A Cuban walks into a bar, sits on a barstool, and sighs heavily. The patron sitting a few stools away demands that the man stop spouting anti-socialist propaganda.
Like other socialist experiments, the failed Cuban model has produced a treasure trove of jokes. Unfortunately for generations of people who have had to endure failed economic policies and totalitarian leadership, it’s no laughing matter.
In July 2018, the government released the first draft of the country’s new constitution. The document establishes socialism, recognizes private property, and paves the way for gay marriage. The island nation appears to be abandoning its communist vision, even though Havana will keep the Communist Party at the head of the single-party system. While foreign observers ascertain that Cuba finally is entering the 21st century, the measures employed by the state are stuck in the past.
It appears that lawmakers have added a dose of insanity to the constitutional draft because Cuba continues to implement the same hallmarks of socialism while expecting different results. Former President Fidel Castro was right when he conceded that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore” back in September 2010.
Another Test of Socialism
Once Castro assumed control following the revolution, he went on a nationalization spree, taking over telecommunications, oil refineries, property held by religious institutions, foreign-owned assets, and food markets and restaurants. Private enterprise was outlawed. Cuba experienced many hiccups, which is why the government issued a food rationing program. But the state was propped up by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.
After the Red Menace’s collapse, Cuba’s destitution worsened. The gross domestic product was cut in half, food shortages were widespread, the government defaulted on billions in loans, black markets formed, and harvests deteriorated. In other words, it was déjà vu all over again, in the same vein as Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Mao Zedong’s China.
Of course, the nationwide famine will never be forgotten. Like other socialist utopias, the citizenry relied on a diet of domestic cats and zoo animals as the elite and the military were given top priority. With hunger affecting 11 million people, the average Cuban’s weight decreased by 30%.
To understand the plight of everyday Cubans, here is what Sylvia, a then-32-year-old unmarried mother, told The Independent in July 1994:
“Cats were among the first to go since they’re said to taste okay. I had my three robbed from my house in January. I’ve heard of people eating dogs, those little ones that have no fur, but I think that’s the exception. They say dog meat tastes bad, and you still see plenty of stray dogs. Most people have drawn the line there. So far.”
How come populations in socialist paradises always resort to consuming house pets?
Even with the strong social safety net, discontent grew among the public. This is understandable when there are serious food shortages and the people are hungry. To limit dissent and sustain its power, the government had no other option but to introduce market reforms.
…Cuba remains one of the world’s least free economies…
Throughout the 1990s, Havana legalized the U.S. dollar, permitted self-employment, liberalized agricultural markets, and allowed foreign investment. And, of course, tourism became a huge industry for the economy, increasing the GDP by more than 6%. The black market was still around, but prices plunged amid these reforms.
The reforms didn’t end there. When Raul Castro succeeded his brother, he proposed a so-called new Cuban economy, another breed of socialism that saw a less active state and more free-enterprise; politicians and poorer residents still detested and mistrusted entrepreneurs. This was only a pipe dream, as Cuba remains one of the world’s least free economies, which isn’t surprising, considering the extent of its central planning.
Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same. An example? Price controls.
With surging food inflation and a frustrated public, the government is purchasing, distributing, and selling food at fixed prices. Havana has shut down private vendors and mandated private truckers to transport inventories to wholesale markets instead of retail outlets. Moreover, the government is assigning scarce inputs and ordering farmers what to plant, a reason for the mountains of onions and plantains at military-run markets.
As expected, black markets are forming once again, selling everything from steak to potatoes to full-fat powdered milk. But you can locate more than just food at these establishments. Due to shortages in other areas of the economy, consumers can buy painkillers, period pads, and LED light bulbs.
Price controls beget only misery. In addition to shortages, this socialist policy decreases the quality of goods and services, increases the size of bureaucracies, and leads to more government intervention in the private sector. Why do governments insist on instituting this measure?
It Never Works
A man walks into a restaurant. He sits down at a table and asks the waiter, “Sir, can you bring me a cup of coffee without cream?” Minutes later, the waiter returns and informs the diner, “I’m sorry, sir, we have no cream; can it be without milk?”
Every time a country applies a socialist remedy to a problem, it exacerbates the said problem. Right now, Cuba is experiencing food price inflation, but its leaders believe they can solve this issue with more of the same, resulting in widespread shortages.
Cuba’s authoritarianism has been well documented over the years, from imprisoning journalists to censoring free expression. The tackling of a Cuban who ran with the U.S. flag perfectly depicts the state of the country.
Yet, these transgressions often are ignored by the left in favor of Cuba’s economic system. However, the left fails in this endeavor, too, because the country’s economy is also a disaster. Sure, you get “free” healthcare, but what good is free medical care if there are zero supplies or medicine with which to be treated?
Cuba has become a meme at this point. Socialism: A system so good that people need to flee from it.