Today in Reason, Michael Moynihan offers an appropriate epitaph to the useful idiots in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America whose knees have long grown weak at the sight or mention of Fidel Castro.
The reason they’ve been so useful to the fading Cuban tyrant isn’t that they denied he was a tyrant — that would be way too stupid for them to be useful — but that they have repeated the canard, time and again, that despite the complete lack of freedom or any opportunity at prosperity on the island, all Cubans enjoy “free education and health care.” Yet that tiresome mantra has been just that, an empty slogan repeated often enough to thus become accepted.
What all of these pols and pundits lazily presume is that if the state of Cuban health care and education have markedly improved on Castro’s watch, surely the situation was dire during the final years of the Batista dictatorship.
Well, not exactly. In 1959 Cuba had 128.6 doctors and dentists per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it 22nd globally—that is, ahead of France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Finland. In infant mortality tables, Cuba ranked one of the best in the world, with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 babies, compared to 9.5 per 100,000 in the United States. In 1958 Cuba’s adult literacy rate was 80 percent, higher than that of its colonial grandfather in Spain, and the country possessed one of the most highly-regarded university systems in the Western hemisphere.
Cuba improved, as have most countries, on some of these indices in the years since the revolution. As reason Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin points out, “countries like Costa Rica, Panama, and Brazil have posted equal gains in literacy during the same time period without resorting to totalitarian governments.”
Not that Castro’s brutal near-half-century reign would be justified were those “achievements” real.
Punctual trains and spiffy highway networks hardly mitigate the horror of dictatorship.
But that isn’t stopping celluloid bolshie Michael Moore from toying with the so-very-cute idea of inviting Fidel to the Oscars as his guest. That may be disgusting, but a fact of democracy is that such people will always be with us. As National Review‘s John Derbyshire put is so aptly:
Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy. Won’t they ever learn? No, their stupidity is impenetrable. They will never learn.
Though even Michael Moore wouldn’t be so stupid as to check into a real (non-Potemkin village) Cuban hospital.