PRIVATE PROPERTY FOR CUBA IN TRANSITION
For several decades there has been many developing nations claiming the pursue of economic prosperity, democracy and proud self determination while vast amounts of foreign aid had poured into their so called Third World -- if indeed these goals and aid have not made most of these nations move forward it is then relevant to ask why some other countries fair much better both politically and economically.
Most nations live in stagnation and poverty, considerable political control and little personal freedom. Why have they failed so miserable?
A long and impressive range of hypothesis have been proposed to explain their failures and justify why the great majority of the population of the world continuos to live poor -- the list include blame on traditional and unshakable cultural factors and influences; on long years of suffering colonialism and imperialism; on lack of natural resources; on widespread illiteracy; on lack of foreign aid; on exploitation by large multinational corporations; on abusive influx of capital; on rapid expanding populations and on many other everlasting but now clearly worn out explanations.
In the last decade all these reasons have been discredited and the revival of free enterprise and markets have been brought to the forefront by the termination of absolute statism in many countries; however, the beneficial results of open trading, free price signals and individual initiatives can not be achieved unless complete and effective ownership rights are established and respected. History has shown that without private ownership justice itself is an occasional occurrence in a climate without freedom, prosperity and peace.
For markets to flourish, for wealth to be created, preserved and accumulated, property rights must be fully recognized and protected. An economy based on private rights in property with free exchange system con produce fabulous results. But do interfere with the rights to property and the system will come to a grinding pace.
If an individual has a right to his life, it follows that he has the right to sustain it-- the sustenance of life being nothing more than access to the fruits of his labor.
Human beings over thousand of years have cleverly devised rules, customs and traditions that protect and conserve their resources for existence. The rules were simple. You do not reap what you have not produced. You do not impose unwanted costs on your neighbor, nor he on you.
Property rights are the rights of human beings to own, control, and dispose of property as they see fit. Their existence determines who will be allowed to claim the reward of good decisions and who will bear the cost of unfortunate or wrongful actions.
The right to private property simply means that a human being has the right to what he has honestly acquired either by production or exchange.
There is a phenomena in life that results from the fact that the requirements of human beings for many goods are greater than the quantities available to them in a general way. Therefore, it is impossible for the respective needs of all individuals composing the society to be completely satisfied. On the contrary, is more certain that the needs of some members of the society will go fully or partially unsatisfied.
Many attempts have been made through the course of history to remedy this problem. One way is for government to appropriate some degree of the production and parcel it out to some citizens according to an endless set of rules and plans.
Where the available quantity does not suffice for all, everyone will attempt to secure his own requirements as completely as possible to the exclusion of others. As result of this opposition of interests it becomes necessary for society to protect the various individuals in the possession of goods against possible acts of force and violence by part of others.
It is indispensable therefore an economic reason for a legal order ie. the protection of ownership, the basis of property. Property is not an invention but rather the only practical possible solution of the problem that is imposed upon us by the disparity between requirements for and available quantities of goods.
The ownership of physical and intellectual resources; however, does not carry the right to inflict the results of their use upon neighbors. It must be clearly understood by everyone that whoever use their property in a manner that invades or infringes upon the property rights of others will be subject to the same legal forces and penalties that were set up to protect their own property.
When we refer to private property it should imply three main ideas: the right to acquire its exclusive use, its legal protection against violators and the right to transfer it.
The way in which ownership is defined determines the expected future income and thus determines the vision people have of their economic outlook.
Assurances about property rights determine the quality and quantity of wealth that any country will develop and accumulate.
PRIVATE PROPERTY AS SOURCE OF ECONOMIC INCENTIVES
Private property is a strong source of different incentives.
It encourages people to save and make provisions for the future decreasing the need of government directed interventions.
Well defined property rights commit people to think carefully the way resources are used and plays an extraordinary role in making each one of us responsible for the results and outcomes of our actions or misactions.
It is interesting to note that within societies based on individual property there is greater social interaction among individuals than in those that practice collectivism.
Responsibility under socialism is always elusive and resides without failure within the impersonal and ghost-like state.
In government agencies, state owned enterprises (SOE) or subsidized business almost nobody is responsible for anything that goes wrong. As nothing can be done to correct it, we tend to blame its uselessness with great frustration upon some collective but uncontrollable entity: the State.
Private owners will bear the consequences if they allow their property to decline through abuse or damage.
The absence of private property in socialist countries contribute greatly to the devastation of the environment. This can be understood if one considers how private ownership helps to protect the natural resources of the nation.
Owners have incentives to use resources productively and to conserve when possible since they derive financial returns from them. The pursuit of profits is a strong incentive to save, modernize and take proper care of resources. People are willing to work hard once they know that their property rights give them security in their long term horizons.
If any owner allows his property to deteriorate or be harmed by pollution no one but he or she will bear the brunt of such negligence in the form of decline in the value of the property.
Private property defines clearly the criteria path for the use of existing and new resources. With it, people do have strong incentives to develop capital assets and strive to enhance their property and services to make more attractive to others.
Even the power of the wealthiest property owner is limited by competition from others willing to supply similar or better product and services.
Laxity in proper care of property is a well documented reflection of the lack of incentive that evidently accompanies socialist ownership of property. Private property will give any owner more than just a reason to preserve the value of the resource in question, it will provide the legal rights against anyone or any government agency who would invade his assets.
PRIVATE PROPERTY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIALISM
In competitive environments customers have alternatives. In dealing with the government they do not.
Despite all the advantages of the natural right to win the fruit of one's labor there is a popular passionate tendency of associating private property with all kinds of moral failings since it is alleged to foster greed, heartlessness, avoidance of health for workers and several other ones.
If so beneficial to all -- why are then the socialist and communist regimes so worry about the existence of private property! Have you ever noticed how these governments do not take clear and open positions against any of the other individual rights?. Many of them have Constitutions supporting and defending human and social rights without a clear and full explicit recognition of private property sometimes mentioned casually among a vast number of articles.
There must be something about the implication of private ownership or rather the lack of it and indeed there is. Private Property is one of the fundamental institutions of mankind and there is no workable substitution for it.
If one thinks calmly one will eventually discover and realize that private property provides protection against those that would like to take what does not belong to them such as in communism and in subtle socialist states.
Private ownership keeps power dispersed and will widen the involvement of people in providing consent for the government of the nation. The socialization of property either in an evident or in a masked fashion provides enormous political and economic power to a small handful of political figures. Private property is the perennial antagonist of central power. When "society" appears to own property, the actual power of use and disposal rests with a group of identifiable government officials. They are the de facto owners.
Without passion and with clear thinking one must come to the inevitable realization that widespread ownership of property is the enemy of tyranny, the guardian against the abusive use of power and constitutes the cornerstone of economic progress and of personal liberty.
Even in a democratic society it is misleading to say that people own and control collectively. In a society in which all or great part of the property is collectively owned everyone is in fact an employee and the tenant is the government.
For human beings to be free, for the free spirit of man to be alive there must be basic protections that limit the powers of the government. Throughout history politicians have used the property of other people to buy themselves power
Property must be protected by the state as a right which also protects the individual from the state. Property along with the Rule of Law becomes the most efficacious means of limiting the power of the state. We must reject the idea that private property and personal liberty are creations of the State. Quite the opposite, the end of the State is to protect property and liberty.
Property rights are not just another human right. They are basic to all rights. The loss of property rights precedes or accompanies the loss of other rights.
In the week of October 10, 1960 the incipient Marxist government of Cuba confiscated overnight 382 national private enterprises without any compensation and without declaring explicitly that any other personal freedom or right was in jeopardy. It did not have to -- it was already done.
It is possible that some human rights be severely curtailed or taken away while property rights are retained but it is inconceivable that other rights are maintained when property rights are gone.
Make no mistake; the ownership of intellectual and material property held privately is the cornerstone of all other individual rights and freedoms so looked for and so difficult to obtain and maintain in vast areas of the world.
Without private property there is no place to stand, to sit, to work, to ride, to write or to live. Total or partial control over property becomes the means for total control over human beings and therefore its existence should be made subordinate to all others.
To feed ourselves and to protect our families we need to make full use of our property. To save and invest we also need property and we also need the confidence that this property is legally secure and can not be confiscated.
Look no further. All political parties which control the property of the citizens of any country do indeed control their freedom. Property is a necessity. The day the government interferes or diminishes the private ownership we have in effect delegated to someone the decision of administrating the future of each individual.
Liberty and the rights that flow from private property comes into existence only with the emergence of public authority.
In full communist states the nonexistence of private property is clear and well established. However, for many of the Third World countries and even in advanced democracies the weakening of property rights by the government-directed measures as wealth distribution to gain social goals and by their interference with contractual rights to provide "civil rights" have and will undermine liberty. This is done under a veneer of democratic procedures as the majority of the citizens have no clear linking to what produces liberty and prosperity: a long and successful struggle for rights of which the right to property is the angular stone.
The most influential changes in recognizing the importance of private property which has occurred in the last decades of this century have had more to do with economics than with ethics.
In the past economists have paid little attention to property rights while being more concerned with the natural factors thought to propel economic growth. A new generation of economic historians have turned their attention notably to the institution of private property as the basis for the establishment of human rights, the legal infrastructure and the development of healthy economies.
It is historically undeniable that rights to ownership have been inseparable from solid progress and prosperity. Property is at the center of every issue relating to human liberty.
It is of great concern to review the endless agendas and well publicized political manifestos of the last few years from Cuban exiles and dissidents from inside the island and notice the flagrant omission of advocating reinstituting private property as one of the most pressing issues for the transition out of Marxism.
When we add all the facts we come to the strong realization that private ownership without subtle qualifications is crucial for the existence of a free society in a post marxist Cuba with self determination under the Rule of Law.
Generally every speaker or writer likes to finish with a phrase that evokes in the heart of the audience certain degree of passion more than rational conclusions. I have searched my mind to produce the latter. I must confess that it is difficult to improve upon the following quote:
"It is not the right of property which is protected, but the right to property. Property, per se, has no rights; but the individual has three great rights, equally sacred from arbitrary interference: the right to his life, the right to his liberty, the right to his property…The three rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life but deny him liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave"
(1922 - 1938 U.S. Supreme Court Justice George Southerland.)
Ricardo E. Calvo M.D. Ph.D.