A Tale of Two Cities, in Pictures
The glory that is Hong Kong is even more breathtaking than the tragedy that is Havana.
Prior to the “Socialist Revolution,” Cuba was one of the most advanced and successful countries in Latin America. In 1960, as Castro was consolidating power, Hong Kong’s per capita GDP was just $429, about half of Cuba’s (for comparison, U.S. per capita GDP was $2,881). Indeed, Cuba’s per capita GDP was more than twice that of Spain’s! Today, Cuba sits at a little over $6,000 (you try living on that). Hong Kong? $42,000, not greatly less than America’s $55,900 and more than Germany’s $47,800. Spain? Even in crisis, $30,300.
So while the Iberian motherland was growing its economy 78-fold, and Hong Kong was multiplying its people’s fortunes an incredible 100X, Cubans notoriously drive cars left over from the 1950s, on once-paved streets now gravel.
Socialists always believe that civilization has hit a plateau — everything has been invented — and there is no such thing as wealth creation. It’s a zero sum game to them, just the same stuff being shifted around. The idea that there is vastly more wealth today than 100 years ago escapes them: they believe whatever, say, Bill Gates has, or Andrew Carnegie had, was stolen. They can’t fathom a world in which people create something wonderful and new that makes billions of lives better, and in exchange are paid a tiny fraction of the benefit derived by each of those people.
But when they get to live out their fallacies you see the result. Havana isn’t just frozen in time: it’s worse than it was before. And the price paid for the “redistribution” is horrifying oppression. According to the most recent watchdog group reports, Hong Kong is the freest spot on Planet Earth. Cuba? Worse than Iran, barely better than Somalia. That’s a heck of a price to pay for failure.
Hong Kong redistributed nothing: it has just about the lowest taxes and regulations in the world. It also used to have some of the poorest people. Today those people are among the richest, which is another way of saying that their children have opportunity, their hospitals offer the latest treatments, and their buildings aren’t falling down with no hope of repair. And for all the cries of income inequality, the fact that virtually all of Hong Kong’s fortunes have been created in a couple generations shows that everyone is free to move up the scale. In Cuba, the gap between the squalor endured by the average person and the luxury of Castro’s palaces is not only greater, it’s unchangeable.
The solution to poverty is creativity and liberty, not theft and control. No matter how appealing envy may be.