States…

  • Let’s face it: having anyone vote to become part of the United States again would be a huge moral victory.
  • While suddenly adding over 90 million individuals to your population certainly comes with a lot of potential problems, it also makes you more powerful as a nation.
  • Just as cutting down the economic barriers would be good for the Philippines, it would be good for us too: we would be able to benefit from cheap English-speaking┬álabor and rich natural resources. It would also generally make it easier for us to invest in this quickly growing economy – which could possibly start growing at an even brisker pace if the annexation would have a direct effect on corruption, etc.

Conclusion
So…maybe this will be something to think about once we have decided to pay down our debt, get along with people who feel differently about things, and not completely self-destruct as a country.

A Conservative Argument for Universal Federal Identification

In many ways, the USA is technologically inferior to a number of countries that have significantly lower per capita GDPs. One example would be the fact that Brazil has a federal identification and voting system that blows us away in terms of accuracy and efficiency. This technology gap is not exactly a matter of inability, though: we simply are not willing to implement a better system. For many Americans, the idea of having federally mandated identification seems oppressive and unnecessary. Republicans, with their tendency to oppose any and all expansions of federal power, have a particularly high tendency to bristle at the thought. However, as a pretty conservative person, I actually see a number of benefits that universal identification would have – benefits that any conservative should care about. And by universal identification, I am not talking about a number printed on a piece of cardboard, but modern IC cards tied to a biometric database.

Ending Government Benefit Fraud
I cannot listen to conservative radio pundits without hearing a rant about government benefit fraud. I remember hearing a story about a Massachusetts woman who, after having her FIVE EBT cards confiscated by police, sued them to get the cards returned. There are also frequent complaints about seeing people using EBT cards to buy food as they are buying tobacco products and alcoholic beverages as well. If these instances are as common as conservatives say (and I think they are), there is only one real way to deal with it, and that is by having government benefits tied to a universal identification system that cannot be so easily gamed. If you want to use taxpayer money to buy food, you have to prove that you are who you say you are by presenting a card and a thumbprint. No longer will people be able to have multiple EBT cards.

Ending Government Benefit Waste
Even when people receive government benefits legally, Republicans argue that their need is often exaggerated. As evidence, they point again to the alcohol and tobacco. We already require people to provide identification to purchase such products. With a system of universal federal identification, we can ensure that people on certain government benefit programs are not allowed to buy such products. Some will complain that this is a violation of people’s civil rights, but the fact is that, if you cannot afford to buy your own food, you certainly cannot afford to buy your own carcinogens and addictive substances. This will help to ensure that people on government benefits do not waste their money – thereby (hopefully) helping them improve their economic circumstances. Some may say that this is too much of a “nanny-state” mind frame, but as these people are already on welfare, it is actually the opposite.

Ending Voter Fraud
Democrats tend to be opposed to any measures that might require people to prove that they are who they say they are when it comes to voting. They say that this is because they do not want anyone to be disenfranchised, but the fact is that, when you allow someone to vote illegally, you are effectively disenfranchising someone else who was legally voting the other way. But that’s a tangent. The fact is that voter fraud is a problem – a bigger problem than Democrats want to admit – and Republicans want to do something about it. Well, again, when you have a system that securely ensures that people are who they say they are, voter fraud is not going to be a problem.

Ending Illegal Immigration
As much as we may love the idea of militarizing our southern border, the most effective way to put an end to illegal immigration would be to do the following:

  • Offer a 50% split of fine proceeds to anyone who reports an employer who has hired illegal immigrants.
  • Use the improved biometric identification system to verify the legality of workers.

Do this, and the hiring of illegal immigrants will end virtually overnight. With no jobs and no ability to collect government benefits from a foreign government, why would they come here?

In Conclusion…
I know that conservatives are afraid of the idea of universal federal identification tied to a biometric database. However, I see it not only as a viable solution to these problems, but as the only viable solution to these problems. If it takes a Constitutional amendment, so be it. If we do not undertake such an initiative, I think we will just leave these problems unsolved. As for the possibility of our government abusing the power that such a system would extend, I believe that we could put controls in place to deal with that effectively.