First You Get the Sugar, then You get the Power

Today’s revealing quote, from the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce in NYC in 1930.

There is no great aggregation of American capital in the Philippines like there is in Porto Rico, Hawaii, and in Cuba. To attack the sugars coming from those quarters would be to invite the hostility of powerful interests. The Philippines are weak and relatively defenseless, and therefore were singled out for attack.

I found this in the Senate deliberations on Philippine independence in January 1930. “Single out for attack” here means “propose to grant independence to.” It’s so deliciously (ha!) revealing because it demonstrates a critical point about Philippine independence. It’s widely accepted that the U.S. sugar industry was instrumental in advocating for Philippine independence, but that doesn’t explain the whole story because you’d imagine that they’d advocate for the independence of PR and Hawaii too. They were key sugar producers too, with their own independence movements:

Statistics on Sugar Production and Export

My argument is that it’s not about the exports, per se, it’s about the ownership structure of the export industries. (Other export industries mattered too.) I’m writing a paper about this right now, so this is a wonderful and timely find.

As Homer knows, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you advocate for the independence of your competitors so that you can slap tariffs barriers on them.

First you get the sugar, then you get the power…