by Ricardo Calvo

Recently I had the opportunity of attending as a guest and observer a series of lectures sponsored by one of the most prominent exile groups in Miami. During the lectures I heard many times the words freedom and democracy for the future of Cuba in the forth coming post Marxist period.

These words are so persistently repeated and interchanged in many agendas and political platforms set forward by other Cuban political organizations that the audiences unconsciously associate democracy with freedom – but are they not the same?

There is a strong association between democracy and liberty but they are not the same. There has been many definitions of freedom and has been widely discussed for centuries by philosophers and intellectuals. However, for our political purposes we can think of it as a principle of justice: the absence of coercive interference or invasion of the property or person of any human being. Freedom requires that each person be as unrestrained as possible from the arbitrary will of others.

But how are we going to guarantee that we shall obtain and perpetuate freedom?. What is it that makes some countries enjoy long lasting liberty when others only seem to go from one type of dictatorship to another?

Many believe that democracy and pluralism will bring to Cuba the so long sought freedom.

Most of us living in the west have been bombarded relentlessly with the idea of democracy. Schoolchildren are taught that nations are free because they are democratic.

Let us step back for a moment and reflex for a few minutes. It is important not to get hot under the collar and start arguing with words right away or raise concerns of what hidden intentions drive these opinions. It is long overdue that we focus in what the future of Cuba will be and be prepared intellectually and materially for the inevitable period of transition out of Marxism.

The most valuable political value that we must pursue is freedom. Democracy is a type of government structure and functioning but freedom is not. In this matter the order of the goals can and does alter the resulting type of government which will prevail. To achieve a respectable political architecture one must do things in the appropriate order.

Not because we are democratic we are going to be free but rather if we own freedom we shall be democratic.

Not because we are democratic we are going to be prosperous but if we are independent owners of our resources we shall be democratic.

The existence of parties, the capability of voting and the establishment of a constitution do not imply necessarily that we shall enjoy freedom.

We need to consider the pillars over which we build freedom and then control the organization most likely will put our freedom at risk: this is the State and its function during the transition period and for the rest of our future history.

It is not a matter of being against or in favor of democracy but rather knowing how to procure it and more important how to make durable and see it functioning properly.

How many countries in the world are called democratic and have ended as a private club governed by a selected group of politicians, military, senior government officials and university professors?

How many countries are called democracies and have had a single party control their destinies for several decades?

How many countries are called democracies and have had several group of national and international monetary organizations control their Central Banks as if they were their own private bank?

And even further, how many of the former soviet countries of Europe are not ruled by the “ nomenklature”?

De-romanticizing democracy is frown upon today. Democracy may be the most appropriate means of selecting government officials but that does not imply that democracy equals freedom. Nowadays democracy is endlessly promoted but rarely analyzed.

We need to consider the cornerstone over which we build freedom. The most important bulwark defending freedom and ensuring prosperity is no other that the indispensable institution of intellectual and material private property.

Private property is the irreplaceable protection from the arbitrary will of others. It gives to each of us not only the assurance that the others will utilize their resources in ways to create prosperity for all but also that each of us has a space that the others can not violate.

Private ownership allows the individual to be responsible for his own survival and places that responsibility squarely on the shoulder of each person. The freedom of responsibility to provide for my own survival can exist only where the respect for private property allows me to do so. It decentralizes power thus safeguarding us from madmen with unrealizable utopian illusions.

Anytime the State claims a final say in how to manipulate property so a to guarantee social goals it will destroy the responsibility of the individual to met his/her own needs. Property must be protected by the State as a right which in turn protects the individual from the State. Property along with the Rule of Law becomes the most efficacious means of limiting the power of the Government. 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.

We must be careful of new proposals during the transition period out of Marxism in Cuba that may appear sensible and emotionally appealing but careful scrutiny could show their long term negative consequences.

Beware that democracy does not guarantee private property or the recognition of human rights or economic development. In many democracies there are expropriation of lands, control of rents, systematic debasing of the national currency and unlimited privileges enjoyed by a powerful elite of members of government and their close associates. Democracy is more a response to prosperity than the cause of it.

As the end of Marxism in Cuba approaches it is imperative that each Cuban recognize that the existence of material and intellectual private property serves as guarantor of liberty quite independent of how political decisions are made. No other measure will make us free.


Ricardo E. Calvo MD PhD
June 2000

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