ECONOMY WITH FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY.
Cuba finds itself in a middle of a dilemma. Structural changes are needed and the fear of change paralyzes everything. Cuba is in a middle of a terminal economic crisis and it doesn’t want to open up itself to political changes. There is a reluctance to transfer the power even if the price for Cuba is not to have and not to be. Cuba is in labor and it does not know for sure what it’s going to give birth to: it does not know either how the delivery is going to be because the gynecologists and the obstetricians don’t reach an agreement. Ones are afraid the child will die and the others are afraid the mother will die. Ones want to save the parents and the others want a new child to come into the light.
The worst thing is that time is over for everyone. “The time to go around the precipice is over” as it has been officially acknowledged.
Facing this gestation which has been wished, expected and delayed for a long time, the government has decided to undertake limited economic reforms but not to open up the legal framework for the right of ownership, wide and decisive enterprise agency or civic and political liberties.
The urgency of the crisis, the weakness of the proposals and the self-willed delay should not paralyze the citizens who embrace any way of thinking, creating, believing, acting; the citizens who embrace any philosophical or political trend in any geographic place we are. Cuba is the one that is at stake: its identity, its sovereignty, its future and its progress.
Many persons complain but a few are willing to generate thinking for Cuba, viable scenarios, proposals for credible solutions, possible and efficient alternatives. It is true that it depends in the first place on the ones who hold total power of decision but it is also true that the possibility that this power opens up to the urgency of the reconstruction of Cuba is a responsibility of all and every Cuban.
There is a call to work but it seems that they are only referring to the work for material production. It is necessary to widen this concept of work for Cuba: Ones can work at the production of material goods; others can pray which is a way of working; others can generate thinking, another way of working; others can meditate, negotiate and make proposals and this is also work. All of us can participate and exercise the criteria by expressing ourselves with freedom and proposing with responsibility as the Cardinal Archbishop of Havana has said in the Mass for Peace which was held the first day of this decisive year 2011.
The debate has been reduced to the economic sphere and the proposal to solve the economic crisis has been reduced to what the very minister of Economics has called “chinchal” (1) and according to him, there’s nothing to fear about these small businesses because they can’t compete with the State which continues centralizing, planning and restraining, as if it were a “dike”, the state sector and the non-state sector as well, and here we are using the same euphemistic language used in the guidelines, which have received a correct name. According to the minister what do we have to be afraid of then? Do we have to be afraid of free enterprise?
Cuba needs spaces to create, work and solve the problems and there is no need of guidelines dictated from above which look for the debate and the support below. The guidelines have to be also explained and exorcized by the very minister of Economics to the members of Parliament. Parliament is a name that means: space to talk, to negotiate, to condense, to argue; it’s a place to look for an improvement or to reject things, not to “explain” things from the platform to the ones sitting below. In a normal parliament the deputies are the ones who should explain things to the minister, the ones who demand or amend things; they even disapprove them if necessary.
FREEDON AND CITIZEN RESPONSIBILITY.
It is good and urgent to rebuild what is left of the Cuban economy. But the old clothes cannot be mended using old cloth because the new cloth will widen the rip. The old wine cannot be poured into an old wineskin because the new wine breaks the old vessel and the wine scatters. The new wine has to be poured into new vessels so the wine and the vessels can be preserved” (Mt. 9, 16-17). The “wheat is not to be separated from the weed in advance” (Mt. 13, 30)
Half a century has help to show the inefficiency of a model that has denied and rectified itself; it has been corrected and brought up to date. The problem is not the implementation of the model. It’s about the essence of the model, its constitutive elements: the authoritarian and strong-willed centralization, the state ownership and procedures; the alienated planning of resources and needs; the blockade to the private initiative and to the true independent cooperatives; the moral and administrative corruption and the prevalence of the political decisions above the moral, economic and social norms. All these foundations of the model have been unmistakably ratified in the first Economic and Social Guidelines which seem to be and are presented as the maximum of the proposed reforms, however feared.
As we can see the situation evidently cannot be solved through much reduced lists of independent work. They are just lists, insignificant gifts of permissions from the only owner and employer. These permissions are only referred to medieval trades that don’t harm even slightly the constitutive elements of the model which doesn’t work.
ECONOMY AND ANTHROPOLOGY.
The economy is fixed with economy. And economics is a social science, so it is human. If economics is a human and social science it can disregard, blockade or manipulate the constitutive elements of the human being.
The human person is the subject and the end of economics and the whole social cohabitation. The human person can be the subject of economics only if he is able to manage his life and develop his social relations; if he enjoys his full capacities, liberties and rights. Therefore every attempt to update any economic, political or social model will inevitably fail if it disregards, restrains or blockades the capacities, liberties and rights of the potential participants in these models.
There is no economic development without civil and political liberties. There are no authentic civil and political liberties without economic liberties and real opportunities.
If there is economics without freedom there is human and material misery. Our experience of 52 years and the failure of all of the totalitarian and vertical systems show this.
On the other hand, every model with economic and political liberties without ethic and civic responsibility, without legal regulations leads to chaos and crisis and these ones produce injustice, inequality and global destabilization; the trajectory of all of the capitalist crises reminds us about this periodically.
Amartya Sen received the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1998. In the Announcement of the Prize it was said: “he combines the economic tools with the philosophical tools and he has restored the ethical dimension of the debate about the most vital economic problems”. (Sweden Royal Academy). It also said: “his writings have made the theory and the practice of development evolve by showing that the quality of our lives should not be measured by our wealth but by our freedom”. Kofi A. Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations has written about this subject deeply and his assertions should be considered in Cuba too:
“Freedom is fundamental for the process of development for two different reasons:
1. Evaluation. The progress is to be evaluated mainly according to the increase or not of the liberties of the individuals.
2. Efficiency. “Development depends totally on the free agency of the individuals”. (Sen Amartya, Desarrolloy Libertad 1999, p. 19.28. Introducción: El desarrollo como libertad)
Economy and freedom are indivisible complements of the same anthropological subject. This subject cannot be submitted to economic mechanisms manipulated from above which prevent or blockade the subject’s enterprising capacities, his freedom as a citizen and his rights as a proprietor and generator of material and spiritual wealth. That’s why the synthesis of economy and freedom favors the holistic human development.
The expansion of freedom is the fundamental end of development as well as its main means. Development is the elimination of some kinds of lack of freedom which leave the individuals a few choices and scarce opportunities to exercise their reasoned agency… Development demands the elimination of the main sources of freedom deprivation: poverty and tyranny, scarcity of economic opportunities and systematic social deprivation; the abandonment of public services that could exist and the intolerance or the excess of the intervention of repressive States”. (Sen Amartya, Desarrollo y Libertad, 1999, Prólogo p. 16 e Introducción: El desarrollo como libertad p. 18 y ss.)
If the human being is not a department store then no model can work by turning work and freedom into barracks in a total and strong-willed conflict. No economic model works or will work if there is antagonism between “being a part of” and “belonging to” the productive structures. It doesn’t’ work and there is no sanity if we belong to something we are not a part of. It’s against nature. It’s also an unnatural act to divide into stagnant demarcations the capacity for business management and the individual and cooperative property. To have economic capacity means to have a property, to have the right and the freedom to dispose of the means, the management, the produced wealth and the social distribution of the wealth and such things don’t work if there is fear of the unappealable expropriation, the confiscation or the intervention of the State.
Fear and mistrust are inseparable; they have an impact on the economic and social mechanisms. If there is uncertainty the investments decrease. Fear discourages the enterprising persons. Mistrust destroys the enterprises and the business. An economy without at least a primary or essential anthropological dimension, doesn’t work. Likewise economy without human dimension and social justice is not ethically acceptable.
The world is not a paradise. One economic model works but it generates injustice. The other economic model generates injustice because it doesn’t work. The one that works because it respects freedom lacks social responsibility. The one that doesn’t work lacks everything because it cannot demand responsibility if it doesn’t respect freedom and rights.
THE CHALLENGES FOR A NEW MODEL IN CUBA.
The challenge is clear: to build a mode that lifts all of the blockades and achieves a vital synthesis, with the participation of all. This synthesis should be of:
-freedom and responsibility.
-private property and social responsibility.
-respect for the mechanisms of market and respect for the subsidiary ---regulations of the State.
-productivity and solidarity.
-enterprise agency and citizen empowerment
-job and rest
-salary and duty of the taxpayers
-the foreign investments and the local and national participation
-promotion of the small and medium sized businesses and the openness to the globalization of the economy
Amartya Sen expresses:
“Among the main challenges of development at present there is the need of liberating the job from the explicit and implicit ties which prevent it to have access to the market of open work. Also the denial of the access to the market of products is one of the deprivations that many small farmers and hard-working producers endure because of traditional systems and restrictions. The denial of freedom for participating in the job market is one of the ways to maintain individuals in slavery and captivity”.(Sen Amartya, Desarrollo y libertad, 1999, p. 19.28. Introducción: El desarrollo como libertad).
There are at least two possible scenarios left:
-to open the economic reforms with their inseparable civic and political liberties; to open the legal opportunities and fully develop the human and social capacities of the individuals and the corporative groups of the civil society by doing the synthesis proposed by the challenges without wasting time. This would be the pacific way most far from sharp remarks and violence.
-to cling to timid concessions very limited which disregard the anthropological dimension of economy, blockade the capacity of self management of the citizens, restrain the civic and political liberties and completely reject the intrinsic laws of market and democracy. This scenario will trigger even involuntarily, a negative, explosive and violent force or at least a governability chaos which would inevitably lead to political reforms and to the openness of all of the full economic rights, the civil and political liberties and the systematic and structural pluralism. This scenario would be much more dangerous and traumatic.
Other scenarios can be generated but they always must respect the anthropological dimension and the timing. It’s ethically unacceptable to turn a whole Nation into an experimentation camp. It is a great irresponsibility and genocide. History is a witness and it should be a teacher.
Timing is another anthropologic and economic factor. We cannot play with it because we will face the consequences.
The maximum irresponsibility of the State is to disregard the unity and the capacities of the human person; to manipulate the lives of its citizens; to be the owner of our time without reasonable periods and turn the society into an experimentation lab against the human nature. The maximum irresponsibility of the citizens is to relinquish their freedom and let themselves be manipulated as if they were Indian pigs in order to prove that something that probably failed can be brought up to date.
Time will say. Maybe the consciences produce miracles before; because even God respects the capacities and the freedom of the human being. Even God trusts the human person and doesn’t restrain his freedom or blockade his responsibility or forgets his rights. That’s why we say that only an awakening of the consciences of the ones who can decide without violence is able to work the wonder that God himself is expecting from us Cubans, men and women without exclusions.
Let’s do it pacifically and gradually. Let’s really do it.
Pinar del Río, January 6th 2011.
Feast of the Kings.
In Cuba, the only day when the slaves used to enjoy freedom of expression and the public space.
(1) A very precarious and small business.