Language Economics: Why Santorum’s Argument Doesn’t Translate

Santorum Hispanic Language Economics

In between swapping his iconic sweater vest for skin while sunbathing in Puerto Rico last week, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum added even more divisive rhetoric to his belt when he made the rather factually flawed remark that if the island commonwealth wanted statehood, it must “like any other state…[comply] with this and any other federal law… that English has to be the principal language.”

Economics Language Santorum Photo

Unsurprisingly, Republican Puerto Ricans rejected Santorum and his proposals when they took to the polling stations and voted instead for Mitt Romney, who recently cranked out a TV advertisement en español that featured Governor Luis Fortuno.

While Santorum’s political misstep cost him the 20 delegates the commonwealth has to offer, his factual faux pas translates quite well with the more radical conservative base in big-ticket states like Texas, California, and Arizona—all of which are the most exposed and vocally opposed to Spanish-speaking immigrant populations given the strength and popularity of their respective anti-illegal immigration bills. As such (and as usual), what many may regard as an all-around gaffe, Tea Party conservatives view as a stroke of genius.

Despite having no real basis in constitutional reality, the arguments of those in favor of declaring English the official language of the United States are familiar ones: the language is for all intents and purposes the unofficial one of the country and the many immigrants who moved to the country before the influx of the more Spanish-speaking ilk had to learn English in order to integrate themselves fully within American society. Why then, many “English Only” proponents ask, should “exceptions” be made for job stealing Hispanics?

Prior to globalization, many economists regarded language as an area more specific to the social sciences than their own field of work. But with an increased flow of goods coming from an increased flow of migration and the cultures and languages that comprise them, many have begun to view language in a broader light.


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  1. Madre says:

    Great piece!

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