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Conservatives Are a Disaster on the Cuban Embargo


A classic example of what a disaster conservatives are when it comes to the U.S. embargo against Cuba is found in an article entitled “Lift the Embargo – But Liberate Cuba First” by Jeff Jacoby, which is posted on Townhall.com, a premier conservative website.

Like most other conservatives, Jacoby supports the continuation of the U.S. embargo against Cuba so long as Cuba continues to be ruled by a tyrannical dictatorship. Once “the Cuban government legalizes political opposition, frees its political prisoners, and schedules democratic elections,” as provided in the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, Jacoby says that then it would be okay with him to lift the embargo.

Jacoby disagrees with those who say that lifting the embargo would weaken Cuba’s dictatorial hold on the Cuban people by flooding the country with American tourists, books, money, conversations, and ideas. He points out that European freedom to travel to Cuba hasn’t had such an effect, ignoring of course the fact that most Europeans love socialism, the economic system on which Cuba is based. (Of course, so do many Americans, including conservatives, as reflected by their support of the types of economic programs that are found in both the United States and Cuba — e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income taxation, public schooling, economic regulations, licensure, central bank, fiat money, etc.)

What is truly disastrous about the conservative position, however, is the fact that in the name of combatting tyranny in Cuba, conservatives endorse the same type of economic controls over the American people that the communists in Cuba impose on the Cuban people.

U.S. officials indoctrinate Americans with the notion that the embargo against Cuba is a control over the Cubans people and their government. Not so. The embargo is an economic control that the U.S. government imposes on Americans. It tells Americans:

You are hereby prohibited from spending your money in Cuba without our official permission. If you do so without our permission, we will come after you with a federal criminal indictment and prosecute you to the full extent of the law. We will convict you of a federal felony offense. We will ask the federal judge in your case to sentence you to serve several years in a federal penitentiary and to impose a large fine on you, not only to punish you for your obstinate insistence on spending your money in your own way but also to send a message to all other Americans that this is what happens to Americans who violate our economic controls.

How is that type of control distinguishable from the types of tyrannical economic controls imposed by the communist regime in Cuba?

Not surprisingly, Jacoby, like all other conservatives, openly proclaims that he is “committed to free enterprise and limited government.”

Yet, how in the world can the U.S. embargo against Cuba be reconciled with “free enterprise”? Free enterprise means economic enterprise that is free of government control and regulation. Punishing a person for buying things from Cubans or selling things to them without official permission is about as far from “free enterprise” as one can get.

How can a law that empowers a government to incarcerate and fine citizens for spending their own money the way they want be reconciled with the concept of “limited government,” especially since it mirrors the type of economic crimes that are found in Cuba and other communist countries, which Jacoby would acknowledge are ruled by governments with unlimited powers?

Moreover, how can freedom be a right when it can be infringed upon willy-nilly by one’s own government as a means to combat a foreign regime’s infringement of the freedom of its own citizens? Doesn’t that convert freedom from a fundamental right into a government-granted privilege, one that can be suspended whenever public officials find it expedient to do so?

Of course, that’s not the only hypocritical aspect of the conservative position on the Cuban embargo. As Jacoby well knows, there are many other dictatorial regimes around the world, including those in China, Vietnam, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Yet, one rarely hears conservatives calling for an economic embargo against those countries. Indeed, the U.S. government, oftentimes with the enthusiastic support of conservatives, even floods some of these tyrannical regimes (e.g., the current military dictatorship in Egypt that is killing, jailing, torturing, and terrorizing dissidents and critics) with monies that have been forcibly extracted by the IRS from U.S. taxpayers.

But maybe Jacoby, like many other conservatives, honestly believes that the Cuban embargo he so ardently supports is finally going to bring regime change in Cuba, notwithstanding the fact that it has failed to achieve that goal for the past 55 years. When it comes to the decades-long obsession with installing another pro-U.S. regime in Cuba, hope springs eternal for conservatives.

Jacoby and other conservatives are wrong about the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The freedom of the American people should not depend on the freedom of the Cuban people. The American people, like people everywhere, have the inherent, God-given right to their own freedom regardless of what governments do to people in other parts of the world.


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.