2014 December 20 Saturday
Pedagogical Value Of Communist Countries

Cuba and North Korea serve as useful reminders of just how incredibly badly communism works in practice. Living museums of really bad and disastrous ideology in a much purer form than what gets peddled in support of the modern welfare state.Since Cuba isn't building ICBMS or nuclear weapons I think we get a lot of pedagogical value with little downside cost for Americans and residents of other countries. Cuba provides this value in a dysfunctional system very close to American shores. But we only get a benefit from the horror which is communism if we pay attention to the state of decay in Cuba and the plight of its people. With that thought in mind read Michael J. Totten's full article: The Last Communist City: A visit to the dystopian Havana that tourists never see. Cuba is down and still decaying.

Cuba was one of the world’s richest countries before Castro destroyed it—and the wealth wasn’t just in the hands of a tiny elite. “Contrary to the myth spread by the revolution,” wrote Alfred Cuzan, a professor of political science at the University of West Florida, “Cuba’s wealth before 1959 was not the purview of a privileged few. . . . Cuban society was as much of a middle-class society as Argentina and Chile.” In 1958, Cuba had a higher per-capita income than much of Europe. “More Americans lived in Cuba prior to Castro than Cubans lived in the United States,” Cuban exile Humberto Fontova, author of a series of books about Castro and Guevara, tells me. “This was at a time when Cubans were perfectly free to leave the country with all their property. In the 1940s and 1950s, my parents could get a visa for the United States just by asking. They visited the United States and voluntarily returned to Cuba. More Cubans vacationed in the U.S. in 1955 than Americans vacationed in Cuba. Americans considered Cuba a tourist playground, but even more Cubans considered the U.S. a tourist playground.” Havana was home to a lot of that prosperity, as is evident in the extraordinary classical European architecture that still fills the city. Poor nations do not—cannot—build such grand or elegant cities.

But rather than raise the poor up, Castro and Guevara shoved the rich and the middle class down. The result was collapse. “Between 1960 and 1976,” Cuzan says, “Cuba’s per capita GNP in constant dollars declined at an average annual rate of almost half a percent. The country thus has the tragic distinction of being the only one in Latin America to have experienced a drop in living standards over the period.”

For foreign tourists who want cheap prostitutes Havana is a great deal. So it is understandable that some Canadians are upset that America is (probably) going to normalize relations with Cuba.

Havana sounds like the abandoned sections of Detroit except Havana hasn't been abandoned.

Outside its small tourist sector, the rest of the city looks as though it suffered a catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the Indonesian tsunami. Roofs have collapsed. Walls are splitting apart. Window glass is missing. Paint has long vanished. It’s eerily dark at night, almost entirely free of automobile traffic. I walked for miles through an enormous swath of destruction without seeing a single tourist. Most foreigners don’t know that this other Havana exists, though it makes up most of the city—tourist buses avoid it, as do taxis arriving from the airport. It is filled with people struggling to eke out a life in the ruins.

Hey, readers from Mexico who are fans of Cuba and Venezuela: What have you to say about Cuba's decay?

Update: Cuba desperately needs better relations with Washington DC because the collapse of oil prices is going to prevent Venezuela from giving billions of dollars of aid per year to Cuba. That money props up the failed communist regime. This is ironic in light of the fact that price controls and nationalizations in Venezuela are creating huge scarcities and collapsing living standards. Venezuela's socialists are propping up the Cubans who need help because they are further along the economic road that Venezuela's government is traveling.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 December 20 10:30 AM 

Daniel H said at December 21, 2014 12:55 PM:

Alright, the embargo is lifted (nobody ever discusses the fact that the rest of the world is perfectly free to trade with Cuba if they want to, but they don't want to, because Cuba produces nothing of value, except cheap prostitutes), how is Cuba going to pay for anything? Does the Cuban leadership expect to be given goods for free? Are they expecting grants from the U.S.? That's a bit too much isn't it.

With the embargo lifted the Castro brothers will have no more excuses to fall back on. Frustrated rising expectations bring enormous discontent. Cubans are not Chinese, they are part of western culture and civilizations. They will not forsake liberty for prosperity when they see liberty up close. Besides, they won't get prosperity themselves, they will just witness it in others. When Cubans see the full force of American prole prosperity they will become extremely angry with their overlords. "Why couldn't we have this?" they will say. Frequent and sustained contact with westerners will press in their conscience just how dysfunctional Cuba is, and all the fault of the Castro family and it's toadies. I think that this is a brilliant move of Obama's, a decision that should have been made long ago, but we all know that Republicans are too stupid to ever make such a bold move.

Black Death said at December 22, 2014 6:09 AM:

Referring to the Cuban government's practice of sending doctors abroad (on such happy missions as fighting Ebola in Africa) and then keeping almost all of their wages, the WSJ's Mary Anastasia O'Grady used terms such as "human trafficking" and "slave trade." This seems about the same:

Even employees inside the quasi-capitalist bubble don’t get paid more. The government contracts with Spanish companies such as Meliá International to manage Havana’s hotels. Before accepting its contract, Meliá said that it wanted to pay workers a decent wage. The Cuban government said fine, so the company pays $8–$10 an hour. But Meliá doesn’t pay its employees directly. Instead, the firm gives the compensation to the government, which then pays the workers—but only after pocketing most of the money. I asked several Cubans in my hotel if that arrangement is really true. All confirmed that it is. The workers don’t get $8–$10 an hour; they get 67 cents a day—a child’s allowance.


I agree that lifting the embargo is the right thing to do. Cuba poses no threat to the US, and the embargo has done nothing to destabilize the despotic Cuban regime. If anything, it provides the Castros with an excuse on which to blame all of their economic failures. When the Castro boys eventually pass from the scene and their dreadful regime heads for its well-deserved p[lace in the ash bin of history, the Cuban exiles in Florida will swoop in and buy up everything. They'll be the only ones with money.

Mike Street Station said at December 23, 2014 7:15 AM:

Great article by the way, but just a couple of points.

I don't think there was a need or advantage to move to normalize relations with Cuba now. I don't see that the US is going to get anything out of this other than more Cubans washing up on our shores. I think it would have been smarter to just wait until the Csstro brothers die and see if the new regime is interested in a real opening up.

The embargo isn't lifted. That's a product of US law, the Helms-Burton Act. Obama can't just waive that away, he needs Congress to to change the law, which is unlikely since none of the conditions of Helms-Burton were met. Then again, mere law hasn't stopped Obama before.

The Cuban Adjustment Act. That's the law that codifies "Wet foot / Dry foot" immigration policy for Cuba. Basically if they can get here, they can stay and get permanent residence. So is that going to be altered? Somehow, I wouldn't count on it...

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