By all accounts, Hurricane Maria has flattened Puerto Rico more thoroughly than a military attack would have done. The electrical grid, the transportation infrastructure, and even the water distribution system were all but destroyed. The people of Puerto Rico have been cast back in one day to the 19th Century. The island territory will be months recovering to a modicum of civilization. It will be years getting back to something resembling normal. Along those lines, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has one of his big ideas.

Making Puerto Rico better than it was before

One aspect of mass destruction is that it creates the opportunity to replace what was destroyed with something better. After World War II flattened Europe, the Marshall Plan helped to rebuild that part of the continent that was not under Soviet control. To be sure, the reason for spending all that money was to keep the ravaged nations of Western Europe out of the hands of the communists. A happy side effect was to create a vibrant economy that, by the 1960s, came to rival that of the United States.

Gingrich has a similar notion for Puerto Rico. He would like to rebuild the island territory using a combination of Public Money and private investment.

To be sure, the former speaker would spend a lot of money building a new transportation infrastructure and a new electrical grid that has been hardened against natural and human-caused disasters. He also would like to encourage private investment in Puerto Rico, making the island into an enterprise zone and cutting regulations.

Gingrich would repeal the Jones Act that makes shipping things to and from the island more expensive. Gingrich warns that if we are not proactive in rebuilding Puerto Rico, we risk a mass migration of that island’s inhabitants to the American mainland, with all the headaches that imply.

Were some if Puerto Rico’s problems self-inflicted?

President Trump has been excoriated by suggesting that some of Puerto Rico’s problems were self-inflicted. Many in the media found his criticism tone deaf, to put the matter mildly, but NBC News suggests that there is something to it. A mind-blowing $74 billion debt, bureaucratic red tape, and political ineptitude and corruption combined to make a failing economy and a rickety infrastructure that was ripe for collapse as a category 4 hurricane hit.

Gingrich’s plan for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico is sound and common sense. However, such a program would come to naught unless the political culture of the island territory changes. Otherwise, the sane problems that made Puerto Rico so vulnerable will continue to have their corrosive effects.