Cas­tro, so­cial­ism and the short­sighted

Ad­mir­ers of Fidel fail to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween as­pi­ra­tion and re­al­ity

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Richard W. Rahn Richard W. Rahn is chair­man of Im­prob­a­ble Suc­cess Pro­duc­tions and on the board of the Amer­i­can Coun­cil for Cap­i­tal For­ma­tion.

How many po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies would a dic­ta­tor have to kill be­fore you would no longer want your non-adult chil­dren to meet with him? Sean Penn wrote a par­tic­u­larly mind­less semi-trib­ute to Fidel Cas­tro in the Dec. 3 edi­tion of the Daily Beast, where he is far harsher on Don­ald Trump than on Cas­tro. The ar­ti­cle caught my at­ten­tion be­cause he had taken his young chil­dren to Cuba to meet Cas­tro. He also re­ferred to Luis Posada, “of­ten named as the ar­chi­tect of the 1976 Cubana [air­line] DC8 bomb­ing” (more on that be­low), un­fairly lump­ing him in with all the peace­ful Mi­ami Cubans who cel­e­brated the death of the dic­ta­tor. I as­sume that Mr. Penn would not have been as en­thu­si­as­tic about his chil­dren meet­ing Hitler, Stalin or Mao (if that had been pos­si­ble), be­cause they each were re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of tens of mil­lions of peo­ple, rather than just many thou­sands, as was Cas­tro.

Many Cas­tro tributes poured in from those who should have known bet­ter, such as Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. In ad­di­tion to all of the killings and im­pris­on­ments, Cas­tro also de­prived the Cuban peo­ple free­dom of speech, of assem­bly, of the press and of re­li­gion, the right to travel, and to fair and free elec­tions, among other things. His apol­o­gists say “Oh, never mind, be­cause he im­proved lit­er­acy and health care.”

A few facts: Mar­ian Tupy, who runs Cato In­sti­tute’s Hu­man Progress Project, and who grew up in a so­cial­ist coun­try, last week wrote: “All so­cial­ist regimes have had a two-tier health­care sys­tem — one for the se­nior com­mu­nist party mem­bers … and one for hoi pol­loi. … Be­tween 1960 and 2015, life ex­pectancy in Chile rose by 42 per­cent ... . It rose in Cuba by 25 per­cent. If this is suc­cess, I won­der what fail­ure looks like.”

Cuba has achieved a high lit­er­acy rate, as have most other coun­tries in the Caribbean and Latin Amer­ica, but lit­er­acy rates in the av­er­age Latin Amer­i­can coun­try have grown at a faster rate than in Cuba, and with­out cen­sor­ship.

In the 1950s, Cuba, Chile and Hong Kong were all low-in­come coun­tries. Cuba still is a low-in­come coun­try (with food short­ages), while Chile now has ap­prox­i­mately four times the per capita in­come of Cuba, and Hong Kong has ap­prox­i­mately eight times the per capita in­come of Cuba. The dif­fer­ence: Hong Kong has the high­est level of eco­nomic free­dom in the world; Chile ranks high; while Cuba is one of the least free.

Those who have praised Cas­tro and Cuba merely re­veal their own ig­no­rance and lack of an eth­i­cal com­pass. Back in 1976, be­cause of my pre­vi­ous lead­er­ship role in a Repub­li­can pol­icy and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion, I was in­vited by the Cuban gov­ern­ment to put to­gether a very small team to visit Cuba and meet with high-rank­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. We were sup­posed to fly into Cuba on Cubana Air­lines Flight 455 from Kingston, Ja­maica on Oct. 6. Trag­i­cally, the flight was blown up off Bar­ba­dos — with the loss of 73 lives — by ter­ror­ists, a cou­ple of hours be­fore we were sup­posed to board. The pre­vi­ously men­tioned Luis Posada was charged with mas­ter­mind­ing the op­er­a­tion but was only con­victed of a lesser crime in the United States. We were told his group wished to dis­cour­age our trip (which may or may not be true), not re­al­iz­ing that we were go­ing with ex­press en­cour­age­ment and guid­ance of the U.S. State Depart­ment.

One of our team mem­bers was a lead­ing hu­man rights jour­nal­ist by the name of Ted Jac­queney. Ted met with some mem­bers of the Cuban un­der­ground dur­ing our trip, which mo­ti­vated him to write an ar­ti­cle about Hu­ber Matos (Cas­tro’s high­est-level po­lit­i­cal pris­oner at that time). Four days af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of the ar­ti­cle, Matos’ brother was killed in Hon­duras by Cas­tro agents, in re­venge. Three years later, Jac­queney was killed in New Jer­sey.

Upon our re­turn from Cuba, I wrote an ar­ti­cle about the trip, which, be­fore he was pres­i­dent, Ron­ald Rea­gan used for one of his ra­dio commentaries (March 25, 1977). Rea­gan said, “The con­clu­sion of au­thor Rahn was the U.S. should be very slow to ‘nor­mal­ize’ re­la­tions with Cas­tro, es­pe­cially since Cas­tro needs bet­ter re­la­tions far more than we do. Any such agree­ment, Rahn says, should re­quire an end to Cuban in­ter­ven­tion in Latin Amer­ica, com­pen­sa­tion for the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of some $1.8 bil­lon of prop­erty owned by Amer­i­cans, and free­dom to em­i­grate for po­lit­i­cal prison­ers. I hope the State Depart­ment is lis­ten­ing and I’m glad I was.”

The ques­tion re­mains, why do so many ig­nore the fail­ure of so­cial­ism any time and any place that it has been tried? It is be­cause there is wide­spread ig­no­rance of both his­tory and fun­da­men­tal facts among most of those who ad­vo­cate so­cial­ism. Many can­not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween as­pi­ra­tions and what is doable, given the na­ture of man. And fi­nally, most of them ex­hibit a very lim­ited abil­ity to think be­yond Stage One — i.e., con­sid­er­ing the likely sec­ondary and ter­tiary re­sponses to any po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic pol­icy ac­tion. In sum, their brains are im­ma­ture — many grow out of it with age, but some never do.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH

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