Monday, August 07, 2006

The Great Hope For Mankind

A few days ago, Julian Benson of The Star commented on the prospect of Castero dying and Cuba adding more market activity in the island nation. Defending socialism, he said Cuba "has a lower infant mortality rate and a higher literacy rate than even the United States or Canada, let alone her peers in the developing world. Cuba also has one of the highest doctor per-capita ratios in the world. There is no illiteracy or homelessness, something that only a precious few nations can boast. These benefits exist precisely because of the planned economy."

Let us assume that this is all true; socialist governments love changing their numbers for the world stage and naturally these are all things they would love to alter. I still find these claims insufficient to overturn capitalism's ashtonishing track record. For example, a high ratio of doctors does not mean the doctors are (on average) very good or make a large impact in the health of the population. Cuba has national health care, which would increase the demand for doctors to treat minor problems, taking time away from those smart MDs. We can make similar arguments of illiteracy.

The homelessness claim is simply too absurd to try to explain how it could be true. Quoting a (cited) paragraph from Wikipedia's entry: "Paramount issues have been state salaries failing to meet personal needs under the state rationing system chronically plagued with shortages. As the variety and amount of rationed goods available declined, Cubans increasingly turned to the black market to obtain basic food, clothing, household, and heath amenities."

It's worth noting that for much of its history, Cuba relied on subsidies from the Soviet Union and currently recieves gifts from Venezuela. When the Soviet Union fell in the 1980s, Cuba was forced to engage in more market practices; "only" some 78% of its work force is now employed by the government.

For some reason, people hate accepting capitalism as a means of bettering people's lives despite the volumes of evidence. They point to half-assed attempts of creating free markets as evidence of capitalism failure and economic expansion as somehow undesirable. Benson claimed "capitalism has done few favours to the poor of the world," a strange assertion in a time when China's liberalization is directly followed by her people buying record numbers of cars.

3 comments:

Steve said...

Your litany of Cuba statistics is boilerplate. They constitute a catalogue of lying half-truths if not complete fabrications.

Cuba was the pearl of the Caribbean during the era of the Spanish Empire. Castro took a First World economy and made it Third Rate. If we can trust Castro's hand picked statistics, literacy is up and infant mortality is down since The Revolution. But even if we take the numbers of a dictator who suppresses free speech as gospel, Cuba's ranking among the world's countries have actually fallen on both measures.

It is hard to look at the wealth and prosperity of Miami without thinking, "There but for the ideological insanity of the Castro brothers, goes Cuba". The vital statistics in Miami are better than in Cuba.

Not long ago, a hurricane hit Haiti. Most of the people who took to the sea to flee the destruction chose Bermuda over Cuba by a factor of ten to one, even though Cuba is much closer and the trip to Bermuda is more dangerous. Before Castro, Cuba was one of the top five economies of the Western Hemisphere. Now, it rivals Haiti for last place.

SmoothB said...

Steve,

Do note that David's "litany" wasn't a list of things he thought were great or even true about Cuba. Surely you don't think that anyone on this blog would speak well of a communist country?

Steve said...

Was not a dig at David.

On second thought I should have wrote "That litany ..." rather than "Your litany ..." Apologies for any confusion.