In my article “Why Is the Cuban Embargo Still in Place?” I pointed out the horrific suffering that U.S. officials have intentionally inflicted on the Cuban people for more than 50 years with their cruel and inhumane economic embargo.
But my article failed to point out another important aspect of the embargo: its destruction of the fundamental rights and liberties of the American people.
That’s what many Americans just don’t get: that the Cuban embargo has not only contributed to the destruction of the lives of the Cuban people, it simultaneously destroyed the freedom of the American people.
As the news media often reminds us, during the past couple of years U.S. officials have permitted Americans greater latitude in traveling to Cuba and spending money there.
The operative word is “permitted.” When someone is permitting someone else to do something, that isn’t freedom. Permission to go places is what slavery was about. Permission connotes a relationship between a master and his serf. Permission is what parents give their children.
A free man doesn’t need permission to travel anywhere. He doesn’t need permission to spend his money wherever he wants. A free man travels wherever he wants, and he spends his money wherever he wants.
Indeed, freedom of travel has long been recognized as one of the fundamental rights to which Thomas Jefferson was referring in the Declaration of Independence, where he observed that all men have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
U.S. officials understood that from the very beginning of the Cuban embargo. To avoid appearing as if they were destroying freedom of travel with their embargo, they never actually made it illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba. Instead, what they did was make it illegal for Americans to spend their money in Cuba.
How’s that for a picture of sheer hypocrisy? As a practical matter, making it a felony offense to spend money in Cuba made it impractical for Americans to travel there. But U.S. officials could piously insist that they weren’t destroying freedom of travel but instead simply making it illegal for Americans to spend their money in Cuba.
But, of course, as libertarians have long maintained, economic liberty is as fundamental a right as freedom of travel. Just as people have the fundamental right to travel to any country they want, they also have the fundamental right to spend their money when they get there. It’s their money, after all. Obviously, nullifying the right to spend their money nullifies their right to travel wherever they want.
And make no mistake about it: Throughout the Cold War, if an American citizen spent money in Cuba, U.S. officials would go after him with a vengeance, indicting him, prosecuting him for a federal offense, and upon conviction, incarcerating and fining him for daring to transgress against their embargo. And they still do it, notwithstanding the fact that the Cold War ended more than a quarter-century ago and notwithstanding the fact that it has become fairly clear that the communists, including those in Cuba, are not coming to get us and force us to memorize the Communist Manifesto.
Given their extreme deference to the authority of the Cold War-era national-security establishment, few Americans ever gave any thought to the fact that their own government was destroying their freedom as part of a desperate Cold War effort to effect regime change against a country whose government never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Most everyone was too consumed with the fear of communism that the U.S. national-security establishment drummed into their heads from its inception in the latter part of the 1940s.
The biggest mistake America ever made was converting the federal government to a national-security state. Communist China is a national-security state. So was the Soviet Union. Same with North Korea and North Vietnam. The justification for this revolutionary change in America’s governmental system was that in order to defeat the communists in the Cold War, it was necessary for America to adopt their governmental structure, but just “temporarily.” But the change didn’t prove to be temporary, as we have seen. The conversion to a national-security state became permanent and, even worse, the national-security branch of the federal government became as powerful and destructive as President Eisenhower believed it would when he delivered his famous Farewell Address in which he warned of the dangers to our rights and freedoms at the hands of the military-industrial complex.
The continuation of the embargo against Cuba demonstrates perfectly the power of the national-security establishment within America’s federal governmental system. Despite the fact that Cuba has never aggressed against the United States, despite the fact that the Cold War ended more than 25 years ago, and despite the fact that almost 75 percent of the American people want the embargo ended, it continues. And so do the intentional infliction of economic suffering on the Cuban people and the destruction of American liberty.