Cubans Want Capitalism

Maximilian Wirth, Foundation for Economic Education

Cuba is sometimes idealized as a successful countermodel to capitalism. This month, however, the University of Chicago’s NORC released a study about the opinions of Cuba’s population. The findings of the poll were clear: Cubans want capitalism.

This kind of information was not previously available because the Cuban government repressed information in and out of the island. As such, the study, based on in-person interviews with 840 randomly chosen adults, gives a rare glimpse into the sentiments of Cubans about the system under which they live.

Cubans on Cuba

65 percent of interviewees said they want to privatize more businesses and decentralize the economy. 68 percent see competition as a positive way to promote ideas and as a motivator to work hard. Many Cubans have an entrepreneurial mindset with 56 percent of the people planning to start a business in the next 5 years. To compare, 57 percent of Americans plan to become entrepreneurs. The Cuban people are ready and willing to improve their lives, but the government prevents them from doing so.

Further, only 13 percent of the population thinks the Cuban economy is doing well. GDP shrunk by almost one percent last year. Venezuela, one of Cuba’s main benefactors, had to reduce its oil deliveries by 60 percent due to their own economic crisis, which has had a heavy impact on Cuba’s GDP.

The centralized economy constantly allocates resources poorly, leading to economically devastating consequences. Taxi drivers, for example, make more money than doctors due to government regulations. Well-educated professionals therefore either leave the country or take positions far below their skill level. Scientists sell ice cream, professors become illegal book vendors, and teachers wait tables.

In addition, centralization fuels corruption. If a doctor cannot charge a reasonable price for his services due to overregulation, he becomes either a taxi driver or starts accepting little “regalitos” to perform his services. It follows that 38 percent of the Cubans see corruption as a serious problem in their society.

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