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Private Property in Cuba

By Tyler Bauer

In a surprising turn of events, Cuba will soon begin recognizing private property. Yes, you read that right. Our communist neighbor will soon recognize private property, a central aspect of capitalism, which Cuba has spent the last sixty years battling.

Cuba’s prohibition on private property dates back to 1959, the year Cuba became a communist country. A law in 2011 allowed for the sale of property, but the new constitution will officially codify the right to own private property. Of course, this assumes the constitution will be passed – it likely will be, but it isn’t a done deal yet.

The new constitution will include recognition of the free market, private property, the introduction of the presumption of innocence, and the creation of the Prime Minister role. It is unclear what real power the Prime Minister will hold, but the Prime Minister will be serving alongside the president, rather than in place of the president.

Interestingly, despite these monumental changes, the Communist Party will remain in power. Additionally, central planning and state enterprise will remain key to the country’s economy. According to the Cuban government, the socialist nature of Cuba is “irrevocable,” so socialism will not be going away anytime soon. This is disappointing, as a truly free market would do wonders for all of Cuba. However, the mere recognition of private property and the free market is certainly a step in the right direction. It appears as though the recognition of the free market will be most beneficial to foreign investors, who should have an easier time investing and doing business in the Cuban economy.

So, the Cuban constitution will be improved, but the government won’t go as far as it should when it comes to the free market. Do these changes really matter, then? In my opinion, they do. The changes in the new constitution are undeniably a step in the right direction, and I think these changes will make future changes much more likely. Giving people some economic freedoms will only make them want more. If Cubans realize they can make the right choices when it comes to buying something simple – such as clothes, for example – they’ll realize that they can make the right choices when it comes to buying something more important, like a house. One economic freedom gradually leads to another.

Additionally, economic freedom leads to freedom in other areas of life. Once someone’s basic needs are met, they can begin to think about quality of life issues. This is post-materialism, and I think the Cubans will be able to think about their quality of life once their basic needs are better met thanks to economic reforms. If Cubans no longer have to worry about their next meal or their healthcare, they can begin to think about things like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other basic freedoms you and I take for granted.

No matter what comes of these reforms, it appears as though Cuba is moving in the right direction.

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