by Ricardo E. Calvo MD PhD

In countless agendas, speeches and joint declarations of many political groups within or outside Cuba one finds continuous references to freedom, social justice, political parties and democracy.

The task of arriving at a clear understanding of freedom is not easy. We all declare ourselves in favor of liberty but perhaps we do not all mean the same. Many are captive of the word liberty because is interpreted narrowly to mean some kind of ability to do anything they want. However, the freedom of every person is limited by the liberty of others and is also restricted by physical and intellectual limitations.

We could start referring to freedom as the condition of being free of coercion. A person is free when he is not coerced or constrained by another person. If subjected to coercion the any person will serve the interests and purposes of someone else.

Political freedom is best understood as the lack of direct political coercion and not the ability or opportunity to do something. Many think and feel that their freedom is diminished when something they want or desire is kept from them. They go on to believe that freedom has something to do with satisfying their desires and wants.

Advocates of socialism or state intervention do not refer to liberty as freedom from constraint or coercion but as freedom to do something. State interventionists claim it is of little benefit to believe or be told no one is preventing you from attaining some goods while you actually lack the power or ability to satisfy your needs. Socialism believes that you are interested in freedom by taking steps to eliminate deficiencies such as ignorance and poverty that deprive people of choices.

A feature of all contemporary discussion of freedom and "social justice" is to relate these concepts in some fashion to the institution of the State. They claim that the best organization to achieve this goal is the Government and that the strong state action is indispensable to overcome obstacles in the way of doing or becoming something.

Socialists tend to obscure the differences between justice and "social justice". They allow the intrusiveness of the State between the emotive appeal of the former term and the ambiguous meaning of the latter.

Socialism is well known to operate under subtle ways presenting its basic operating principles under quite appealing adjectives. It rewards the citizens by the services provided to the State instead of rewarding for economic contributions or for social justice.

Many persons think that justice and equality are equivalent. If the State is to guarantee that people are equal then it will have to interfere in the acts of the citizens and use force if necessary. We must be very clear in understanding the difference between equality of results and the equality of treatment.

If the State attempts to produce equal results it will have to treat people differently; however, if it insists on providing equal treatment then it must be content with unequal results.

Socialists love to present themselves as the great advocates of social justice and those who oppose them must lack their high values. Socialists have little to do with benefiting the disadvantage or achieving social justice. They are much more concern with the achievement, consolidation and perpetuation of power.

Justice in the broad sense can only be effected through a State, which uses force dispensed impersonally in accordance to a law. It is vital that we do not confuse love with justice. We can feel and urge others to express compassionate love for the needy but we must restrict ourselves from demanding that the State use force of coercion available to it and obligate people to fulfill the demands of love.

It is important to underscore the attempt that society should make to satisfy the needs of the citizens who can not take care of themselves but this should not be used to support and expand the powers of the State and impose forceful economic obligations on all its citizens.

It is fundamental for freedom to be interpreted also from an economic point of view. Economic freedom is not something quite apart from the other freedoms but rather is the freedom that supports the existence of all liberties. Economic freedom means that the individual is in a position to pursue his own initiatives and he is free to follow the goals that the wants to achieve.

Many today possess the very popular idea that the freedom of speech, of thought, of the press, of religion, of locomotion, of freedom from imprisonment without trial can be obtained and preserved in the absence of economic freedom.

Freedom in society means that a person depends on others as they depend upon him. A free economy represents a state of affairs where everyone serves others and is served by them in return. It is not the duty of the State to play the role of political authority as a guardian of everyone as socialists do claim.

Time must come when we recognize that freedom and justice thrive best in the absence of socialism no matter under what name or banner is attempted or hidden. One of the political concerns we must have today is that some dissident groups in Cuba and in exile refer to socialism by synonyms such as “planning” and in the last few years there has been attempts to hide it under the name of "social democracy" and “mixed economy” also known in some political circles as “ the third way”.

At this point one must wonder where does freedom come from and how can we guarantee its perpetuity once it is obtained in the post Marxist Cuba. Freedom does not appear because it is announced in the agendas of some political parties or because the leaders of some foreign and/or future government of a country promise it. Political and economic freedoms must have a solid foundation upon which it must rest and this foundation must be of such quality and strength that it can not be modified by any set of politicians and voters.

The foundation must not only serve as the pillar of political and economic freedoms but also as the origin for all individual rights. This foundation is no other than the existence of the indispensable institution: private property.

Private property creates for the individual a sphere where he is free from the will of the State and it sets the borders to the authoritarian power of government. It is the soil in which the seeds of freedom are nurtured and in which the autonomy of the human being and its material and intellectual progress are rooted.


Ricardo Calvo
July 2001

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