A Letter to the Editor about Natural Rights and the Cuban Economy

In an editorial last week Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote about a supposed “economic revolution” happening in Cuba. It seems the Cuban government has just liberated the economy to allow individuals to buy and sell houses. This marks a huge step forward from the existing (since 1986) policy of allowing individuals to own homes, while limiting their property interest to exchanging those homes, not buying and selling them.

The “right to buy and sell homes”?! You’d think a truly liberal government would be granting the right to wear hats in this advanced age. As long as the government is in the business of holding tight to the reigns and meting out nominal positive rights, a liberal economy is a long way off.

Here is a letter to the editor I sent to the WSJ arguing just that:

Dear Editor: To paraphrase Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s question in her Monday editorial: “What it will mean when Cubans are allowed to ‘buy homes’?” (“Is Cuba Going Capitalist?” The Americas, August 15). Raul Castro touts an economic revolution in Cuba, but as O’Grady points out, this is a government that has turned chicken into an endangered species in its own country.

The Cuban government has a long way to go to embrace a liberal economic worldview. In fact, Cuba’s emerging “capitalism” is just another verse of Cuba’s same tired song. Even in this “capitalist revolution,” Cuba still does not embrace the natural rights underlying economic freedom. Instead, that tropical big-government sinkhole is continuing to violate individuals’ natural rights by assigning rights to individuals, just like it has for years.

The New York Times gives an accurate summary in its “Cuban capitalist revolution” headline: “Cubans Set For Big Change: Right to Buy Homes” (Aug. 2). Sure, the right to buy homes is an important right, and this marks a huge step from the previous (since 1986) policy that Cubans could finally own homes but could not buy or sell them.

Granting the right to buy homes is a step in the right direction, but there is no revolution happening here. A revolution requires a change in mentality. Liberty belongs with individuals, and the revolution Cubans are waiting for is a dramatic shift towards natural rights.

By doling out one right at a time, the Cuban government keeps a tight hold on the liberty cake, leaving individuals to fight over scraps. As long as the government is in that business, a liberated Cuban economy is a long way off.

Kathryn Ciano