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Travel to Cuba to Learn about America


In order to preserve the national security of the United States, the U.S. Congress has made it illegal for Americans to spend money in Cuba. National security, you ask? Well, what Congress actually might mean is the security of the socialistic and paternalistic state that Democrats and Republicans have constructed in America during much of the 20th century.

Ever since I discovered the libertarian philosophy 20 years ago, people have asked me why libertarians have such extreme views. After all, libertarians advocate the abolition, not the reform, of such things as public schooling, public housing, food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, drug laws, gun-control laws, and the IRS and the federal income tax. Why, we libertarians even call for the privatization of public libraries and the national highway system.

“Don’t you believe in America’s free-enterprise system?” people have asked me over the years. “Sure, capitalism has its problems,” they’ve pointed out, “but it sure is superior to socialism.”

A trip to Cuba would help bring a healthy dose of reality to the American people.

Everyone would agree that Cuba ranks among the top five models of socialism in the world today. Even with “reforms” since the termination of Soviet subsidies in 1990, no American would ever accuse Cuba of being an economically free country or even “oriented” toward free enterprise. If you want to see the essence of socialism, all you have to do is travel to Cuba.

And that very well may be why Democrats and Republicans have made it illegal for Americans to go there and spend money.

What you would find in Cuba might shock, befuddle, and confuse you. For you would find much of what Democrats and Republicans have foisted onto the American people for the past several decades in the name of “saving” or “reforming” America’s “free-enterprise system.”

For example, you might be surprised to find public schooling, Medicare, and Medicaid in Cuba. If you tried to convince the Cuban people that these government programs are actually characteristic of a system of free enterprise, rather than socialism, they would laugh. They would teach you that public schooling and national health care are the elements of Cuban socialism for which Fidel Castro is most proud. They might even take you to see Cuba’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.

In socialist Cuba, you would also find public housing, public universities, and public libraries. Social Security and subsidized food. A national highway system. You’d find a vicious war on drugs. Strict gun control. Occupational licensure, income taxation, and income-tax returns.

I recently traveled to Cuba to conduct an informal study of the Cuban way of life. Even though I knew it was illegal to criticize the Cuban system (a point that was being reinforced by the sedition trial of four dissidents while I was there), I was bound and determined to deliver a presentation of libertarian principles in the middle of this socialist “paradise.”

I figured out what I considered might be a “safe” route to follow. This is what I said to a group at the University of Havana:

“In the U.S., the state runs our educational system, and it’s a disaster. We libertarians challenge the state by asking why Americans are not permitted to have a free market in education.

“The state also runs a health-care system for the poor and the elderly called Medicare and Medicaid and an old-age retirement system called Social Security. All of them are bankrupt messes. We libertarians challenge the state by asking why people are not free to keep everything they earn and manage their own health care and retirement.

“Our government wages a vicious war against drugs that is tearing apart the fabric of our society. We libertarians challenge the state by asking why people should not be free to live their lives the way they choose, so long as their conduct is peaceful.

“Our government wages a brutal war on immigrants along our southern border. We libertarians challenge the state by asking why people should not be free to cross borders to seek a better way of life, to start their own businesses or work for others, to accumulate wealth, and to decide what to do with it.”

In five minutes, through the presentation of libertarian principles, I had leveled a principled challenge against the core tenets of Cuban socialism, and I had used American socialism to do it.

The great German thinker Johann Goethe once pointed out that none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. The Cuban people have suffered through decades of socialism, but at least they know what socialism is. Who is freer – he who knows the truth or he who does not?

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    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.