I have often pondered on the enigma which is Cuba, a nation so physically close to the United States, yet a chasm away culturally and economically. The island has gone from Spanish colony to mafia state to communism, and all models have apparently failed. It is ranked at the bottom of the barrel on economic freedoms, and I would hypothesize this as the primary reason for the country’s failure to thrive.
(2012 World Map of the Index of Economic Freedom, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation)
Even with the changeover from Fidel to Raul Castro, and the eventuality of the end of that family’s rule over the nation, the entrenched regime appears to be going nowhere. The situation can only go downhill on the current trajectory, given that both the Soviet Union and now Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s largest benefactors, are now gone.
Piecemeal reforms have produced few tangible results, most likely due to the limitation of reforms on the economy. Although very limited private enterprise is now legal, it is by far not free enterprise, as supply issues in particular retard growth.
Along with this, both racism and sexism are rampant in the country, whose rulers will not even allow public discussion on the matter. They proclaimed years ago that the mission of equality under the Castros’ administrations was complete, in a rather farcical way, not unlike George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the 2nd Iraq War.
The mission is so complete that Cubans are still defecting from the country, even though failure in the attempt will likely lead to death. The loss of population is a serious issue for such a dysfunctional place, only compounding the situation.
Although the United States’ embargo may have some part to play with the current situation in Cuba, it is likely minimal, as Cuba has the ability to trade with other nations, and the United States Navy does not actively blockade the island. Still, the embargo was out-dated almost as soon as it was signed, only pushing Cuba further away from the United States’ sphere and into the open arms of the world community of communist states. The embargo should end today, as all it does is limit American investment in Cuba and prevents both countries from benefiting from free trade and movement.
There needs to be a “Nixon goes to China” moment here. Opening up trade between the People’s Republic of China and the United States has brought nearly fantastical economic growth for China, and a steady supply of goods to the United States, along with some economic freedom for the Chinese. One could easily see the same occurring with our nearby southern neighbor, accelerating the transition from a centrally planned economy to a freer one.