Obama's Baby Step on Free Trade
By David Henderson
Finally, I have something positive to say about Obama’s economic policy. Last Thursday the U.S. government lifted a number of restrictions on trade with Cuba. The Treasury Department lifted most restrictions on family travel to Cuba and also lifted limits on how much money families can send to relatives in Cuba. Treasury also eased regulations that had prohibited U.S. telecomm and satellite linkages between the U.S. and Cuba.
As I said, these are baby steps. By lifting the restrictions only on those here who have families in Cuba, the government has created (or, more exactly, added to) a caste society here. If you don’t have relatives in Cuba, it’s still illegal for you to travel to Cuba, except under narrow exemptions, or to send money to someone there. But it’s still a move to freer trade. It’s better to let some people have more freedom than others than to have all less free, but equally less free.
There’s a strong case for ending the embargo completely. Here are excerpts from a piece I wrote after Raul took over from Fidel:
The case for ending the embargo has little to do with making Americans better off and lots to do with spreading American values – the good ones, not the bad ones – to make Cubans better off, both in their degree of freedom and in their economic well-being. And now that Fidel Castro is officially out of commission, ending the embargo would be easier because the U.S. government would not have to worry so much about saving face.
Let’s step back and consider the proponents’ case for the embargo. They make two arguments. The first is a straight moral argument: Castro (we need not quibble with whether it’s Raúl or Fidel) is an evil man who heads an evil regime. The Castros have murdered many innocent people, stolen a lot of property, and put many innocent people, including homosexuals, in prison. So far, I agree with the argument. But here’s the non sequitur: because of all this, the U.S. government should forcibly prevent Americans from trading with Cuba. Why is it a non sequitur? Because for the trade embargo to be a logical response to the vicious facts about the Cuban government, one would have to show that the embargo would speed the end of the Cuban government. No one has done that.
H/T to Doug Bandow.