President Obama Travels to Latin America and Can’t Sort the Differences Between Capitalism and Communism: Time for Some Cow Logic

By Robbin Laird

Recently President Obama made an historic trip to Cuba and packed in some other travel to Latin America.

Leaving aside any comments on his visit to Cuba, his comments in Argentina require a serious look and suggest that some further education might be in order for the President before he leaves office.

According to the President, the young people of Argentina, and presumably all those new folks coming forth, need to worry themselves about needless historical distinctions like capitalism, socialism and communism, because they were presumably going to write a fresh new history for mankind to march forward in progress.

Leaving aside the Lord of the Flies and that author’s view of such a Rousseauian notion of youthful inherent goodness, the question really is one of sorting out the President’s understanding and shaping a learning opportunity.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right?

Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works.

You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.

And I said this to President Castro in Cuba. I said, look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education — that’s a huge improvement from where it was. Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care.

That’s a huge achievement.

They should be congratulated. But you drive around Havana and you say this economy is not working. It looks like it did in the 1950s. And so you have to be practical in asking yourself how can you achieve the goals of equality and inclusion, but also recognize that the market system produces a lot of wealth and goods and services.

And it also gives individuals freedom because they have initiative.

And so you don’t have to be rigid in saying it’s either this or that, you can say — depending on the problem you’re trying to solve, depending on the social issues that you’re trying to address what works.

And I think that what you’ll find is that the most successful societies, the most successful economies are ones that are rooted in a market-based system, but also recognize that a market does not work by itself. It has to have a social and moral and ethical and community basis, and there has to be inclusion. Otherwise it’s not stable.

And it’s up to you — whether you’re in business or in academia or the nonprofit sector, whatever you’re doing — to create new forms that are adapted to the new conditions that we live in today.

One could note that the article claimed that Obama had forgotten the differences between Capitalism and Socialism but the forgetting part might have been a bit optimistic.

These statements are amazing on so many levels, but fortunately I have learned from my 15 year son, Pierre-Anne Laird, that there is a way to explain the differences perhaps in a way the President would clearly grasp.

I learned from him that you need to turn to the logic of politics seen from the perspective of cows to really grasp the differences.

I encourage our readers to gain full knowledge and go directly to the websites identified at the end of the article, but will impart some basic knowledge here as well.

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one of your cows and gives it to your neighbor. You’re both forced to join a cooperative where you have to teach your neighbor how to take care of his cow.

Bureaucratic Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as its regulations say you should need.

Russian Communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Communism: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for you share of the milk, but it’s so long that the milk is sour by the time you get it.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

We hope this helps.


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