2006-02-11

Land of the Free?

No, this is not a post concerning that great Gamma Ray album. It sparked from a conversation with Nadia, who was born in Leningrad in Soviet times, and lived the crumbling of the USSR.

Well, the thing is that the Soviet regime was criticized, among other things, by a lack of freedom of expression. In Stalin's times, if you were a dissident, or plainly if three people didn't like you and told you were a dissident, it was enough to declare you "enemy of the people". Millions were sent to Siberia, repressed, or simply dissapeared. Certainly, that was hell. After Stalin, during the "thaw", there was much less repression. People still wouldn't tell jokes about the government in the open (though many, many people did in their kitchen). OK, so there wasn't ideological freedom (Now there is, but there's no certainty in the future...). A similar situation persists now in Cuba. Nevertheless, there is an active political oposition in the island. Anyway, "free" countries, especially USA, pride themselves of ideological freedom. Indeed, compared to repressive regimes, there is more ideological freedom. To a certain extent, of course. If your ideas are deemed a danger to the homeland, your human rights can be easily suspended, and off you go to Guantanamo... Not to forget about McCarthyism, where if you were suspected of being a Commie, blacklisted you go, and no job you'll find. OK, that's enough about ideological freedom.

What about other types of freedom? In the Soviet Union, and still in Cuba, there was/is freedom of choosing a good doctor, going to a good university, having all kinds of hobbies. In a capitalist country, if you don't have the money, you cannot choose a proper doctor, a proper school for your children, etc. In capitalist coutries, there is almost no economical freedom. If you are born in a poor family, your chances of improving your life expectancy, education, and life quality in general are much lower than in socialist countries.

Freedom of choice? Is this a real advantage? I mean, I don't need 50 types of ketchup... (especially when I could use political diversity and the only two parties represent the same ideals). Well, a certain diversity is always good. But I think this is not dependent on the political regime of countries, but on their markets.

Now, could we have all the types of freedom at once? Well, of course. Socialist policies do not contradict a capitalist economy, as countries such as Belgium and Sweden have shown (China is another example, but there the ideological freedom still leaves much to be desired). Good news: this is spreading, especially in Latin America: Venezuela, Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Bolivia... and hopefully Mexico will soon join the list. The silly thing is that some conservatives in the States see this as a new "axis of evil"... Just because they are against their interests? Even so, socialist countries with ideological freedom do better economically in Latin America than neoliberal countries... USA would be better off with healthy markets down the continent: less conflicts, less illegal immigrants, and more markets to exploit and offer services to. Everybody wins...

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