February 26, 2008

Thanking Castro

All nostalgic Americans should thank Fidel Castro for preserving for us a slice of the Eisenhower Era. From pictures I've seen of Havana today, it looks like a set from "West Side Story," with ladies hanging their wash on lines from their tenement windows and big Detroit cars with giant tailfins somehow kept running. And people still seem to care about Hemingway. (Too bad, of course, about the folks who have had to live there.)

The American Conservative recently sent Fred Reed to Havana:

The country is poor and run down, and itself almost a museum. Sitting in the DiMar is like visiting the Fifties. The American embargo makes it hard to get new cars, so many Cubans still drive cars from 1959, the year of the revolution, and before. Some sport jazzy paint jobs, and others don’t. It was remarkable to watch the rides of my adolescence go by, charting them mentally as one did in 1964—’54 Merc, ’57 Caddy, ’56 Chevy, on and on. Around me the other customers, down-scale Cubans in all shades of nonwhite, laughed and chatted. ...

The island could use some investment. While I found neighborhoods with nice-looking modern houses, said by taxi drivers to belong to governmental officials and employees of foreign firms, the rest of the city needs paint, repairs, and new sidewalks. Countless once-elegant houses with pillared porches and tall windows are now discolored and crumbling.

Why communists imagine themselves to be revolutionary is a mystery. Whenever they gain power in a country, it comes to a dead stop and sits there as other countries pass it by. I do not think that communism generates poverty; rather it finds it and preserves it. It has certainly done so here. Cuba seems firmly mired in 1959.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

25 comments:

Bill said...

Hmmm, kind of like how Asmara has preserved the atmosphere of fascist Italy with its rationalist architecture.

Anonymous said...

The American embargo makes it hard to get new cars, so many Cubans still drive cars from 1959, the year of the revolution, and before.

Like they cannot buy cars through France or Mexico, like they would rather have American cars or nothing LOL.

Anonymous said...

I think it was Roger Scruton who said that the most interesting places to visit are places where the natives haven't traveled much.

Anonymous said...

and yet ultimately life isn't so bad there.

enjoy your flat screens, seppos.

icr said...

I don't understand this stuff about US cars from the Fifties. Wouldn't be pretty cheap and simple to ship affordable used cars from Mexico?

jody said...

fred used to be good, until he moved to mexico. now he thinks mestizos are great. that made him hard to read.

i guess everybody who likes them has their reasons. war nerd thinks they're great as long as a few are willing to die in iraq.

Anonymous said...

At least they keep those cars running. It's been almost 50 years since 1960, so that is pretty impressive.

Communism is basically a modern bureaucratic state without the private sector. But the way the bureaucracy functions is pretty much identical.

At least the normal Cubans kept up their cars, some symbol of pride in self.

Dutch Boy said...

Dear ICR,
Check out your economic statistics. Cuba is considerably poorer than Mexico (i.e, affordable American used cars aren't affordable in the people's paradise). On the bright side, think of the traffic jams that don't exist in downtown Habana.

Anonymous said...

Dear dutch boi,

Check out you statistics. Per the CIA World Fact Book 2007 Cuba GDP per capita ranks 69 out of 160 or so countries. Mexico is 51. Some more relevant comparisons, i.e. larger Carribean countries:

Dominican Republic: 92
Jamaica: 80
Haiti: 121

Not that I put too much faith in GDP as a measure of anything.

Fact is, retarded right-wingers love to exaggerate the poorness of Cuba when in the grand scheme its not that poor, and its funny frozen in time aspect is due to silly US policy.

Hint: I'm not a communist, or even left wing, I just stopping looking at things through outdated ideological filters.

samwise said...

Check out you statistics

If you believe the Castro brother's hand-picked statistics, I have some ocean front property in Arizona I would like to sell you.

When Hatians flee the country on rafts, they are more likely to end up in Jamacia than Cuba -- even though Cuba is a lot closer and thus poses a lower risk of drowning.

I'm not a communist

Yet, oddly, you recycle commie propaganda.

Big Bill said...

Son, if by "it's funny frozen in time aspect" you really can't blame that on the USA.

Some 110,000 Cubans living in the United States travel each year, mostly aboard Miami-Havana flights, but many also travel through third countries such as Mexico and the Bahamas.

Cars can be brought in any time.

Cuba is a popular tourist destination, with plenty of locals making beaucoup bucks off sex tourists from Europe and Canada.

Frankly, any poverty and carlessness is engineered by the Cubans themselves.

Anonymous said...

If you believe the Castro brother's hand-picked statistics, I have some ocean front property in Arizona I would like to sell you.

Why does the CIA believe it?

When Hatians flee the country on rafts, they are more likely to end up in Jamacia than Cuba -- even though Cuba is a lot closer and thus poses a lower risk of drowning.

cite? cursory research suggests otherwise.

Yet, oddly, you recycle commie propaganda.

Just like the CIA.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Why Havana Had to Die
Theodore Dalrymple
Summer 2002
http://www.city-journal.org/printable.php?id=830

airtommy said...

We haven't ever really seen Cuba's natural economic state. Before Castro, Cuba's economy was artifically propped up by Western money. Under Castro, Cuba's economy wass artifically suppressed by the American boycott, American terrorism, and the constant CIA threat of overthrow.

If America

1. didn't force Castro to maintain a crippling police state
2. opened up trade

then we'd see a true picture of the potential of Cubans as well as Communists. Most likely, it would exceed the predictions of the most left-wing members of Congress.

Anonymous said...

CNN tells its anchors to laud Castro:
http://amerpundit.com/2008/02/19/cnn-tells-journalists-to-be-kind-to-castro/

mnuez said...

Why communists imagine themselves to be revolutionary is a mystery. Whenever they gain power in a country, it comes to a dead stop and sits there as other countries pass it by.


Communism sucks, but what's all thus about stopping dead, lack of "progress" n' all? Last I checked, human beings desire happiness, joy, meaning and self-actualization above everything but their most basic primitive needs. Material possessions, smaller cellphones and faster planes have been shown (in numerous scientific studies on the subject) to have been of rather dubious assistance in this sphere. There are arguments and studies that appear to indicate that they ARE indeed of some assistance but these needle studies vanish in the haystack of the unhappiness and stress caused by envy, inequality, endless work-weeks and the like.

So, yes, Communism (in its larger worldly applications over the past century) does suck. It demands the death of the human spirit and places terrific and frightening powers into the hands of the government, but 'dead stops' an' all? Of what exactly? The ingenuity that creates more products for advertisers to hawk? Cars with XM Satellite radio? Small loss.

mnuez
www.mnuez.blogspot.com

troep said...

"1. didn't force Castro to maintain a crippling police state"

It's not like Castro needed any external prodding. And the soviets did pour a lot of money into Cuba because it was so close to the US and thus a really nice staging ground for an attack or at least a listening post.

Cuba also made a lot of money "lending" its soldiers to Angola, against their oil cash and diamonds. Cuban soldiers caught by the South African forces in Angola were generally not happy being in Angola but had no choice. Unlike normal mercenaries, they had to fight and Fidel was cashing in. Not as humane as you like to indicate, and last time I checked Angola was not a buffer state of Cuba. But maybe the world has geographically rearranged itself as of lately.

Anonymous said...

Et in Arcadia ego. Even the most primitive folk in the backwoods of Papua deal with envy, insecurity and hate. It is hard wired into us as social animals.

Communism replaces the free market based on cash (which is not natural at all but is a Western invention based on shared norms of ethical conduct) with an informal barter economy based on the exchange of favors. It takes the quantifiability out of the system because too much is exchanged under the table or in intangibles (position of authority, early flat move in, etc) that are hard to measure and compare.

Instead of working to provide valuable goods and/or services in exchange for cash used to buy other goods/services, people in Communist economies jockey for a lot of petty intangibles. A lot of it ends up as status seeking, which is the best way to secure future intangibles. It is the same way all Western bureaucratic states function.

And Communism absolutely does slow down the development of new goods and services, because too much of the human status-seeking competitive impulse is directed towards pure social status. Instead of working hard to get that Benz, ambitious people study up and brown nose to get that Directorship or Professorship or Ministry position or whatever.

Good Cubans hate princes and capitalists, but love their great leader. They like poor big men, but hate rich big men. But they love big men nonetheless, and probably more than good Americans do (because good Americans can acquire more without kowtowing to a big boss).

The inner human reality is similar though, just that people have less to show for all their ambitious squabbling and jealousy and pride and so on. And of course the same non-material competition goes on in societies with a large private sector, just alongside more material competitions.

Anonymous said...

If America

1. didn't force Castro to maintain a crippling police state
2. opened up trade

blah, blah...

Yes, the gringos are to blame! We forced Castro to imprison political opponents, run a squalid police state and murder people. A clever and crafty plan.
I also didn't realize that the US was the only nation in the world to trade with. You can get Cuban cigars in Canada you know. Those smugglers must be able to break the US naval blockade that is strangling the island.
But does anyone have a answer as to why Cuba doesn't have cars from say Russia, the former Yugoslavia, etc...

Martin said...

I find the recent slobbering over Castro by the media to be sickening. They breathlessly report that Castro is the longest serving head-of-state, as if that is some kind of titanic accomplishment - without mentioning that he is, you know, a dictator. It's not as if he has been reelected over and over.

How did Cuba compare to other Sov-block countries in 1989? Richer? Poorer?

truthseeker said...

This U.S. embargo thing is quite the cannard -- we now have even the American Conservative repeating it! The U.S. embargo doesn't stop Cubans from buying cars, whether new or used, whether American or Japanese or German or otherwise, from Europe, Latin America, or Asia. The communist government stops it. The lack of newer cars in Cuba has everything to do with communism and nothing whatsoever to do with the U.S. embargo.

Svigor said...

Good to see MNuez is still full of crap.

Noble Savages...*chuckle*

Poor people are the most materialistic on Earth...

mnuez said...

Sviggy, your depth never ceases to confuse me. Is your linked name to majorityrights.com meant to imply that you're the owner of that page, that you write for them or simply that you appreciate their homepage links to nazigassing.com jewwatch.com codoh.com and a dozen other Nazi-oriented pages that claim that: "The Holocaust story is racist filth. Essentially, it never happened—no one was ever killed in gas chambers, or made into soap or lampshades by the Nazis.." ?

Seriously Sviggy, I honest-to-god was hoping that you had an actual blog of your own to link to. You're a semi-intelligent guy and I'm pretty sure that I'd enjoy reading your pages, even if you do kinna hate the Jews. But Sviggy, Nazi nonsense? The Holocaust never happened? C'mon. If you want to bring about a regime that will murder the world's remaining Jews you really ought to go about it in a slightly more underhanded fashion, wouldn't you say?

Anyhow, Nazi-wannabee or not, I do non-facetiously hope that you have an actual blog that you can link to at some point because, again, you're not an idiot and reading some of your thoughts could be intellectually stimulating (and I mean that sincerely).

Anyhow cheers and I'll see you in shul,

mnuez
www.mnuez.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

A few years back the CIA told us that the USSR was about pass us economically.

Svigor said...

M, that topic is verboten here. There's a forum at MR; start a thread if you wish, and drop a note here that you have, and I'll respond.

I used to blog at MR, but time no longer allows. I find I like commenting here better anyways - I'm better at butting heads than free-form, and I agree with the MR posters too much to find many good scraps.