On Trade with Cuba

Doug Erwin, an Economics Professor at Dartmouth, writing in The Wall Street Journal, had a thought.

Restoring trade ties and expanding commerce would revolutionize the Cuban economy and transform Cuban society. It would spur the growth of a business class, creating competing pockets of power and new, wealthy groups that would challenge the ruling Communist Party. It would give Cuban citizens access to more information, and information about the outside world destabilizes any repressive regime. What would happen if every Cuban citizen had access to a smartphone, could organize protests via Twitter, and spread the word about government outrages?

That may well be true. It certainly comports with my view that conservatism and free market philosophies have nothing to fear in the market competition of ideas, and there certainly needs to be such a free market in Cuba.

But there need be no normalization of relations with Cuba, which in the end would benefit only and exclusively the Castros and their successors in the regime, to achieve this. All that’s required is to allow—to legalize from our side of the strait—market interactions between Cuban citizens and American businesses. True enough, the Castro tyranny would object to such a move. However, a black market is the free market alternative to centrally planned economies and to the “economy” of despots.

It’s certainly true that black market pricing is higher than legal free market pricing, but they thrive in a despotic environment for two reasons. One is that those higher than legal free market prices still are lower than the government’s prices. The other is that the products being bought and sold are available at all, as they often are not (e.g., smartphones) in a despot’s economy.

Here is the interaction, and here is the ultimate downfall of the Castro régimes of the world. Then can occur normalization of government-government relations.


h/t Cafe Hayek

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