The Cuban Sandwich Crisis

Brittany Wierman

Period 6

Honorbound

 

According to journalist Patrick Symmes, who has written extensively on the island nation of Cuba, there is a common joke made about the local food. “What were the three greatest successes of the revolution,” he asks, “Education, health, and defense. What were the three greatest failures? Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”[1]

As relations between The United States and Cuba begin to defrost from past aggression an tension, more and more tourists have been flocking to Cuban borders than ever before. A quick Google Images search of Cuban beaches will show anyone the tropical paradise the island can be seen as. And in the typical American mind, Cuba is viewed as an intriguing mix of mystery, communism, and cigars, making tourism even more enticing. However, as interesting as visiting may seem, it is important that American tourists do not begin their trip expecting the delicious ham and cheese Cuban sandwiches they can find so easily back home. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the Cuban sandwich did not even originate in Cuba; it was in fact created by immigrants in Florida. And secondly, being a communist country, the state-run restaurants of Cuba do not serve the same quality of food that well-off Americans are accustomed to.

Because the government controls the supply of ingredients to restaurants as well as what vendors can and cannot sell, most non-privatized restaurants are less concerned with good flavor and quality, but more with putting out a product as instructed. The food served in these types of establishments, usually found dotted along the city streets, would be considered by most Americans to be bland, unpleasant, and unappetizing. Lunchmeat sandwiched between generic white bread rolls are the unfortunate staples of government run eateries, which will undoubtedly leave American tourists shocked[2]. However, amongst the drab sandwiches, there lies hope in Cuba for tasty, well-prepared food: privately owned restaurants, or paladares[3].

Although there are still rules and restrictions on how things are managed and what vendors can or cannot sell in paladares, these restaurants are becoming increasingly successful as tourism rises in Cuba because their quality far surpasses that of state owned restaurants. But why is this? The answer lies in the capitalist idea that private property is overall, beneficial to the state of society. By being in a market with other competitors, businesses must try to please the consumer while surpassing the success of other producers. When looking at the privately vs government owned restaurants in Cuba, it is clear to see how competition drastically changes the quality of food. When government owned restaurants do not have competitors, even if the product is as undesirable as possible, without any true demand, there will not be any incentive to improve the product to fit the wants and needs of the customer. Because of this, there is less business in these types of establishments and consumers are left powerless and unsatisfied. But luckily for the paladares, because as of 2014, there are over 9,000 private restaurants, there is competition among them so the consumer is satisfied, otherwise the business will lose revenue.

The benefits and good nature of private property in regards to society as a whole can best be explained in the writings of Ludwig von Mises in his piece, Liberty and Property, and by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical, Rerum Novarum. These documents do a fantastic job of informing the reader about how socialism takes away from people what is rightfully theirs and squanders the creativity and freedom of not only the worker, but also the consumer.

In Liberty and Property, Mises essentially sums up the function of private property of society when he says, “There is under capitalism one way to wealth: to serve the consumers better and cheaper than other people do.”[4] What this means is that in a capitalist society, wealth and success are required by one’s own enterprise. The way this system works is that people are able to own their own businesses and operate them as they see fit, within the regulations of the law, as to avoid worker exploitation or abuse. Because there are multiple owners, there is a variety in whatever market, be it food, services, manufacturing, providing consumers with an array of options. Because consumers are allowed to pick and choose what businesses to support in accordance to their own wants and needs, producers have to work and innovate in order to supply the most appealing product for the cheapest price.

This competitive assortment of businesses gives power to the common man, contrary to socialist thinking. According to Mises, “[socialists] see only hierarchical organization of the various enterprises and plans, and are at a loss to realize that the profit system forces businesses to serve the consumer,” meaning that there should be no government ownership of businesses because the socialist fear of workers becoming ensnared in the system is unreasonable[5]. This is because in a capitalistic society, producers are not actually trying to chain their workers to their labor, but satisfy the masses. If a manufacturer cannot keep up with its competitors in appeasing the common man, it will run out of business as a result. When a nation allows capitalistic private ownership of businesses, the happiness of its citizens increases and the overall quality of life improves. This is because the producers of the society are focused on meeting all the expectations of consumers. When the main goal of a business is to please other people, customers feel that their demands, opinions, and wants are valued by society. Therefore, they become loyal to certain businesses, propelling their success and stimulating the economy. Mises explains this in saying, “The consumer is king, is the real boss, and the manufacturer is done for if he does not outstrip his competitor is in best serving consumers.”[6] In this way, private property truly is the policy that supports the working majority.

Not only is private property beneficial to society as a whole, but is necessary for human fulfillment and therefore, should not be taken away from people by the hands of the government. After all, according to Pope Leo XIII, access to personal ownership and private property is an innate human right. In the encyclical, Rerum Novarum, the pope reflects on this capitalist idea, further adding to the argument a government owned market. Pope Leo XIII argues that because man works to reap what nature offers, he is therefore entitled to claiming ownership on whatever he has produced[7]. By this logic, it is fair to reason that if workers and manufacturers spend their time and energy on labor, creating products for and serving the public, they deserve ownership of their practices and business operations. To sum it all up, the pope states, “Every man has by nature the right to possess property at his own.”[8]

So how do these documents relate to the “Cuban Sandwich Crisis” mentioned at the beginning? Well, as of 2014, there has been an increase in private ownership licenses distributed in Cuba, meaning there are more and more paladares to provide citizens and tourists alike with quality, appetizing food[9]. This move towards a more capitalistic restaurant industry means Cuba will be increasing their income from tourism as visitors will be attracted to the array of options they have for Cuban food. Because there will be more private ownership amongst businesses, it is logical to predict that the quality of life and happiness of those on the island will rise. This is a result of people’s natural, human right to be rewarded for their labor with ownership being more readily fulfilled. The knowledge a worker has that their labor is being compensated with the right to claim an operation as their own lets them know that their work is worth the effort. It also nurtures a sense of individuality, as compared to other competitors, the products made must be unique to consumers. Therefore, financially and emotionally, private property is necessary for a happy, satisfied society.

 

Works Cited

[1] Adler, Tamar. “Why Cuba Is Becoming a Serious Culinary Destination.” Vogue. January 27, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2016. http://www.vogue.com/13384261/cuban-food-havana/.

[2] Adler, Tamar. “Why Cuba Is Becoming a Serious Culinary Destination.” Vogue. January 27, 2016. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://www.vogue.com/13384261/cuban-food-havana/.

[3] Haddad, Margot. “Cuba Says 9,000 Restaurants Can Now Be Privately Owned.” CNN. September 19, 2014. Accessed April 27, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/19/world/americas/cuba-restaurants-private-owners/.

[4] Mises, Ludwig Von. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988.

Section II

[5] Mises, Ludwig Von. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988.

Section III

[6] Mises, Ludwig Von. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988.

Section II

[7] Pope Leo XIII. “Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) | LEO XIII.” Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) | LEO XIII. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html.

Section 9

[8] Pope Leo XIII. “Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) | LEO XIII.” Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) | LEO XIII. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html.

Section 6

[9] Haddad, Margot. “Cuba Says 9,000 Restaurants Can Now Be Privately Owned.” CNN. September 19, 2014. Accessed April 27, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/19/world/americas/cuba-restaurants-private-owners/.

Photo:

Accessed May 03, 2016. https://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/xyMiE4gzrPlDprkQ-8Hdb_Vdlio=/800×0/filters:no_upscale()/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/4090710/0P9A0323.MOV.20_10_49_11.Still001.0.jpg.

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