It Can't Just Be a Business Deal

There has already been a vigorous debate about President Obama’s decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. His recent visit to Havana inspired a wide range of feelings, with many Cubans and Cuban Americans still believing it to be a mistake.

But what's done is done. The real question now is what the U.S. government should be pressing for in its newly established dialogue with the government in Havana.

There is nothing inherent in the idea of U.S.-Cuba relations that implies Cubans' basic human rights will ever be recognized. After all, many other tyrannical governments have reasonably constructive relationships with Washington.

As Milton Friedman liked to note, economic freedom is a necessary condition for other freedoms, but it is not a sufficient condition. For example, think of the Chinese model. Economic reforms in that country have dramatically improved the lives of Chinese citizens, to be sure. But they remain unfree to voice political opinions, unfree to worship as they see fit, and subject to press and Internet censorship. And of course, they absolutely lack any say in who governs them or how.

The same could become true in a Cuba that only opens economically, without a corresponding blossoming of other human freedoms. It is not hard to imagine a Cuba where U.S. businesses merely take advantage of cheaper labor and a new consumer market. Perhaps, at best, a small group of handpicked Cubans would be able to take advantage of some of the economic freedoms—but even then only as long as they don't step out of line.

 Read more at The Weekly Standard

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