Still, by the bloody standards of Communist dictators, Castro's rule was mild. Castro's Cuba doesn't even look like the biggest charnel house in modern Latin America. The Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) probably claimed more innocent lives. Indeed, multiple U.S. Presidents have killed more civilians than Castro - though of course they had the power to murder vastly more. Why then should we dwell on the horrors of Castroism - or make a point of dancing on Fidel's grave?
Here's why: Because Castro is a symbol of larger evils - evils that claimed many millions of lives - and could do so again. Castro symbolizes the idea that backwards countries can and should take the following path to modernity:
- Wage civil war by any means necessary to overthrow existing regimes.
- After victorious civil war, hand total power over to Marxist intellectuals.
- Cheer while these Marxist leaders expropriate business, expel foreign investors, and try to run the whole economy.
- Use this centralized economy to build up a mighty military.
- Deploy this military (and military-industrial complex) to help Marxist intellectuals in other countries copy your path to modernity.
In my mind, then, Castro is a lot like the minimum wage: something we must stubbornly decry even though there are far greater ills in the world. My words:
The minimum wage is far from the most harmful regulation on the books. Why then do I make such a big deal about it? Because it is a symbol of larger evils.We need to get rid of all sympathy for Castro. But that, too, is only a first step. Our ultimate goal should be to get rid of the errors that Castro has come to represent. Castro was a villain straight out of 1984. And in a just world, Orwell's words would adorn his tombstone:
From the standpoint of public policy, the minimum wage is a symbol of the view that "feel-good" policies are viable solutions to social ills: "Workers aren't paid enough? Pass a law so employers have to pay them more. Problem solved."...
We need to get rid of the minimum wage. But that's only a first step. Our ultimate goal should be to get rid of the errors that the minimum wage has come to represent.
One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.