Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cuba Goes Capitalist

Private profits in communist Cuba? This is no joke. It's Havana's latest, limited experiment with the free market. The government is divesting itself of hundreds of state-run barbershops and beauty shops with three workstations or less, turning people who have been wage-earners for decades into small-time entrepreneurs. Like some Cuban growers who are allowed to rent stalls from the government in farmers markets, and some cooks who run modest restaurants out of their homes, these hairstylists and manicurists will be entering the world of free-market competition.
Admittedly, it's small-scale stuff, the stuff of experiments, but considering the Great Satan to the north, this is practically like, I don't know, the state of Texas electing a Socialist congressperson.
There's not much to admire about Cuba at this point in its existence. It truly is the lone wolf of the communist experiment, having outlasted the Soviet Union, its satellites and even China.
The embargo the US has effected for half a century now is strongly in force, altho you can start to see daylight around the edges. Likewise, Cuba has started to see the wisdom of inviting the west to visit its shores, at least as tourists, and as partners in some limited ventures. 
We can marvel at their stick-to-it-tiveness, for sure. And their ability to cope under what must be enormously stressful conditions, taxing even the hardiest souls at times. 
But this development is one that should be applauded. China has shown that capitalism is not completely inconsistent in a socialist/communist culture, and has set an example that we can imagine Cuba will follow. I for one am hoping they can work it all out. Cuba has a lot to offer the world, and its a shame its been burdened by an embargo decades beyond its effective purpose.