Arnold Kling  

Life Under Socialism

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Ibsen Martinez writes about life in Venezuela.

Consider breakfast. My breakfast, to be exact. It's been months since I have had an oatmeal breakfast or a nice cup of espresso with a drop of milk because coffee and milk has literally vanished from supermarkets' shelves since last November. And that includes "Mercal", the government's supermarket network where the poor are supposed to buy food at subsidized low prices

The reason? Stiff price controls, of course, and fixed currency rates that have been going on for 5 years, too.

Recently, I heard a joke about Cuba's economy, from a professor who travels there annually.

One Cuban young woman complains to another. "He lied to me! He told me that he was a luggage handler! It turns out, he's nothing but a neurosurgeon!"

Luggage handlers working the tourist hotels often make more in one day than medical doctors receive in a month.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (3 to date)
Nathan Benedict writes:

Reminds me of a news crawl I saw on TV a while back. Some UN bureaucrat had praised Cuba for managing to provide food for all of its people. Now, why is Cuba getting praised for this, and not, say, Sweden, or Singapore, or Canada? Because those are all rich countries in which it is simply taken as a given that nobody is so poor as to starve to death in the street. Cuba is a poor country. It would actually deserve praise for policies that ensured that everyone were fed, were it not for the fact that those same policies are what causes it to be a poor country in the first place.

It's tempting to say that the Venezuelans are getting what they deserve for electing Chavez, except for the millions who did not support him, and are now suffering due to the ignorance and idiocy of their neighbors. Viva democracy!

Rick Stewart writes:

I have visited Cuba twice. I highly recommend it, since Castro's Cuba will soon vanish (I even saw Hugo and Fidel speak on May Day 2005 - a laugh a minute).

For people who have not been there the statement about the relative wages of luggage handlers and neurosurgeons is incomprehensible. I prefer to speak of it this way. There are only two possibilities for Cubans. Those who can get in contact with the tourist trade, in any way, shape or form, have a chance for a decent third world living. The rest don't. It's all or nothing - get your money from a tourist, or get no money at all.

If it weren't so depressing, it would be hilarious.

Vit writes:

Soviet Union 20 years ago had the same problem. The supermarket staff the elite. Any tourist from USA was like a god.

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