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What would Cuba have been without the revolution?

Summary:
Given that we are seeing at least stirrings of the counterrevolution in Cuba it’s worth pondering what the place would have been without that revolution itself.One problem we have is that the usual numbers we’re presented with are entirely and wholly unbelievable. The idea that Cuba’s GDP is 0 billion is absurd. The population is about the same as that of the Dominican Republic (GDP billion) and it would indeed be insane to claim that living standards are higher in Cuba than that Republic. No one in Cuba outside the senior ranks of the Communist Party is living as if GDP per capita is approaching ,000 a year so therefore GDP per capita isn’t approaching that - GDP is the value of all consumption in one of the calculation methods after all. That isn’t usually the claim though.

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Given that we are seeing at least stirrings of the counterrevolution in Cuba it’s worth pondering what the place would have been without that revolution itself.

One problem we have is that the usual numbers we’re presented with are entirely and wholly unbelievable. The idea that Cuba’s GDP is $100 billion is absurd. The population is about the same as that of the Dominican Republic (GDP $88 billion) and it would indeed be insane to claim that living standards are higher in Cuba than that Republic. No one in Cuba outside the senior ranks of the Communist Party is living as if GDP per capita is approaching $9,000 a year so therefore GDP per capita isn’t approaching that - GDP is the value of all consumption in one of the calculation methods after all.

That isn’t usually the claim though. Rather, that while the socialist revolution hasn’t brought mass hyperconsumerism (to adopt the usual language) it has brought two much more valuable things. Free health care and freedom from the regional hegemon, the United States. Well, OK, so our counterfactual needs to be - by preference Spanish speaking just to reduce alternative possible influences - a Caribbean island that did remain subject to that hegemonic power of Uncle Sam.

Fortunately we have one of these to compare with - Puerto Rico. Where GDP per capita is, even at those unbelievable about Cuba official numbers, three to four times higher (about a quarter of the population with roughly the same total GDP). They also have free healthcare, or at least a system that provides it for free to those who cannot pay themselves. Just as we also have a system of free healthcare even though we didn’t have a bloody revolution and generations of penury to get it.

We do not argue that Puerto Rico is some nirvana, some perfection upon the Earth. We would argue that it’s a better outcome than that which Cuba suffers.

Or, more simply, as 1989 showed us, socialist revolutions don’t achieve their claimed goals let alone actually work. As with the Soviet one, after 70 years plus or minus some change the Cuban revolution has produced a result worse than not having that revolution. Even when we do consider the health care thing.

Here’s hoping that the people will soon be free of this dreadful error…..

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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