Artifact: Castro Shrugged

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“I tried to understand the essence of this new world,” the now-retired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro said last September. “How did we get here?” He was discussing what he gleaned from former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan’s memoir The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World.

Fittingly, some interpreted El Jefe’s talk of Greenspan as merely a means to ensure people knew the ailing Castro was still alive and aware, not merely appearing in a pre-recorded scam. (Greenspan’s book had been published that month.) No one had any reason to expect honesty from the world’s longest-lasting totalitarian leader.

But Castro was being unexpectedly truthful. By hewing for decades to the communist faith in a centrally managed economy and society, he failed to understand the forces of economic liberalization that Ayn Rand’s acolyte Greenspan endorsed in his book and supported at least rhetorically throughout his career as both economic advisor to presidents and Fed chief. Castro’s failure to comprehend meant decades of material misery for the Cuban people.

Now America’s longest-lasting enemy is officially out of power. The Bush administration’s reluctance to change its ill-conceived embargo against Cuba, even post-Fidel, shows that Castro isn’t alone in misunderstanding “the essence of this new world” or the role of relatively unrestricted international trade in spreading wealth and liberty.

Credit: stro with Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence. © HO/AFP/Getty Images