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    Buying Soda Pop in Cuba

    August 31, 2012

    Luis Miguel de Bahia

    HAVANA TIMES — I learned that soda was on sale and went looking for a

    bottle. As my turn in line was coming up to buy it, I heard a woman in

    front of me ask for 20 large plastic bottles to be filled.

    The dispenser, which had been there for a while, couldn't have been

    holding too much more. Therefore everybody started protesting, including

    one person who chewed out the voracious woman.

    However, she replied, "Pop isn't rationed; its sale is unrestricted,"

    demonstrating herself to be a person who didn't care about anyone else.

    Her argument was correct, but it's also true that we need to have some

    degree of ethics. If there wasn't enough for everybody, she should have

    bought less and given others a chance.

    Hoarding is one of those problems that arise when sales are unrestricted

    but there's not enough to go around.

    How can these two legitimate but conflicting concerns be resolved?

    On the one hand there's the right to purchase, but on the other there's

    the unpleasantness of there not being enough.

    Public intervention is often the solution adopted in Cuba, rationing the

    free trade of items.

    Even the public authorities are tied by an insoluble contradiction: the

    combination of elements of market economics with the characteristics of

    the Third World and of Cuban socialism.

    The denying of consumerism, as an extreme desire on the part of the

    state, is to deny free trade.

    You can't tell a person: "Buy however much you want…but hey, you can't

    buy it all!"

    But nor can we legitimize unrestricted consumption within the logic of

    socialism, even when industrial production would allow it.

    However it's impossible to ration everything given that freedom — and

    within this business — is a part of our culture.

    In the end, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to get some soda,

    though it turned out to be pretty bitter, but that was due more to the

    lack of ethics on the part of some people than it was owing to the

    contradictions of the system.

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