Not only are young Americans paying exorbitant tuition for a “college education,” they’re paying these outrageous prices to be misinformed, misled, and indoctrinated with lies. The illiteracy on Cuba found on college campuses is nothing new. It’s been going on for decades, as the Castro dictatorship has enjoyed poster-child status among leftist scholars. Because of this, they have produced several generations of students who not only know nothing about the misery and oppression Cubans have been living in under communism in Cuba, but are convinced the island is truly a tropical socialist paradise.
Peter Gattuso attended a guest college lecture on Cuba and was surprised by how wrong and how ignorant the lecturer was on Cuba’s history, economics, and communism.
A College Guest Lecturer Gets Communist Cuba Completely Wrong
“Cuba presents a hopeful alternative to a profit-oriented capitalist economy,” a promotional poster for a guest lecture at Connecticut College on October 20 boldly proclaimed. The lecture, titled “Socialism 101,” was organized by the college’s economics department and co-sponsored by the program in environmental studies, the department of history, and the department of Hispanic studies. It was given by Sabrina Melendez, introduced to the audience as a scholar, artist, and activist involved with the Autonomous University of Social Movements. A lecture examining Cuba and socialist theory could have been intriguing and academically stimulating, even if given by a socialist activist. Instead, it was a master class in idealistic fervor, misunderstanding economics to defend communist Cuba.
Melendez began by making a hash of economic theory. She argued that the original sin of capitalism is the profit motive. For her, capitalism’s very essence is exploitative because the pursuit of profit devalues labor and produces poverty. Poverty, you see, isn’t an inherent condition; rather, it emerges because capitalism undervalues the labor of certain individuals.
To illustrate this, Melendez described how a shirt is sold. In this scenario, the seller, whom she dubs “the capitalist,” spends $2 on the cotton and another $2 to pay a seamstress, making the shirt’s value $4. But when the capitalist sells the shirt for $4, after paying for the cotton and the labor, no profit remains. So, to make a profit, the capitalist decides to pay less for the cotton (50 cents) and pay the worker less (50 cents). By devaluing production costs, the capitalist can sell the shirt for $4 and make a profit of $3.
This argument wholly rejects supply-and-demand economics. Melendez would have us believe that the capitalist can arbitrarily decide to pay less for raw materials and labor. If prices were truly arbitrary, why would the capitalist pay 50 cents rather than just one cent? Prices and wages are not determined by the seller’s generosity or greed, but by the equilibrium of supply and demand. “Whenever there is trading, there is price discovery — that is, the opportunity to learn the market value of whatever is being traded,” behavioral economist Robert Shiller observed.
Contrary to Melendez’s claim, these market forces do not devalue labor. Rather, labor becomes more valuable. For example, consider the vast availability of light. “The amount of labor that once bought 54 minutes of light now buys 52 years of light,” according to HumanProgress.org. No capitalist individual chose to make labor more valuable in purchasing light or any other product. Labor became more valuable as our production capabilities expanded, allowing us to satisfy our needs more efficiently. Thus Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla both profited by marketing the light bulb, and the light bulb led to the prevalence of safer illumination for a fraction of the cost.
Melendez would deny that the profit motive explains the wide accessibility of light. It is, to her, a tool for violence: Because profit creates a demand for resources, it inevitably leads to violent colonialism. One example she offered: While the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews, American colonialism killed over 100 million Native Americans. She conceded that violent colonization is no recent phenomenon, nor a strictly American one: Other colonizers include the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Incas, and Ethiopians. But they “colonized for power, or war strategy, or access to certain key resources” — not to accumulate profit. Never mind that Roman general Scipio Africanus, through his conquest of silver mines in Spain, created a steady revenue stream to Rome. Never mind that the Chinese Han Dynasty conquered territories to establish trade routes with the goal of — you guessed it — bringing in profits. To accept Melendez’s distinction one must characterize the resource-grabbing conquests of ancient civilizations as entirely devoid of profit motives yet cast similar endeavors of modern European in the Americas as entirely profit-driven.
Melendez’s argument that capitalism and the profit motive seek the accumulation of capital at any cost is also flawed, as economists have long recognized. “Though the growth of income depends in part on the accumulation of capital, more probably depends on our learning to use our resources more effectively and for new purposes,” F. A. Hayek wrote in The Constitution of Liberty. Melendez’s disapproval of wealth accumulation is more a critique of human behavior than capitalism. The desire for more as opposed to less stuff is a product of human nature, not of capitalism.
This misconception led Melendez to conclude that the profit motive — along with capitalism — is directly responsible for colonialism. But this argument ignores the critical function of private property within a market economy. “Capital goods come into existence as private property determines the institutions of the capitalistic system,” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. But private property conflicts with another core belief promulgated in her lecture: that private property, too, is bad.
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