Doctor Science Knows

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Socialism, capitalism, Cuba

hilzoy quite reasonably asked Who Is This "Hard Left" Of Whom You Speak? -- because it is ludicrous to say Obama is part of any hard left, and yet they keep doing it. I wrote:

It seem to me that what McCarthy, Brett, et al. call the "hard left" are the left-wing authoritarians, corresponding to the right-wing authoritarians of the "hard right". Bob Altemeyer has looked for left-wing authoritarians in his studies, but he hasn't found statistically significant numbers of them over the past 20 years or so. Which is pretty much what people are saying in this thread.

There are *plenty* of people to the left of Obama, but they aren't the "hard left" because their style is anti-authoriarian and thus "soft", even when they're *way* left.

I don't know of any good history or study of why the LWAs withered away, but wither they did.

Public health in Cuba:

Best hurricane response system. In the past decade, a total of 22 hurricane-related deaths -- and Cuba gets a *lot* of hurricanes.

Cuban health markers are essentially the same as those in the United States and other parts of the industrialized world.

IMHO these are two of the reasons Castro is still in power: the government actually takes care of the people on the most basic level.


Proper morality will protect the weaker from the stronger only because it's protecting everybody from everybody.

Only one truly socialist country is being invoked in this discussion: Cuba. As the public health cites I found show, Cuba has a remarkable and even admirable success at protecting its people from the most pervasive dangers humans face: disease and forces of nature. In what way is this not "doing better" than capitalist countries? I'm not saying life and health are the *only* good things, but without them the other stuff becomes secondary.

No-one in Cuba is wealthy; no-one in Cuba is starving. The Cubans are quite aware that this makes their median lifestyle much better than that in other Caribbean countries, and in many ways better than in the US.

To forestall an objection I suspect Brett will make: but Cubans are in prison! they can't leave!

IMHO to most Cubans, they aren't in prison, they're in this together. It's not that some people can't leave, it's that no-one gets to run away from their mutual responsibilities.

No, Brett, as I was saying: it forbids people to leave, because those who do would be running away from their responsibilities.

*Most* Cubans are better off in really basic ways than if Cuba were a strictly capitalist country. *Some* Cubans think that they personally would be better off under capitalism, even if everybody else would be worse off.

It's like a traditional extended family: it works because everyone's in it together, and that means some people have to stay in the family even when they want to be the prodigal son. And from the perspective of that tradition, the son who wants to run away to find his fortune in the big city (and not share it with the family) is a self-centered, irresponsible jerk.

I'm not actually saying Cuba's socialism is perfect. But I'm saying that it is not an obviously unreasonable system: it *really* works in crucial ways, and for the vast majority of Cubans it probably seems like a pretty good deal.

Look at it this way: Hurricane Ivan came roaring straight off the ocean, bounced all the way along the spine of Cuba -- and only 4 people died. And the Cubans were *shocked* that the death toll was so high. Why would they want to move to the land of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina?

@nothingforducks: yes, you understand me correctly. I was trying to explain how things might appear to people in Cuba, and that a belief that Leaving the country you were born in is "running away from your responsibilities" and the state is like a "traditional extended family" are quite conservative and traditional approaches, in the broad scheme of things.

I am not talking about my own political philosophy, but about how it is reasonable for most people in Cuba to feel.

I disagree, Gary, that I am "romanticizing" -- I'm pointing out that there is hard actuarial evidence that Cuba isn't "a failure" compared to capitalist countries in its region. To assume that Cubans should care more about their principles than about their health and well-being, *that* it romanticizing.

I got my I-hurricanes mixed up -- I was thinking of Ike, not Ivan.

US hubris certainly had a lot to do with the disaster of Katrina, but not everything -- and you're disregarding Andrew, Ike, and the rest. As the wiki link says, Cuba evacuated about 10% of its population for Ike (more than a million out of 11 million) -- Cuban disaster planning is widely acknowledged as the best in the world.

My point is that what GoodOleBoy calls "the prison of mediocrity" is measurably -- rationally -- a better place to live for most of the population.


Oh, so you're a mindreader. This is one of the most condescending things I've ever read.

Good heavens, do you even believe what you're saying? It's not "mind-reading" to talk about what reasonable and prudent (or frightened, or angry, or happy) people are likely to do in particular circumstances -- except in the way that all human interactions involve trying to read other people's minds, and thus give philosophers a job.*g*

And I hardly see it as "condescending" to assume that Cubans are just as interested in health and life as my ancestors, who left Germany, Sweden, and Ireland for the US not out of some generalized ambition, but because staying at home involved things like "desperate poverty" and "being shot at".

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