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.