links for 2008-02-20
Jim Hamilton Welcomes the Rising Price of Oil

Los Gusanos--the Worms--Infest the Comment Section Tonight...

Ah. The Fidel Castro fans are out in force, I see:

Bloix: Let's do a thought experiment: Imagine that the year is 1960 and that you are a soul about to be inspirited into a foetus about to be born. God gives you a choice: you may become the son or daughter of a poor rural woman in either Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, or the Dominican Republic. What would you choose?

Reply #1: That is the wrong comparison: Cuba in 1960 is like Costa Rica, northern Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Portugal. The fact that you today think of Cuba as to be plaed in the same basket as Guatemala, Haiti, or the Dominican Republic is Castro's doing, and is worth thinking about. The normal course of development should have given Cuba today the wealth, freedom, and health that Costa Rica, northern Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Portugal possess. It has only the health--and perhaps not even that. The only excuse for breaking eggs is if you manage to make a tasty omelette.

prov: Too bad for an academic like you using such a language. you clearly depict the other side of the communist coin that of brutal capitalism, of dictatorships in Latin America etc.. Too bad taking an extreme position in an issue that must always be addressed in a more serious way. Too bad that you used Rosa's words to support you anti communist feelings

Reply #2: So it's forbidden to use Rosa Luxemburg's words to support her anti-Leninist feelings?

Ken Houghton: Model that one up and show me the results. Your major local trading partner when you were run by a Mob-backed dictator unilaterally refuses to buy your goods, or to import anything to you...

Reply #3: You know, there is something very wrong with an argument that goes (a) Leninist centrally-planned communism is necessary because market exchange is inherently exploitative an destructive, and (b) it's not Castro's fault Cuba's economy is in the toilet--America won't trade with it. That simply does not compute.

dsquared: I'm not getting this Brad. At precisely which point after the Cuban revolution would it have made sense for Cuba to decide to switch allegiances, throw itself open to American capitalism and step onto the development path of Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean and Central American quasi-colonies? Or is the idea that Castro should have tried to start a revolution in a banana republic in the backyard of a superpower without any support from the other superpower? Or that all things considered, life under Batista wasn't so bad and the Cubans ought to have toughed it out for another forty years?...

Reply #4: Stepping, at any point, onto a eurocommunist development path would have been fine. Stepping back onto the development path Cuba had been on--Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, etc.--would have been even better. Stepping onto the southern European Italian, Portuguese, or post-Franco Spanish development path would have really good. But any of those would have rapidly meant an end to the dictatorship of the Castro brothers.

One Salient Oversight: Was Castro good or bad? He was both. Forget for a moment the brutality of his regime, especially in the early days. Instead focus upon what the nation has achieved since he took power. The United Nations Human Development Index has Cuba at a respectable 0.838 - a number higher than Mexico and can be defined as a nation with "High Human Development". If this increase in standards of living continues for another 10-20 years, Cuba will be considered a "First World Nation". I'm not going to defend Castro's sins. He did, however, prove to the world that Communism could improve the living standards of its citizens

See Reply #1

Jessica: Cuba is certainly something there are intensely felt emotions about on all sides. I would not put Castro in a class with Stalin at all. Nor with Mother Theresa. Best comparisons would be Muhammed Ali of 19th century Egypt. Some elements of Menachim Begin/Ariel Sharon.... Castro's choice for the Soviet economic model turned out very poorly. But this was not at all obvious back when he was making that choice (and making it under severe pressure). Back then, North Korea was economically in far better shape than South Korea. (I know it's hard to believe, but that was the world in which Castro made his choices.) And once that die was cast, I don't see where Castro ever had a chance to switch directions without risking not only US invasion, but vindictive and brutal US invasion...

Reply #5: Muhammed Ali of Egypt did not know that democracy was possible, and so cannot be blamed for not instituting it. Menachim Begin and Ariel Sharon held elections. History will judge Fidel Castro much more harshly than them, I think--most of all because he made the choice of political strategy, he did not let the people of Cuba make that choice. As to when Fidel could have switched to a eurocommunist or social-democratic model without immediately losing his head--well, 1968 with Dubcek, or 1975 with Sadat, or anytime in the Carter administration, certainly.

Neal: Freedom and elections are fine sentiments for the comfortable--as long as you have enough to eat.

No reponse seems possible

James Killus: The last time I calculated the difference between infant mortality in Cuba vs the average in Latin America, it amounted to something like 3,000 per year infants that did not die in Cuba, but would have had they been born elsewhere in Latin America. Apparently the "stupidest man alive" contender thinks that this amounts to something. Apparently, smarter men do not believe it does.

See Reply #1