Free Markets, Free People

Cuba


Cuba allows people to exercise property rights again

You’re probably looking at the title and if you’re familiar with the story wondering why I announced it like that.

The story, if you’re not familiar with it, was reported today by AP in a story entitled “Cuba legalizes sale, purchase of private property”.

After the description of what Cuba will now allow, you run across this within the story:

"This is a very big step forward. With this action the state is granting property rights that didn’t exist before," said Philip J. Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet?   That’s the most ridiculous statement you’re likely to see in some time (which is a bit surprising coming from someone at the Lexington Institute).

Let’s make something perfectly clear – property rights existed prior to and during the communist regime’s takeover.  What the communists did was prevent the exercise of the right through the use of force.  That’s entirely different than what Peters contends.  In fact, the AP title comes closer to the truth than Peters.  The communist regime had simply made the exercise of the right “illegal” and had used force to prevent the people of Cuba from exercising that right.   The right didn’t go away, just the ability to exercise it.

Now, surprise surprise, the communist regime has all but admitted it was a foolish thing to do and has again made the right “legal”.  Or said another way, they will no longer use the force of the state to prevent people from exercising their inherent right to property.

Oh, and as a bonus for the income equality crowd?  If you want income equality, Cuba is your place.  Everyone makes about the same there.  Check it out.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Hugo Chavez reportedly has cancer

Venezuelan socialist strong man Hugo Chavez is reported to have had cancer surgery in Cuba (how freakin’ bad is it when you have to go to Cuba for treatment).

The usually vivacious Chavez, 56, confirmed in a stern speech on Thursday he had surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor and was receiving more treatment. He said he needed time to recover before returning to Venezuela to run his self-styled revolution.

A fiery critic of the United States, Chavez will miss events marking Venezuela’s 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. He had to cancel a regional summit planned for the momentous July 5 date.

Markets have generally reacted positively to news of Chavez’s health problems, on the presumption they improve the chances of a more business-friendly government.

The last sentence says it all.   If ever there’s been a person to ruin the economic health of a country, it is Hugo Chavez.   He’s now vulnerable.  And as the article says, there’s a power vacuum forming and in most cases that’s not a good thing – in this case, it could be a good thing:

"Political vacuums are rarely to be encouraged, but this one could lead to a slowdown in public spending and could raise the likelihood of an opposition victory in the next elections, and thus a less confrontational governing style," said Richard Segal, an emerging markets analyst at Jefferies in London.

An interesting situation.  And the longer he remains in Cuba, the shakier his position in Venezuela becomes.  Nothing would do the world and Venezuela more good than to see another revolution which ousts him from power and returns the country to a real democracy and market based economy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Irony: Michael Moore’s "Sicko" was banned in Cuba

And why was the Oscar nominated 2007 “documentary” film banned?

Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore’s Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash.

Or said another way, it was propaganda that even those who were made to look good found so dishonest they refused to show it. A communist regime. One steeped in propaganda designed to make them look good.

Yup, Michael Moore’s work in a nutshell.

More irony?  This info was contained in a confidential cable released by Wikileaks and Moore just helped bail Wikileaks founder Julian Assange out of jail.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 12 Sep 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Fidel Castro’s reported admission that Cuban economic system doesn’t work, and whether the upcoming election is a mandate for the Republicans, or something else entirely.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Fidel Castro – Socialism doesn’t work

We could have told him that 50 years ago:

Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba’s communist economic model doesn’t work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.

[...]

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

[...]

The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen’s food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidized prices.

Of course the "Cuban model" only “worked” while the USSR existed. It was essentially based in heavy subsidies paid Cuba by the USSR for being its main proxy in the Americas. And the USSR’s woes most firmly underlined the problems with a centralized demand economy run by the state. Even so, Cuba continued on along that vein even after their greatest benefactor and financial supporter collapsed like a wet paper box. Now, finally, after pushing Cuba into poverty, Castro admits socialism is a bust.

China, while still totalitarian, recognized the economic problems soon enough to avert a similar disaster by loosening up economically. Cuba and North Korea, though, have continued to use the disastrous economic model and are basket cases (Cuba has instituted some modest economic changes, but not enough to break the dependency on the state the government of Cuba had ingrained on multiple generations of its population).

Of course Castro’s admission comes to late for the people of Venezuela who’ve been roped into a Cuba-style socialist government by strong man Hugo Chavez. Predictably, the Venezuelan economy is in shambles.

You have to wonder how many more ruined economies it will take before the socialists of the world (or wannabes) recognize that their brand of government and economics is a disaster and has probably ruined more lives than any other economic system in history.

~McQ


Calling Michael “Sicko” Moore

I wonder if Michael Moore has seen this story about the Cuban health care system he so highly touted in his “documentary” about health care – “Sicko”?

Twenty-six patients at a mental hospital died during a cold snap this week, the government said Friday. A Health Ministry communiqué blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees,” but the ministry also said it was starting an investigation that could lead to criminal proceedings. The independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights said that at least 24 patients at the Psychiatric Hospital in Havana died of hypothermia, and that the hospital did not do enough to protect them because of problems like faulty windows.

Hypothermia? At 38 degrees? Look, it’s certainly possible as witnessed by these deaths, but hypothermia doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger at 38 degrees. It takes a while, and could most likely have been avoided by a little foresight, a blanket or two and some attention to the patients and their needs. Apparently that didn’t happen.  If 26 died, you have to wonder how many more came close.

Cuba claims the deaths were from natural causes, but CCHR disputes that:

Commission head Elizardo Sanchez said that so many patients dying of hypothermia was “absurd in a tropical country” and claimed the deaths could have been prevented if the government had granted long-standing requests from international aid groups to tour Cuba’s medical facilities, including the capital’s 2,500-bed mental hospital.

Yeah, not going to happen – only sickos like Moore get such tours. As usual, the Cuban government blames the problems on the “American embargo”, an embargo that has so many holes and is so laxly enforced that for anyone else in the world, it’s business as usual. Apparently Cuba would like you to believe it the the fault of the US that they didn’t have blankets or that they were unable to fix “faulty windows”.

Anyway, I’ll not hold my breath waiting for Moore to condemn the obvious negligence that was a major cause of these deaths. This is his preferred model when it comes to health care. I’m sure we won’t hear a peep from the man.
~McQ


Cuba: “Vaccine? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Vaccine!”

Because Cuba has soldiers, a single-payer system and authoritarian rule.

Wasn’t this the health care system Michael Moore touted as so wonderful in “Sicko”?

Cuba is ready to use just about everything at its disposal, from its well-oiled civil defense system to the soldiers of a totalitarian government, to keep swine flu cases to a minimum.

Everything but a vaccine.

As the U.S. prepares an extensive health survey for side affects from its extensive inoculation plans, Cuba’s No. 2 health official says relying on a shot to contain a world pandemic is risky as best — and demoralizing at worst.

“Nobody knows if it would work,” said Dr. Luis Estruch. “How safe would it be?”

Yeah, how safe? Obviously if Cuba didn’t come up with it, well then it must be suspect. And beside they have a plan:

Swine flu plans for the new season involve all ministries, including the armed forces. If necessary, the government will isolate neighborhoods or entire villages, shut down highways and dispatch medical teams to communities affected by swine flu, Estruch said.

Soldiers can go door to door to enforce mandatory quarantines and evacuations — and authorities think nothing of severing areas from all contact with the outside world.

“In a matter of hours, we can determine what resources to send,” Estruch said. “We’ve thought it out.  . . .  We’ve considered what to do if we have to paralyze a town, if we have to stop public transit, if we have to close the schools.”

Hey, when you have an army, use it. Don’t let them sit around getting fat, dumb and lazy. Send them from door to door to become infected and spread the virus when the go back home or to the barracks to enforce quarantine and evacuations (to where, pray tell?).  Beats the heck out of spending money on vaccines doesn’t it?

Yup, when the government runs health care, you’re just covered up with options, aren’t you?

~McQ


Stimulus? Try Offshore Drilling

During the last days of the Bush administration, there was a small flurry of hope among proponents of drilling for oil and gas which is off our coast. The president lifted the ban on offshore oil drilling and Congress, understanding the politics of the moment, let their ban expire. As the Washington Examiner explains, that leaves only one obstacle to the US finally going after what is thought to be about 3 billion barrels of oil and 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas:

So the only thing keeping U.S. firms from drilling off our own continental shelf is President Barack Obama and his secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, who is slow-walking the approval process that must be cleared before the work can begin.

However, President Obama has managed to break 2 billion of your dollars loose to loan to Brazil to help bankroll their offshore drilling in the Atlantic. One assumes that will give Brazil a savings which will allow them pursue drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well, since they are one of a number of nations pursuing oil and gas there:

Brazil, China, India, Norway, Spain and Russia have all signed agreements with Cuba and the Bahamas to initiate exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico within the next two years. So the prospect of seeing Russian oil rigs 45 miles off the Florida Keys — where American oil companies are now forbidden to drill — is a very real possibility.

That “very real possibility” would see us buying oil from the Gulf from foreign oil producers when it was just as readily available to us and our own companies.

And who would you rather produced it – US companies who have proven over the years that they have the ability to recover both oil and gas safely and in an environmentally sensitive way or foreign companies 45 miles off your coast who could give a good rip one way or the other how environmentally safe their methods were?

Then there’s the recession, jobs and the government’s hunt for revenue. This seems like a natural “shovel ready” industry that wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a nickle to crank up but would benefit the economy and the tax base:

According to the American Petroleum Institute, the development of America’s coastal oil and gas resources would generate more than $1.3 trillion in new government revenue and 160,000 high-paying jobs over the next two decades.

Instead of going full bore and trying to get this program off the ground – or in this case, in the water, we’re still piddling around trying to pass legislation:

Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Ak., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., are bipartisan co-sponsors of a bill that provides coastal states such as Florida their fair share of revenues produced by off-shore drilling and production. The same thing should be done for states on the East and West coasts. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s lawmakers hope to tap deposits off Santa Barbara to generate billions in royalties, and Virginia’s front-running gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has made drilling 50 miles off that state’s coast a key component of his energy plan.

Meanwhile foreign nations are moving to exploit resources we should have been exploiting for decades.

We have a huge looming energy gap. We’re behind the curve as it stands right now. While all the politics is focused on health care reform, this need isn’t going away and only becomes worse. Instead of “slow-walking” this, Barack Obama and Ken Salazar should be fast-tracking it and getting us out in those offshore areas to grab the most productive regions first. If we don’t, we’ll be moaning about how the percentage of oil and gas we import has gone up again.

And, as usual, that will be our own negligent fault.

~McQ