Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Cuban Plan

The Cuban Plan

Here is what could be possible in Cuba in the coming year. First, the current regime must realize things have to change. Perhaps as they look inward some brave university student will stand up and state the obvious - Cuba and socialism don't work! Maybe like the kid in the fable who boldly stated the obvious when everyone else was too afraid to tell the emperor that he had no clothes on. Some wise Cuban who realizes that the answer to capitalists taking the just earned wages of labor through urban land monopoly is not corrected by outlawing private entrepreneurial labor. At this crossroads in Cuban history a new leadership arises acknowledging what is wrong with Cuban social and economic policy but they still don't have a clue how to fix the problem. They already know they don't want the current American model because it too has its share of poverty - though in nowhere near the numbers as occur with a communist economy. But mostly they do not want the private crime and other decadence that they wrongly equate with free markets. These things occur in Cuba as well and are the direct result of idle hands and minds desperate for a way to improve their economic condition.

So they look to our help to decide what to do next. Therefore, I've taken the liberty to draw up a plan to outline what should happen during this period of transition from the low to no output of slavery economics to an explosion of activity once the productive/creative energy of the Cuban people have been freed from state controls.

The priority for the initial overhaul should stress getting Cubans back to work and at the same time replacing the aging infrastructure. Fortunately these two needs blend nicely with one another. While foreign expertise and investment will be vital to Cuba's resurgence and re-entry into the global market, the day to day labor needs to replace the old infrastructure must be filled with Cubans - at least initially. Corporations and individuals who had property seized by the old government should be given the first opportunity at filling the infrastructure needs of Cuba as long as they possess the needed expertise. Since the streets will need to be replaced, it will also be the best time to replace sewers and water pipes as well as lay fiber optic communication cables, gas lines, etc. These entities which have had property stolen from them should be compensated with land to re-establish their Cuban corporate/private headquarters and facilities for operation and manufacturing.

Next, saving the historical buildings must be addressed. This can to done by following renovation/building codes agreed upon by each neighborhood of residents that stresses saving the history in architecture in Cuba. This can also lay the foundation for democratic elections. Everyone 18 and older in Cuba should be eligible to vote on the neighborhood level immediately and have the ultimate last say-so in how their own neighborhood is developed. Following the Swiss Canton model, each neighborhood would initially elect an Architectural Control Committee to assure their particular neighborhood develops the character architecturally and socially that is congruent with the type of village that they wish to live in or work in with respect to businesses. From this point it will be easier to springboard to city, provincial and national elections in the future.

For residences, first occupants must be given title to their living space. This must be followed by gainful, well-compensated employment so they have the resources to purchase the necessary material to repair their homes. Hi-rise apartment complexes must be converted into condos owned and operated by the current and future occupiers of the building. Businesses will be required to bring their buildings up to code and comply with architectural historical requirements set forth by the Architectural Control Committees in each area. The type of commerce permitted within a given area should be decided by the people who live and work there.

New housing developments must be planned for the return of the exiles that want to be a part of the rebuilding of Cuba. Businessmen should have their property returned to them unless it has become residential property now. In this case alternative government property should be provided. Besides government held land appropriate for development being given to the exiles, future LTV (Land Tax Value) relief as compensation for past losses must also be included. The responsibility for building the new housing and businesses must be that of the exiles'.

The first year of transition should be a tax-free year so as to bring maximum incentive to invest capital in Cuba. After the tax-free year only those who have claims from seized property would continue their tax-free status for a time period commensurate with their losses. All parties would agree to drop all prior claims for compensation under this agreement. The Cuban people should not be made to suffer from the errors of their previous government especially since they had absolutely no voice in its composition. Opportunity for future profit should be used as compensation for past financial wrongdoing.

Taxes should mostly be based on a land location value of the area that an individual or corporation wishes to hold. Central urban land and business areas would possess the greatest tax burden while many outlying areas would be near zero tax. Also, taxes need to be levied on vices such as tobacco, liquor, gambling, prostitution, etc to compensate for the negatives of these activities to society. A tourist tax could also be levied simply because it will be an easy tax to collect and everyone will want to come to Cuba to vacation since it will become the premier destination in the Caribbean. No tax should ever be placed on human labor output, the marketplace or imports and exports. There should be no capital gains tax or any tax on investment profit. Under this system all people will be able to steadily accumulate more and more wealth thereby alleviating the need for government provided services. A land Value Assessment Board should be elected eventually to establish the value of Cuban land in each given area.

Government should first concentrate on forming an independent judiciary that will act totally in accordance with the Cuban constitution to fairly adjudicate the disputes that are sure to arise during the transition. It would hear the claims of Plaintiffs for compensation for past losses and decide appropriate land and tax compensation. This judicial body will eventually lay the foundation for free elections of the legislative and executive branches of government. However, one should remember what General Pinochet did in Chile and how much longer it might have taken to get it done democratically.

So my question is this to exiles: If some group of Cuban leadership on the island without blood on their hands wrestled control of the reigns of power away from the corrupt old guard and agreed that the above plan (or one similar) would be best for Cuba, would you work with them? Could you set aside provincial and national democratic election demands for a grace period that would allow us to put social and economic policy reform on the fast track like Pinochet? Wouldn’t it be better to drastically improve the day-to-day life of the average Cuban before asking him or her to vote on their top leadership? Desperate people will vote that way. Once we have stabilized the economic situation in Cuba the Cubans will do the right thing.

This is just a rough starting point – a trial balloon. Now maybe the exiles and every single Cuban government official believe this is the craziest idea that they ever heard. Okay – fair enough but I’m just trying to find a starting point. I’d like to hear any objections from exiles and the Cuban government about the above plan. I know I will get feedback from the exile community but right now things in Cuba are frozen while Fidel still lives. But that could change rapidly once this is no longer true. I know they are reading this and maybe – just maybe we can get a group of people down there willing to give it a try. However, everybody knows that things can’t go on like they are now for very much longer. The regime has lost its advantage with managing information. We now control the high ground in the information war and they know it. We will only make things more miserable for them in the future. So we must keep on whacking them with out stick to be sure. But I thought it might be a good idea to offer them a carrot too in case they are hungry for a change.

Tomás Estrada-Palma

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cuban Expertise

Cuban Expertise

If you want advice on a good bottle of wine or cheese to serve with it at dinner just ask a Frenchman. Need a good beer Germany is the place to go. Americans are amazing at producing and consuming everything. The Russians make good vodka and their caviar must be the best because it cost the most. These peaks of nature and time within a culture of people occur because the environment converges with that race of people to provide them with a particular expertise. It just so happens that France has a great climate to grow grapes and also to raise milk cows for cheese.

Though there have been many victims of tyranny throughout the ages, today the most experienced and adept at expressing the incredible danger of falling for the lies of the charismatic tyrant are the Cuban people. Cubans are a race of people who know firsthand the evils of statism. Look at this slide show produced by Jose Reyes. It is the icing on the cake of collectivism. It is the summation of what occurs when a nation of individuals submit to statism. It is simply this. In today’s world if you want to know how it feels to be abused by a despot just ask a Cuban. Or better yet just check out this slide show after it has completely downloaded so it doesn’t constantly stop and start on you.

Tomás Estrada-Palma

Tyrants to the people: “There is no f’ing you! There is only me.”