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Yes, of Course We Should Lift The Cuban Embargo

December 23, 2014 in Economics

By Scott Lincicome


Scott Lincicome

President Obama’s announcement last week that his administration will seek to normalize relations with Cuba elicited strong opposition from many freedom-loving conservatives. Several aspects of the deal — the prisoner swaps, the president’s unilateralism and rhetoric, the timing, and so on — probably warrant scrutiny and, in some cases, even scorn. But one aspect deserves support from those who stand for free markets, limited government, and individual liberty: an end to the Cuban embargo’s trade and travel restrictions.

It’s far from clear that the president’s actions will actually achieve these ends, and it’s certainly clear that the proper way to achieve them is through the legislative process. But there really can be no doubt that, as a general matter, it’s past time for the embargo to go.

Communist-hating lovers of liberty have offered myriad reasons to oppose the current Cuban embargo (see, for example, hereand here), but today I want to focus on the most basic: over the last two decades, the United States government has utterly failed to justify its forcible, legislated ban on Americans’ freedom of travel, contract, and commerce. Because we live in a country of natural rights and limited, constitutional government, the state alone bears a heavy burden of proving that its restrictions on individual liberty are in fact warranted. In the case of free trade, and especially freedom of movement, this means that there is a strong presumption in favor of Americans’ right to freely travel to wherever they want, and transact with whomever they want — one that may only be overcome where the state establishes a compelling interest in prohibiting or limiting those actions.

The U.S. government had two decades to prove its Cuban embargo would work. It failed.”

One such compelling interest is national security, something even a hardcore free trader like Milton Friedman has acknowledged is a perfectly sound justification for trade and investment restrictions. It’s for this reason that even most libertarian free traders do not oppose, for example, multilateral attempts to isolate and impoverish rogue regimes actively seeking and spreading weapons of mass destruction.

The Cuban Embargo Has Not Changed Regimes Nor Deterred Investments

In the case of Cuban embargo, however, the federal government has failed to meet its basic burden of proof. First, legislation codifying the embargo — i.e., the “Helms-Burton” Act of 1996 — has not achieved either of its two primary objectives: regime change and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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