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Life in a Communist State

June 27, 2018

A few months ago, I went on a vacation in Cuba.  It was actually a bus tour of the island.  During this tour, we heard from a number of Cuban people.  Much of what I learned about life in Cuba came from our tour guide, but we also met a doctor, a tobacco farmer, a guide at a coffee research station, a school principal, and many other ordinary people.

Cuba is following the principles of communism as enumerated by the founders of that ideology.  The economy of Cuba is tightly controlled by the government.  Karl Marx made the famous statement “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”.  That’s what they are trying to accomplish in Cuba.

There are many government companies in Cuba, but few private companies.  These companies provide revenue for the government, either directly or through taxes.

People can purchase subsidized food from government stores, up to the limits stated in their ration books.  If they need more than that, they must purchase it on the open market.  People also get free health care, except that they must purchase their own drugs.  If they can’t afford to pay for drugs, neighbors will contribute towards the purchase.

Farmers must sell 90% of their produce to the government.  They can keep the remainder or sell it on the open market.  I saw cattle grazing on farm land all across Cuba.  I only found out later that the farmers don’t own those cattle.  They also don’t own the trees growing on their land.  They can’t harvest the trees for lumber, unless they fall down naturally.  Hurricane Irma was bountiful for many farmers and small landowners.

Almost everybody is employed in Cuba, with many of them working for the government.  Salaries, however, are quite low.  Not many people want to work in the coffee plantations, regardless of the salary.  The same thing holds for sugar cane plantations and tobacco fields, no doubt.

There are very few private cars in Cuba, mostly because people can’t afford them.  The old cars we saw on the streets were all taxis, part of the tourist industry.  Ordinary people there ride on buses or hitch-hike.  We saw people sheltering from the sun under bridges, waiting for rides.  They generally pay the driver for the ride.

It was only when I returned home, that I realized that I was living in a different world.  We do have some socialist facilities here.  We have free medical care, but most countries have some sort of government-operated medical care.  We also have a great deal of private enterprise.  The mixture of the two works reasonably well.  I was happy to be back home.


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