Friday, August 15, 2008

Castro's "Robbery" of a "Ripe Fruit"

… In the real world, Castro’s Cuba was a concern not because of a military threat, human rights abuse, or dictatorship. Rather, for reasons deeply rooted in American history. In the 1820s, as the takeover of the continent was proceeding apace, Cuba was regarded by the political and economic leadership as the next prize to be won. That is “an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interests of our Union,” the author of the Monroe Doctrine, John Quincy Adams, advised, agreeing with Jefferson and others that Spain should keep sovereignty until the British deterrent faded, and Cuba would fall into US hands by “the laws of political… gravitation,” a “ripe fruit” for harvest, as it did a century ago. By mid-twentieth century, the ripe fruit was highly valued by US agricultural and gambling interests, among others. Castro’s robbery of this US possession was not taken lightly. Worse still, there was a danger of a “domino effect” of development in terms that might be meaningful to suffering people elsewhere – the most successful health services in Latin America, for example. It was feared that Cuba might be one of those “rotten apples” that “spoil the barrel,” a “virus” that might “infect” others, in the terminology favored by planners, who care nothing about crimes, but a lot about demonstration effects. (p. 200)

[The] standard proof that the command economy was a catastrophic failure, demonstrating the superior merits of capitalism… The argument is scarcely more than an intellectual reflex, considered so obviously valid as to pass unnoticed, the presupposition of all further inquiry.

… [To] evaluate the Soviet command economy as compared with the capitalist alternative, we must compare Eastern European countries to others that were like them when the “experiment” with the two development models began. Obviously not the West; one has to go back half a millennium to find a time when it was similar to Eastern Europe. A proper comparison might be Russia and Brazil, or Bulgaria and Guatemala, though that would be unfair to the Communist model, which never had anything remotely like the advantages of the US satellite. If we undertake the rational comparison, we conclude, indeed, that the Communist economic model was a disaster; and the Western one an ever more catastrophic failure. There are nuances and complexities, but the basic conclusions are rather solid.

It is intriguing to see how such elementary points cannot be understood, and to observe the reaction to attempts to explore the issue, which also cannot be understood. The exercise offers some useful lesions about the ideological systems of the free societies. (pp. 201-202, “Goals and Visions” in “Chomsky on Anarchism”)

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