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Cuba Libre?

21st century Vikings... Robert Tollison, RIP...

Cuba.jpg Would you like to visit Cuba? If so, what would you expect to find? In this week's EconTalk episode, host Russ Roberts welcomed back Casey Mulligan, who recently had just such an experience.

I've always wanted to visit Cuba myself. So before I listened to this week's conversation, I tried to envision what I would expect to find were I to travel there. Images of crumbling architecture, colorful antique cars, and the surrounding sea are familiar to us all. But do they really reflect what life in Cuba is like? Mulligan offers many provocative illustrations of the reality of day-to-day life in present day Cuba. I admit that my musings, like Roberts's, were of a more pessimistic bent than what Mulligan reports on having seen there. I believe people thirst for freedom, and though they may make excuses for why they don't have it, often justifiably, I would expect for more of such thirst to be evident.

Mulligan made many interesting points... One of which is his suggestion that the Cuban regime has passed some sort of market test, given its longevity. Not surprisingly, Roberts pushes back, asking if that is true, then what is it the Cuban people get from such a regime? Mulligan notes in several contexts the differences he perceived between Cuban-Americans and "Cuban-Cubans," not least of which is the far greater degree of anger apparent toward the regime among the former. Mulligan makes another important point in discussing that same anger when he points to Castro's "migration campaign" to deal with protesters early in the regime. To be sure, he argues, this must be perceived as relatively better than the "murder campaigns" of other dictators, such as Stalin and Mao.

So why, as Roberts points out, is "the line to get out of Cuba longer than the line to get into Cuba," still? What lessons can be learned from the US experience with the trade embargo? How stable will the Castro regime be as tourists (and ex-pats and information) flow into the tiny island nation? Have a listen to this week's episode, and share your thoughts! And if you've visited Cuba, we'd love to hear about your experiences, too.

COMMENTS (4 to date)
baconbacon writes:

Stalin ruled for almost 30 years, and communism for 60 years in the USSR, does that count as some kind of market test being passed?

Lar writes:

I was in Cuba from 28 December 2000 to 7 January 2001 with a People-to-People tour, one of the few ways back then one could legally go to Cuba without incurring State Department wrath. Since it's an island you'll see some flora and fauna that you wouldn't expect to see elsewhere.
As for the economy, well, as you might expect it's awfully poor, which I expected going in. What did surprise me was how eerie Cuba was. It wasn't the poverty of Cairo or Damascus, which I had visited a few years earlier. Those cities, while poor, were full of people at all times of the day or night doing business or going about their daily lives, and traffic was actually something you needed to watch out for.
In contrast, I remember leaving the 4-star hotel in Havana and crossing a six or eight lane boulevard at 10:00 am on a Tuesday morning to get a better view of the harbor. I didn't cross at a crosswalk. I didn't have to, because there was absolutely NO traffic- and very few people on the sidewalks. It reminded me of the opening scenes of an abandoned city like you see in a post-apocalyptic zombie move, like 28 Days Later.

Amy Willis writes:

@baconbacon, re: Stalin, sort of. At least as I understand Mulligan's point. He argues that Castro's regime has been in place for a long time enforced relatively less violently. (Russ of course pushes back on this notion...) Mulligan still concedes that, like with other totalitarian regimes, the possibility remains that what comes AFTER a regime falls may be worse (as in the case of Libya). But he does seem optimistic that a transition in Cuba would likely be more peaceful and prosperous. Again, this is my understanding of Mulligan's point of view; any errors there are mine.

Andrew_FL writes:

Simple enough. If all the anti-Communists leave a country, everyone left will be pro-Communist.

Ideological Brain Drain. Europe's problem, too.

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