In comparing Guam and the Virgin Islands, it is worth noting that the Virgin Islands are a far more commonly visited place as far as tourism is concerned than Guam is among American citizens, but Guam has a lot of visitors from Japan and Korea, which might tip the balance a bit given the large number of tourist hotels that cater to such audiences that we have seen. Both Guam and the Virgin Islands are among the territories of the United States that are on the UN list of non-self-governing territories, and for good reason, as neither of them has a territorial constitution (the same is true of American Samoa), unlike the Northern Mariana Islands or Puerto Rico, both of which have territorial constitutions.
In general, though, it appears as if Guam is a more robust and better functioning island than the Virgin Islands despite the broad similarities that exist. One of the aspects that Guam appears to do better at is the task of getting American money. There are several reasons why this is the case and it is worth exploring why this is the case. Both Guam and the Virgin Islands are dependent on government agencies for their income, but the departments are different. Guam, the westernmost territory of the United States, is blessed with large bases for both the Air Force and Navy, and has to deal with the Department of Defense. On the other hand, the Virgin Islands, the easternmost territory of the United States, deals with the Department of the Interior. Which would you guess allows for more money to flow to a territory?
One of the ways in which Guam’s better success at getting federal money can be judged by the tv commercials that frequently run that show the sorts of benefits that apply to the people of Guam–including a $675 monthly child care credit–that the ruling governor and lieutenant governor have made it clear are responsible to their own efforts at getting that federal money and seeking to use it to bolster their own electoral chances. No such bringing home of government benefits was advertised in the Virgin Islands and for good reason, as the Department of the Interior does not have nearly the same sort of dough that the Department of Defense has. It is perhaps unsurprising that even without a territorial constitution, Guam has a vigorous political culture that the Virgin Islands appears to be lacking.
It should be noted that the state of both the Virgin Islands and Guam in being governed by Organic Laws promogulated from the capital is by no means unusual. So it was with the Northwest Territories, whose organic laws, which forbade slavery in the area north of the Ohio River won from Great Britain during the American Revolution at the Treaty of Paris (1783) was one of the few policy successes of the Articles of Confederation period, and was passed by voice vote in the First Congress under the Constitution again, signifying unanimity of support. What is different about Guam and the Virgin Islands is that they have remained at this level for so long, for more than a century, without ever becoming organized territories. And what it would take to get them to the level of organized territories remains unclear.