Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just an idea

The BBC’s Fernando Ravsberg covered a very interesting forum in Havana on Cuba’s economic policies; his write-up is here at the Cuban website Havana Times (h/t El Yuma).

The forum is part of a monthly series on diverse topics sponsored by the magazine Temas. This one was on Cuba’s economic crisis of the 1990’s, but Ravsberg reports that it veered into discussion of current policy issues. Among the panelists was a former government minister.

One panelist asserted that economic reforms amount to concessions to capitalism. Another rebutted him with the contention that “socialism” doesn’t necessarily mean “statization,” or state direction and ownership of all economic activity.

That rebuttal contains an interesting idea, and political scientists can argue about how big the state is intended to be, and how much private economic activity is envisioned in the writings of Marx et al.

As a practical matter, that idea seems to me to define the pivotal issue in Cuban economic policy today, which is how much private (or non-state, as they prefer to say down there) activity should fit in the socialist economic model.

Among socialists – and, I’m sure, among many others who could care less about politics and simply want a more prosperous country – there’s no disagreement that Cuba needs to raise productivity, raise incomes, and maintain or improve social services.

If the way to achieve those goals is to allow substantially more private economic activity, as seems to be the case, then Cuba will truly be “updating” its socialist model, it will move closer to achieving those goals, and many Cuban families will see their livelihoods improve.

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