Day By Day

Friday, March 21, 2008

Castro's Socialist Workers' Paradise

Mark Milke evaluates Cuba's half century long experience with state socialism.

In 1958, the year before Fidel Castro came to power in a revolution and promised prosperity, democracy and the restoration of Cuba's 1940 constitution, the Caribbean island, while troubled by poverty, a corrupt dictator and the American Mafia, was also better off than most developing nations.

While poor compared to the United States, Cuba in 1958 had a per capita GDP of $3,170 according to the OECD. (Canada's was $8,947.). But Cuba outranked all other Latin American countries except four: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Tellingly, in 1958, the island nation's per person wealth was higher than any East Asian country or colony, save Japan, which barely beat Cuba at only $3,290. Hong Kong had a per capita GDP of $2,924, Singapore's was $2,294, the Philippines' was $1,447, Taiwan's per person GDP stood at $1,387 and South Korea's was $1,112.

Thus in 1958, Cuba was almost as rich as Japan, one and half times as wealthy as Singapore, richer than Hong Kong, and three times as prosperous as South Korea.

Fifty years later, Cuba is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Meanwhile, jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan (the latter two also had dictators and problems similar to Cuba in the 1950s) have long eclipsed Cuba. They've done so not only in per capita wealth, but in measurements Castro's defenders point to when they assert the Marxist revolution "worked," such as in health care and education.

There's more. While the economy has deteriorated the institutions of state repression have flourished.

Read the whole thing here.