Cuba: A Failed Experiment

Tuesday, December 3, AD 2013

For more than six decades Fidel Castro has been running an anti-Capitalist experiment.  The results should be clear to all except Michael Moore and his ideological think-a-likes.  Michael Totten gives us the grim details:




I walked toward the center of town from the somewhat remote Habana Libre Hotel and found myself the only foreigner in a miles-wide swath of destruction.

I’ve seen cities in the Middle East pulverized by war. I’ve seen cities elsewhere in Latin America stricken with unspeakable squalor and poverty. But nowhere else have I seen such a formerly grandiose city brought as low as Havana. The restored part of town—artifice though it may be—shows all too vividly what the whole thing once looked like.

It was a wealthy European city when it was built. Poor nations do not build capitals that look like Havana. They can’t. Poor nations build Guatemala City and Cairo.

“Havana” Theodore Dalrymple wrote in City Journal, “is like Beirut, without having gone through the civil war to achieve the destruction.” Actually, it’s worse even than that. Beirut pulses with energy. Parts of it are justifiably even a little bit snobbish like Paris. Even its poorest neighborhoods, the ones controlled by Hezbollah, aren’t as gruesome as most of Havana.

Yet the bones of Cuba’s capital are unmatched in our hemisphere. “The Cubans of successive centuries created a harmonious architectural whole almost without equal in the world,” Dalrymple wrote. “There is hardly a building that is wrong, a detail that is superfluous or tasteless. The tiled multicoloration of the Bacardi building, for example, which might be garish elsewhere, is perfectly adapted—natural, one might say—to the Cuban light, climate, and temper. Cuban architects understood the need for air and shade in a climate such as Cuba’s, and they proportioned buildings and rooms accordingly. They created an urban environment that, with its arcades, columns, verandas, and balconies, was elegant, sophisticated, convenient, and joyful.”

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5 Responses to Cuba: A Failed Experiment

  • Donald,

    There is no argument from the Catholic Church’s side. We have formally and completely rejected “Statism” [government control of everything including the economy] Anyone reading the Social Encyclicals in their entirety will come to the same conclusion. I recognize that those still holding to Liberation Theology or interpreting all social teaching through the Populorum Progressio Encyclical (hermeneutic of discontinuity) and so called Catholic progressives in our own country would disagree. However, they are the ones who are not in the ‘mainstream’ of the teaching of the Church.

    Now, the dialogue with Democratic Capitalism and the Free Market [notice it is a dialogue, not a rejection] continues. Critiques made by the Church in social encyclicals or even the brief comments of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium are, and need to be seen, in this light.

    If and when the Church does critique Democratic Capitalism, because it is a flawed human system, just as every other human system is flawed, given the Fallen Nature of ‘man’ in original sin, some people automatically think the Church is praising what even steadfast Free Marketers believe to be the only other alternative [although already ‘tried, measured’ and found wanting’]. It puts the whole Church in the position of what the Church in Latin America experienced: that if you were not ‘with’ the conservative, and in some cases right wing government and its security forces you must be a Marxist and a subversive.

    I believe you would readily say that ‘criticizing’ does not mean ‘rejecting’ etc. am I correct?

    As to Cuba, the sad, poor country of Cuba….in the late fifties, the people of Cuba had two choices, Batista and his fascist like control of the country, backed by Mafia money, and the American government, and the Marxist revolution of Fidel Castro, backed by the Soviet Union in its lust to counter America in every possible Cold War checker game. That was not much of a choice. The Cuban, in fact any form of marxist government, not only will not succeed-it cannot succeed. It denies the dignity of the individual person and his (her) hunger and thirst for truth, justice (the good) and freedom.

    And Cuba today? Why doesn’t America re-establish full political etc ties with Cuba? We had them with the Soviet Union. We have them with the People’s Republic of China. We have them with Vietnam, a much sorer piece of American history. It seems nothing less than hypocrisy, or is it prejudice (?), for America not to do so.

  • Botolph: As to Cuba, the sad, poor country of Cuba….in the late fifties, the people of Cuba had two choices, Batista and his fascist like control of the country, backed by Mafia money, and the American government, and the Marxist revolution of Fidel Castro, backed by the Soviet Union in its lust to counter America in every possible Cold War checker game. That was not much of a choice.” Who in their right mind, either in Cuba or here, would make the same choice again, 50+ years later? Batista looks like quite a deal compared to the greatest-still-barely-living-murderer, Fidel and his cohort.

  • Actually Batista was a political opportunist who had the support of the Cuban Communist party during his first period as President of Cuba in 1940-1944. The US ensured the victory of Castro when it stopped selling arms to Batista in 1958 and imposed an arms embargo on Cuba the same year. After the fall of Batista he was refused entry into the US. The US traded Batista for Castro, a very bad deal for the Cuban people.

  • Poor Cuba. Cubans deserve better. Thomas Jefferson wanted Cuba. the US wanted to buy Cuba from Spain in the latter half of the 19th century. What a shame Spain did not sell it. What a shame Reagan did not blockade Cuba until it collapsed.

    Castro harbors American fugitives from justice and a convicted cop killer, Joanne Chismard.

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I, Pencil

Monday, November 26, AD 2012

The socialists, quasi-socialists and plain old economic illiterates currently at the head of our country could learn a lot by watching the above video of I Pencil and reading the 1958 essay I, Pencil by Leonard E Reed.  Go here to read it.  The complexities of markets can never be commanded by governments, merely distorted or destroyed.  During the hard times that lie ahead in the next four years, remember the pencil!

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Science and Technology in World History

Monday, July 5, AD 2010

Technological history is a unique point of view that always caught my eye.  David Deming of the American Thinker gives us a brief synopsis of his latest contribution in this genre.  Keep in mind how integral Christianity was to the recovery of Europe after the barbarian invasions and the safekeeping of knowledge by the monastic system that allowed Europe to recover and blossom into what we now call Western Civilization:

Both Greece and Rome made significant contributions to Western Civilization.  Greek knowledge was ascendant in philosophy, physics, chemistry, medicine, and mathematics for nearly two thousand years.  The Romans did not have the Greek temperament for philosophy and science, but they had a genius for law and civil administration.  The Romans were also great engineers and builders.  They invented concrete, perfected the arch, and constructed roads and bridges that remain in use today.  But neither the Greeks nor the Romans had much appreciation for technology.  As documented in my book, Science and Technology in World History, Vol. 2, the technological society that transformed the world was conceived by Europeans during the Middle Ages.

Greeks and Romans were notorious in their disdain for technology.  Aristotle noted that to be engaged in the mechanical arts was “illiberal and irksome.”  Seneca infamously characterized invention as something fit only for “the meanest slaves.”  The Roman Emperor Vespasian rejected technological innovation for fear it would lead to unemployment.

Greek and Roman economies were built on slavery.  Strabo described the slave market at Delos as capable of handling the sale of 10,000 slaves a day.  With an abundant supply of manual labor, the Romans had little incentive to develop artificial or mechanical power sources. Technical occupations such as blacksmithing came to be associated with the lower classes.

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2 Responses to Science and Technology in World History

  • The Europeans developed the stirrup which made possible heavy cavalry of armored knights. Before that cavalry rode in on the flanks of infantry and either fired arrows or threw javelins. Then retired. With the stirrup, the knight would remain on his war horse even waffter he skewered his foe.

    In my wasted youth (I was drinking more tha I was thinking) I had to take a course in European history in the Middle Ages. One of the books assigned was on technological developments in the Age. That was Spring 1970.

  • Could this be why BHO has just made ‘reaching out to the Muslim world’ foremost mission for NASA?

    That’s a great idea, they are killing us with low tech, so we should help them acquire high-tech so they can kill us better. Liberals are so smart.

Political Philosophy or Ideology?

Saturday, February 14, AD 2009

While we’re discussing libertarianism and its derivations, Randy Barnett at The Volokh Conspiracy recently flagged a post by a libertarian that I found interesting:

I’ve always found libertarianism to be an attractive political philospohy. But…the libertarian perspective has a couple of traps. The trap Barnett describes is a particularly tough one to get out of: once seduced by a libertarian idea, like “goods and services are produced & distributed more effectively when markets are not interefered with by coercive agents like government”, its apparently obvious correctness turns it into a sort of semantic stop sign.

I went through a phase where if, say, education or healthcare policy came up in conversation, I’d say “Markets! Markets markets markets! MARKETS!” I found these conversations astonishingly unproductive, but I didn’t think to blame myself.

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