Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

End the Cuban Embargo!

Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have nothing to talk about. While they do their diplomatic dance, the Cuban people are suffering because of the American trade embargo. It should end forthwith. The idea that trade between Americans and Cubans must await an American president’s say-so is an insult to anyone who aspires to be free.

The rest of the op-ed is here.


Russell Hanneken said...

I agree the embargo should be lifted, but I wonder why it's been such a catastrophe for the Cuban people. There are a lot of other countries in the world, and none of them have an embargo on trade with Cuba, do they? Also, are there no middlemen willing to launder goods for traders in the U.S. and Cuba? An arrangement like that would add to transaction costs, but I would think that over time competition would make the costs fairly modest.

Edward said...

1) Americans have a lot of wealth to trade.
2) America is close to Cuba, which makes the transactions costs lower to trade with Americans than people of other countries
3) Cigars aren't Cuba's only product, its extremely unlikely that bulk agricultural products will be successfully smuggled. The costs per unit of smuggling them would likely exceed their market value.
4) Smuggling will only occur when the cost of smuggling is low enough for the item to be sold at profit. If this is not the case in the first place, there is little opportunity for smugglers to innovate.

Russell Hanneken said...

Cuba's pretty close to Mexico and Central America too.

I wasn't thinking of smuggling. Why can't someone from, say, Switzerland go into the business of buying goods from Americans and reselling them to Cubans?

Sheldon Richman said...

The embargo denies Cubans access to a huge close market for their agricultural goods. It has also prevented Cuban-Americans from taking large quantities of goods with them when they visit there.

Russell Hanneken said...

But why can't they sell their agricultural goods to Americans through a middleman from another country?

Sheldon Richman said...

That sort of activity might be hard to disguise and I'm sure there were sanctions against it.

Russell Hanneken said...

I found an interesting article on the Economist's web site about the embargo. It sounds like the U.S. government has made some attempts to apply the embargo against foreigners since 1996. Other countries have objected, and it's not clear to me how successful the U.S. has been. The article makes it sound like the embargo has generally not been very successful at stopping goods from flowing.

Sheldon Richman said...

In 1975 the U.S. changed it policy of sanctioning other countries that traded with Cuba. OAS nations were trading before this and in that year formally ended their own embargo. The U.S. also stopped going after foreign subsidiaries of American companies.

This would represent a leakage in the prohibition of exports to Cuba, but it wouldn't open the gates to imports from that country. Being able to sell here, even if under Castro's control, would have earned substantial amounts of dollars with which to buy the world's products, some of which would have filtered down to the Cuban people.

Interestingly, in the 1960s when people asked why the U.S. traded with Russia but not Cuba, the official answer was that the Cuban regime was regarded as "temporary," unlike the Russian.

Sheldon Richman said...

I think we also have to acknowledge, as Jacob Hornberger does, that American tourism is in effect forbidden the embargo. That has obvious economic consequences for Cubans.