All Commentary
Saturday, June 1, 1974

Are You Concerned?

I stared again at the bundle of nearly worthless paper money in my pay envelope and I wondered how many days it could carry my family into the dreaded month ahead.

Suddenly, in the midst of my despair, a flash of anger seized my mind as I recalled the scholarly analyses from academicians and economists asserting that the economy was basically healthy and vigorous. I could still hear their deep reassuring voices on radio and TV explaining that economic science was partly based on faith and mass psychology. And as I struggled to understand how a “science” could be based on faith, or how faith or psychology could help me pay my bills, I felt my anger bursting into rage.

For years in the past, some people called “progressive” economists had been preaching the political expediency of “deficit financing,” “credit expansion,” and the printing of paper money to “stimulate” progress, and “create funds” for a myriad of “popular” programs at home and abroad. They also preached that, since economics was based on faith, and currency was merely a symbol, it did not have to represent any real value. Consequently, the requirements of hard backing for the currency were legally abolished, and the remaining reserves spent in payments to shrewd foreign countries that refused to share our mystical economic beliefs. Coins containing silver were removed from circulation and replaced by worthless metal tokens of similar appearance.

I then recalled how inflation, a word I always associated with insolvent and backward countries, started to grow to alarming proportions. It seemed as if people, sensing the magnitude of the national swindle, were attempting to even the score by demanding more and more for their goods and services.

The rise in prices provoked a holy wrath among the “high priests” of the economy. Their mystical incantations soon gave way to outright threats and invectives, until finally they stirred a public clamor for government controls in an effort to conceal their massive fraud by shifting the blame onto their victims; i.e. laborers and producers. Timely and cleverly contrived national “crises” provided the rationale for pushing government controls.

The establishment of initial controls made further controls necessary. Arbitrary price ceilings rendered production unprofitable. Businesses failed, or were nationalized “in the public interest.” Unemployment increased rapidly. Fuel and other critical goods became scarce. Transportation was choked. Black markets developed despite heavy penalties. And meanwhile, international commerce dwindled as tariffs and quotas were imposed to improve the “balance of payments.”

From Bad to Worse

Familiar events? Perhaps, but that was only the beginning. Inflation, and the inevitable loss of national credit, forced a devaluation of the currency in international markets. And as the currency “floated” and sank deeper and deeper, the witch doctors of the “new economics,” the “social sciences,” and the “popular media” raised a cry for even stiffer controls to crush “profiteering,” and called for a “sense of social responsibility,” and a “spirit of sacrifice” to readjust to the “new lifestyles of a changing world.”

The common citizen, like myself, felt as if caught between the jaws of a gigantic vise. On one side increasing taxes, inflation, scarcities, and unemployment; and on the other side the specter of total government control, advocated as “the only solution” to the disaster by those whose insane policies had caused it.

Public ignorance, confusion, and intimidation facilitated the imposition of an intricate machinery of socialist controls enforced by a vast parasitic bureaucracy endowed with police powers. “Emergency laws” were passed, and individual freedoms disappeared. All bank deposits were nationalized, and a “new currency” was issued. Electric power was rationed to only a few hours per day. The same was done with the water supply. Rationing booklets and food lines led to riots and widespread insurrections that were ruthlessly suppressed, and soon afterwards, the once prosperous nation plunged into the abyss of a modern totalitarian tyranny.

The Place: Cuba

But, don’t get any wrong ideas. I am not describing events in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. The place was Castro’s Cuba in the beginnings of the socialist revolution that was to push the country backwards more than a century in just a few months.

An industrious and progressive people, the Cubans had risen from Spanish colonialism and in the short span of 50 years had become the third richest nation in per capita income in the Hemisphere without forgivable foreign aid programs. The Cuban currency was frequently quoted above the American dollar in world markets, while social and labor legislation were among the most advanced in the world. All that progress, verified by international records, was wiped out by Castro’s messianic socialism in a flash of time. The enterprising Cubans had failed to learn that freedom demands eternal vigilance, and that government regulation of the economy is the surest road to serfdom.

Today, when I look back at the events responsible for the Cuban tragedy, I shudder to see the ominous similarities with those occurring in the United States at present. I see the same debauching of the currency through the policies of “new economists” and scheming politicasters striving to “create funds” for partisan and international programs. The same “galloping inflation” solely resulting from their fiscal insanity. The same accusations of “greed” and “social irresponsibility” leveled against laborers and producers by those who have swindled them. The same sanctimonious academicians pontificating cures for the “sick society” they have helped to poison. The same legions of parasitic bureaucrats busily engaged in “fighting inflation” by taxing and regulating the nation into paralysis. And the same confusion and despair in the hard-working American people who see their taxes increasing, their money devalued, and their jobs dwindling, while inflation soars and essential goods become scarce under asphyxiating regulations stemming from contrived “crises.”

A Contrived Crisis

The latest and boldest endeavor of the crisis makers has been to engineer an “energy crisis” in the nation possessing the largest potential energy resources and the most advanced technology in the world. Public ignorance, and honest concern for the environment, were abused to the limit by groups of activist charlatans who saturated the country with pseudo-scientific information and frightening opinions about the ecology, provoking a flurry of hysterical legislation that stagnated fuel exploitation, refining capacity, and research. In addition to that, wasteful automotive emission controls, plus the ill-timed enforcement of the use of oil instead of low sulphur coal by power plants, severely increased the demand for petroleum products precisely at the time of legislatively obstructed supply. Nuclear energy, if ever mentioned, was equated by quacks to “an atom bomb in the backyard,” and thus, misguided ecologists practically killed the cleanest form of energy available until the advent of solar energy. It is hardly surprising that we now face an “energy crisis” that not only has dealt a crushing blow to the American economy and to our military preparedness but will empower appointed officials to regulate even further the economic life of the nation.

To crown the present irrationality, our free enterprise system has now been conned into a debilitating collaboration with those whose only purpose is to destroy it, giving rise to the sad spectacle of a powerful but groveling prey insanely nurturing its implacable foes. Logic and reason have been replaced by “popular” sophisticated fallacies that insult human intelligence. Yet, few Americans dare express their anger lest others consider them ignorant or maladjusted.

As a victim of the Cuban tragedy, I don’t give a damn about “popular opinions” any more. I found those opinions to be a disastrous substitute for plain common sense. Perhaps I will be attacked and discredited by some of our “citizens above suspicion” for exposing their frauds, but it is high time that innocent Americans stop blaming one another and focus their indignation on those who through their sophistic manipulation of economic, social, and diplomatic falsehoods have precipitated our present plight.        

The author is a former Professor of Engineering at the University of Villanova in Havana, Cuba, and Director of Solar Energy Research for the Cuban Government. In exile in the U. S. since 1960 he has been Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at M. I. T.; Associate Professor of Engineering Design at Tufts University; and Adj. Associate Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Since 1969 he has been in private practice as consultant for the textile industry.