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Six Weeks of Communists, Libertarians, Capitalists and Socialists

I’ll avoid the conclusions; they are for you to reach. I’ll just present the observations. Over a period of six weeks, I spent my time in roughly equal parts in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Cuba proudly proclaims itself a communist state. For fifty years, it has delighted in being the booger on the lapel of Uncle Sam’s fine and festive coat. Billboards all across the island remind Cubans of their communist and socialist heritage and strength.

The Dominican Republic appears to be as libertarian as any state in our hemisphere. Government regulation is minimal. The regulation that does exist doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced unless it serves to protect the individual rights of those in power. The common man in the D.R. has individual freedom whether he likes it or not.

Puerto Rico is a “possession” of the United States and shares our capitalistic ethos, system of government and economic structure (whether the people want it or not). It is exactly as it is in any other part of the United States except that the climate and geography are completely different, the history and heritage bear little similarity the rest of the U.S., its culture, music, dance, food, etc. are Latin, it is more racially homogenous and the people speak a different language. Other than that, it’s Ames, Iowa all over again.

Here’s what I observed . . .

Communist Cuba – Many if not most buildings are in a state of disrepair. Luxuries many of us take for granted, e.g., SUVs, big screen TVs, high-dollar fashions, etc., are notably missing. My $160 New Balance walking shoes commanded many envious stares and more than a few questions and comments. Children frolicked in the streets happily playing the games Americans used to play fifty years ago. They didn’t seem to need all of the electronic accoutrements our kids demand today. Crime was minimal. The people seemed to be healthy, happy and full of life. I saw no homeless people on the streets. I saw no consequential hunger. In many respects, there was more structure in society, but it was a simpler world.

Libertarian Republica Dominicana – This is Cuba’s next door neighbor. Similar climate, geography and a linked history. The Dominican is the eastern half of the island with Haiti being on its western side. I saw a country with a friendly people. But most of them seemed to be burdened more with the challenges of survival, a burden that weighed heavily on their shoulders. The concentration of wealth was more obvious with a few super-rich and super powerful at the top of the economic pyramid. For the masses, it looked as if every last effort went into satisfying the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Government regulation, laws and enforcement were light by our standards. Driving in the Dominican was anarchy. School buses passed us doing thirty over the posted speed limit with oncoming traffic ahead. Most people couldn’t afford to own cars so they scrimped and saved to buy inexpensive, flimsy motorbikes that lacked the quality necessary to meet even Wal-Mart’s standards. Many of them soon lost their lighting systems. Their owners couldn’t afford to fix them, but that didn’t stop them from riding them full throttle through traffic at night. One lightless bike shot out in front of us one night carrying a fully loaded tank of propane on each side. We swerved into the path of an oncoming truck, the owner of which was hopeful he could soon get his lights fixed. On one three hour drive, we saw no fewer than three freshly overturned vehicles. The people had unabridged personal freedom, but sadly, these freedoms came at the expense of their mortality rates.

Their libertarian leanings meant they weren’t burdened with the constraints of unnecessary and frivolous environmental laws. It looked to me that if they could get a chemical, they were free to use it. The generous owner of the resort in which I was staying was kind enough to let his employees wear inexpensive masks while they blanketed the area with some chemical insecticide. He certainly wasn’t about to infringe upon my freedom to breathe these chemicals. I now check daily to make certain I’m not turning green.

It was interesting to note that the laissez-faire free-for-all has attracted some fast-food and junk food vendors to the Dominican. Whereas diets in Cuba consisted mainly of locally produced foods, Dominicanos had the luxury (when they could afford it) of eating plenty of junk food. Whereas the incidence of obesity in Cuba was close to non-existent, we noticed a higher level in the Dominican. It seems unreasonable to say the excess pounds reflect a higher standard of living, especially when the United Nations “Human Development Index” rates Cuba much higher than the Dominican. (The index is a measure of standard of living taking into account such things as productivity, life expectancy, literacy, health, etc.) I’m more inclined to conclude a libertarian lifestyle gives people the freedom to be fat, but I said I’d leave the conclusions to you.

Capitalist Puerto Rico – Not a lot to say here. You know the drill. This is America. Fast food everywhere. And the bubbafication of America becomes obvious. There are some truly big people in Puerto Rico and I don’t mean tall. How do you explain the change? You know the rest of the story. After all, I already told you it’s Ames, Iowa, just with better dancers. The people are dynamic, fun to be with and seem to enjoy life to the fullest.

There you have it. Volumes can and have been written on these countries, their systems of governance, their histories, successes and failures. Arguments can be made that any one is better or worse than the other. All I’m certain of at this point is there is a little capitalist in all of us. There’s also a little socialist, a little libertarian and a little communist in all of us. The trick is establishing the right balance between them given the prevailing conditions. The answers to the questions are not all clear cut absolutes. The only truism is that in all three places, the people were the same. They were all members of the same human race with the same wants, needs and emotions. They all lived, played, loved and cared for others in the same basic way. It’s a shame we let ideologies get in the way of our humanity.

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2 Responses

  1. Well written and it makes for an interesting dichotomy and discussion.

    Like

  2. Well said! Thanks Allen! 🙂

    Like

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