A Cuban flag and an image of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro hang on a wall in Havana as people head to Revolution Square for a massive tribute to Castro in 2016. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters) Like all forms of oppression, communism and democratic socialism belong in the dustbin of history.
We may be witnessing the end of Communism in Cuba. On July 11, thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest the island’s appalling political and economic conditions. Some media outlets are trying to spin these as “COVID protests” rather than a general rejection of government domination. The cries of “Freedom!” and “Enough!” and the prevalence of American flags put that narrative to rest. Cubans long to be free, and now they may get the chance.
The island nation of 11 million is a political and economic basket case. Its government is a brutal dictatorship with an appalling record of human-rights abuses. Freedom of speech and assembly are heavily curtailed, and in response to the protests, the regime has restricted Internet access. Cuba’s economy is largely bereft of private ownership. Government-run enterprises are the rule, not the exception. Most workers are employed by the state. On the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom, only two countries rank lower: Venezuela and North Korea.
These are not separate problems. Political and economic tyranny are symptoms of the same malady. We must not fall into the trap of blaming only one kind of repression. In Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman warned against thinking “any kind of economic arrangement can be associated with any kind of political arrangement.” We aren’t free to choose political and economic systems a la carte. Genuine democracy requires free enterprise, and vice versa.
Cuba’s ongoing turmoil reminds us we can’t compartmentalize human freedom. Sadly, many Western politicians and intellectuals remain obstinate. So-called democratic socialism is currently fashionable. It’s also completely unworkable. F. A. Hayek, who shared the Nobel prize in economics in 1974 and was also an accomplished political philosopher, demonstrated this nearly 80 years ago. His Road to Serfdom shows economic control and political liberty
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