Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Time to Think about Castro

Fidel Castro's recent comment to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic that the Cuban economic model "doesn't even work for us anymore'' has to come as a shock to communists around the globe.

The tiny island of Cuba, about the size of Pennsylvania, with a population of slightly more than 11 million, is simply too complex to be run by a central government. It took Castro a long time to realize this, or at least publicly admit it, but he has.

Goldberg wrote:
There were many odd things about my recent Havana stopover (apart from the dolphin show, which I'll get to shortly), but one of the most unusual was Fidel Castro's level of self-reflection. I only have limited experience with Communist autocrats (I have more experience with non-Communist autocrats) but it seemed truly striking that Castro was willing to admit that he misplayed his hand at a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis...

Even more striking was something he said at lunch on the day of our first meeting. We were seated around a smallish table; Castro, his wife, Dalia, his son; Antonio; Randy Alonso, a major figure in the government-run media; and Julia Sweig, the friend I brought with me to make sure, among other things, that I didn't say anything too stupid (Julia is a leading Latin American scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations). I initially was mainly interested in watching Fidel eat - it was a combination of digestive problems that conspired to nearly kill him, and so I thought I would do a bit of gastrointestinal Kremlinology and keep a careful eye on what he took in (for the record, he ingested small amounts of fish and salad, and quite a bit of bread dipped in olive oil, as well as a glass of red wine). But during the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," he said.
It's possible the 17th century poet Edmund Waller understood what  has happened to Castro. Waller once wrote:
The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that time hath made.
One wonders what attempts at micro-management failed Castro, that caused the chinks to create new light for him. There were likely many. The economists Hayek and Mises have taught us that attempts at central planning will only result in failure. An economy is simply too complex for all planning to be done at a macro-level.

The failures for Castro must have been great for Cuba right from the beginning. That's what the teachings of Hayek and Mises would suggest. But, Cuba survived  because it was bailed out by the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, do to its own central planning failures, Cuba was forced to stand alone. Which must have intensified problems for the tiny country. And thus at some point, Castro must have realized that his grand experiment in central planning was a failure. The new light had broken through.

Perhaps it is time for communists across the globe to think about Castro's remark and consider what he must have observed first hand, over time, that caused him to make such a remark. And they should, perhaps, study the works of Mises and Hayek, specifically, when Mises and Hayk write about why central planning must fail. We don't need anymore dark cottages, dark islands or dark centrally planned economies.


  1. Does the role of the CFR woman seem a bit too eerily like that of a government "minder" there to make sure Castro didn't let slip who he has been working for the whole time?

  2. Castro may have been a living hell for the Cuban people, but he apparently was great for the coral reefs.

    And isn’t that what really matters?