14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, November 3, 2019 — Diario de Cuba counted 22 diction errors in the 17-minute speech of Miguel Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba, to the “Non-Aligned.” It’s true: he speaks “with tobacco in the mouth,” although he doesn’t smoke cigars, unlike certain Villa Clara natives, and he reverses the R and the L, habitual in certain areas of Andalusia and the Caribbean.
But more serious was what was highlighted by 14ymedio, another opposition publication: a monumental blunder in the sphere of homophony and paronymy. Díaz-Canel confuses the verbs “propitiate” and “deals.” The Cuban leader was congratulating Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner and wrote on Twitter: “Deserved triumph that propitiates [sic] a defeat to neoliberalism.” I suppose that he meant to say “deals.”
Nor does he know that “neoliberalism” doesn’t exist. It’s an empty label used by socialists of all stripes to discredit their adversaries. Ricardo López Murphy, a brilliant Argentinian economist, threatens his grandchildren with that terrifying fabrication: “Go to bed or the neoliberal will come to eat you.” The phantasmagoric neoliberal is the modern version of the “bogeyman.”
What do exist are certain sensible economic measures that we liberals defend, although it goes without saying that liberalism is, first, a moral conviction; second, a legal question; and, finally, certain economic proposals arisen from experience. For example, controlling inflation (the most devastating phenomenon against the poor), having a low tax burden, limiting public spending and the number of officials at the revenue level, and having few regulations (the indispensable ones), given that experience shows us that that is the crevice through which corruption usually seeps.
It’s not about the State disappearing, but rather that it performs the tasks we have entrusted to it well. Fundamentally, that it protects the security of individuals and their property; that crimes and violations of the law do not go unpunished, including hooded rioters and looters; and that it impartially safeguards and stimulates the presence of open markets absolutely hospitable to entrepreneurs.
As for health and education, it’s very important to promote them as a joint effort of society, but without placing them directly under the control of the State. It’s preferable to pay for those services via vouchers so that families can choose the best hospital or school, like they have done in Sweden since the failure of statism at the beginning of the nineties, to ensure that institutions compete and don’t rest on their laurels.
That is the true distinction between liberals and socialists. We liberals think that individuals are the ones most capable of making personal decisions, while socialists are sure that it is preferable that the State make that choice.
The works of the economics Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan should have put an end to that eternal dispute. Buchanan and his disciples demonstrated with their studies (Virginia school) that officials and politicans, like everyone else, make decisions in pursuit of their own electoral and economic benefits and not in the interest of a hypothetical “common good.” [The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock]
For that reason, privately capitalized accounts and pension savings (for example, the American 401k or the Chilean AFP) are infinitely preferable to public funds, always in reach of the “creative accounting” of dishonest politicians and officials interested in boosting their clientele with the money of others.
This is not to say that individuals always make the correct decisions. Argentinians have been systematically making mistakes for seventy years. We Cubans deliriously applauded Fidel Castro’s arrival to power. Venezuelans did it by majority with Hugo Chávez and, later, with Nicolás Maduro. The dictators Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Evo Morales have the support of at least 20% of the national register. To err is human, but much more human is to persist in error.
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!