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Cuba Is Obama’s End of the Road


American liberals have long extolled Cuba as a model of their economic philosophy, which entails government control of economic activity, socialized health care, government-provided education, and equalization of wealth. While Cubans correctly call this socialism, to avoid the stigma associated with that word American liberals have long called it “progressivism.”

Opposed to the socialist/progressive economic philosophy is that of economic liberty, which libertarians favor. It holds that there should be a complete separation of economy and the state, just as we have a separation of church and state. That would mean the right of people to freely engage in any economic activity, the right to freely enter into trades with people all over the world, the right to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, and the right to decide what to do with one’s own money — all without the permission, control, regulation, or interference of the government.

The New York Times recently carried an article that shows what happens when socialist/progressive principles are carried to their logical conclusion. The article began by describing three people in Cuba: A mother of two who goes door-to-door selling ribbons; an old man sells cookies and candies to people who knock on his door; a grandmother sells cheap rum in used beer cans.

Now here’s the kicker: “Such entrepreneurship is outlawed.”

Yes, outlawed! It’s illegal to engage in such economic enterprise in Cuba.

In fact, the job of block captains for Cuban neighborhoods is to report transgressions to the authorities, who are expected to arrest, prosecute, and punish people for engaging in such heinous activity.

But as the article points out, the activity “thrives nonetheless.” It’s what people do in a desperate attempt to survive the near-starvation conditions in which they live.

Several years ago, I visited Cuba. A Cuban citizen told me that block captains know that if they rat on their neighbors for engaging in economic enterprise, the neighbors will deal with him severely. So, the block captains keep their mouths shut.

Such illegality is the logical outcome of the socialist/progressive vision, the vision that President Obama and his liberal cohorts wish to continue foisting on our nation. What Castro has done in Cuba is simply carry the liberal economic vision to its logical conclusion. Castro didn’t just nationalize a few automobile and insurance companies, as President Obama has done, he nationalized everything. The government became the sole employer, and everyone supposedly was made equal by becoming a salaried employee of the state. The government provides “free” health care to everyone and “free” education to everyone’s children.

There was no more capitalist “exploitation” of workers because there were no more privately owned businesses to hire people. Everyone worked for the government. No one was permitted to become too wealthy because everyone’s salary was controlled by the state, the sole employer.

Entering into economic exchanges had to be made illegal because the socialist mindset holds that in every trade, there is a winner and a loser. Permitting people to enter into trades would permit some people to become wealthier than others by taking advantage of those with whom they are trading.

The government became the sole provider of everything, from health care, to education, to food, to employment, to retirement.

Cradle to grave security — the liberal/socialist/progressive dream.

That’s where Obama and his fellow liberals are leading America. That’s the end of their road. Oh, sure, they have to play the game in which they ardently deny that they are socialists and explain how they’re just using government ownership and control to save America’s “free enterprise” system. But step by step, their programs, and resulting economic crises, are leading our nation toward the logical economic outcome, as manifested in Cuba.

And what has been the result of all this in Cuba? Poverty. Severe poverty, as in near-starvation conditions. Oh, sure, liberals blame it all on the cruel and brutal embargo that the U.S. Empire has enforced for decades against the Cuban people. But they’re only half right because the embargo is only half the vise under which the Cuban people have been squeezed. The other half of the vise is Cuba’s socialist economic system, which would squeeze the lifeblood out of any society.

When Fidel Castro finally dies, it would not surprise me if the Cuban people were to rise up and demand economic liberty. In my conversations with ordinary Cubans, they expressed deep respect and admiration for Castro for having opposed the U.S. Empire’s longtime aim of controlling and managing their country, but at the same time they know that Castro’s socialist experiment has been a disaster for them.

In fact, one of the most surprising parts of my visit to Cuba was my encountering ordinary Cuban citizens who were knowledgeable and committed advocates of economic liberty. One of them even took me to his home, where he showed me his extensive collection of books, which included works by Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and many other free-market economists.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Cuban people were to suddenly move toward economic liberty while the American people were continuing to move toward socialism?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.