Every few years the issue of Puerto Rican statehood rears its head, giving rise to a great deal of superficially thoughtful discussion about the advantages and disadvantages that statehood would bring to the Puerto Rican people. Approximately half the island’s population seem to have been convinced that statehood is desirable, and the learned seem to think it is only a matter of time until there is a sufficient majority to carry the island into the Union. No one ever seems to discuss whether or not the move would be good for the country as a whole. I submit that it would not. I submit that it would be a disaster of the first order, capable of destroying the entire nation.

Let us assume that Puerto Rico votes to join the union. Does anyone imagine that the vote would be unanimous? What do you think will become of the opponents of statehood after the island gets its own star on the flag? Will they bow to the will of the majority? Maybe, but probably not. What if they do not accept the new order? One really horrible possibility is a Puerto Rican liberation army. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to read in our morning newspapers about the previous day’s efforts to track down and kill a band of “poor peasants who speak no English and whose only crime is a desire to be free.” If you think that scenario unlikely, you have been paying very little attention to the events of the last half of the twentieth century.

Perhaps the opponents of statehood would not turn violent after their loss. Perhaps they might just refuse to give up their efforts to establish an independent Puerto Rico. What if they were to muster enough support to reverse the statehood vote. Would the Puerto Rican people be allowed to vote themselves out of the Union? Eleven States thought they had the right to do that in the nineteenth century. The rest of the States invaded them and disabused them of that notion in a long and bloody war. Supposedly, that war settled forever the issue of a State’s right to leave the Union. There is no such right. If the “State” of Puerto Rico were to decide to leave the Union, would the remaining States invade and beat the “rebels” into submission? Could the United States, in the light of recent world history, manage to keep a culturally different people in the Union against their will? Probably not. Why not just let them go? That, of course, is an option. If they were allowed to leave the Union, would that be a precedent for other States who might be unhappy with their lot?

Unless we want to unravel the United States, it would be a good idea not to offer statehood to Puerto Rico, at least not until all its inhabitants are more familiar with English than Spanish and at least ninety-five percent of them describe themselves as Americans and think of themselves as Puerto Ricans only in the same sense that one thinks of himself as an Iowan or a Minnesotan.