As I sit down at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, after offering a series of conferences, I in turmoil. My beloved island, I think, provokes such conflict in my soul that it is difficult to think clearly. A place of contrast and contradiction, Puerto Rico remains a difficult place to understand and an exemplar of what collectivism does to a nation. At times, as I moved around, my hope for a better future was darkened by a sense of gloom and a painful expectation of individual and collective ill.

The island is about to surpass a historic one thousand murders for the year, mostly due to a drug-traffic war. The Federal authorities are increasingly intervening to try to stop violent crime as the local authorities fail to do it. At the same time, they discovered another corruption scandal where those entrusted with government funds for education stole millions. Forty seven percent live under the poverty threshold while a lifestyle of consumerism and vice is sustained by massive Federal assistance. A young generation is consumed by drug addiction and demoralized by dependency. They see the best among them leave, flying away in search of a better future in America. Many ask for hand-outs at every traffic light while smoking or drinking, obviously under the influence. Demeaning welfare dependency is normalized, with food stamps recipients receiving a credit card they can use even for fast food purchases.

At the same time, politicians constantly advertise their candidacies, vying to control the behemoth enslaving all. Why not? Money flows from America constantly and they want to distribute it, or get their hands on . Just one department of the government there, the Department of Education, has half the funds than the entire budget of the neighboring Dominican Republic but our people remain in a government defined poverty threshold that opens the door to the evil of dependency.

keep typing. It is as if an insurmountable social obstacle prevents an entire group of people from crossing the threshold from serfdom into true liberty. A great wall of government-sustained poverty seems to immobilize us and help us focus on escaping reality and trading our liberty for the mirage of. Poverty there is not about dollars but instead an insatiable appetite for comfort acquired without effort and leading many to vice and sin.

Everything that happens in the island can be summarized by appeals to increased government activity. The Puerto Rican family in shambles, not even a shadow of what it used to be. Mediocrity and sadness seems to hover over the collective mind in the midst of often mind-numbing and senseless celebration. The conflation of government with society is so explicit and so given for granted as everything seems to collapse into the affairs and institutions of the state.

Is there hope?  I want to believe there is hope. A hope that is not a political slogan tying us to government even more but a hope for the victory of liberty. I met some good people, with the same sadness about our future but still dedicated to change things. I met a Catholic bishop, a very good man, trying to lead his flock with love and dedication. A kind and intelligent man, he seemed invested and focused in uplifting people and helping them resist the onslaught of evil engulfing all. My friend “Peco” was there trying to convince people to create avenues to ignite the fire of individual liberty and teach people about the “entrepreneurial vocation.” Together with them, we are thinking about a School for Young Entrepreneurs that will communicate the idea of freedom as a value to help it to flower into free and effective economic activity. We believe that the greatest gift we can offer is to make the government irrelevant in the lives of people.

Many teachers came to me after we discussed Marvin Olasky’s “seven principles of effective compassion” to tell me that we need more of these ideas and that they were trying to live them. An older religious sister asked me about how to communicate these ideas effectively to the parents of her students.

There were men and women working hard and doing their best to preserve their dignity even in the face of powerful contrary influences telling them that giving up pays more.

It is my great desire to help as I can in Puerto Rico and in America to convince our people that there is a better way, the way of freedom. As Milton Friedman taught us, “We are free to choose.” Let us all invest ourselves in communicating the values individuals need to choose the good and fight back the collectivist evil that still has the upper hand.