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Do Embargoes Work?

Economics Professor Doug Irwin, who runs the Political Economy Project and does just about everything else that you could expect from a fine professor/scholar/author/public servant/all around nice guy, has penned for the Wall Street Journal the most intelligent commentary that I have seen regarding President Obama’s Cuba initiative:

WSJ Irwin Cuba.jpg

The only lacuna in his piece regards those nations whose political systems we have abhorred, but whom we decided not to embargo. I’m thinking of the Soviet Union and the rest of the erstwhile East Bloc, along with the various right-wing dictatorships that used to dot the globe. As Burton Yale Pines of the Heritage Foundation pointed out in the early 1990’s at an Aspen Institute meeting that I attended with Professor John Rassias, when we conducted commerce and allowed our citizens to visit these regressive countries, the end result was that virtually all of them now have free-market economies and a freer form of government than they did in the first few decades of the post-WWII era.

However, those nations whom we scorned, and whom we have tried over the years to harass into changing their form of government by using trade and travel embargoes — Cuba, China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Laos — are, to a man, still controlled by Communist/totalitarian governments.

Our Republican Congress would do well to heed the lessons of history and lift the legislatively-enacted elements of our embargo against Cuba.

Addendum: The College’s Dartmouth Now website has compiled the views of various College professors on the lifting of Cuba sanctions.

Addendum: As I have mentioned in the past, the Political Economy Project is the most interesting academic initiative currently taking place at the College. PEP will fund and oversee a dozen courses in the current academic year — courses that would not have been taught but for PEP’s alumni funding — in addition to organizing dinners, reading groups, and visiting speakers. If you want to provide a stocking-stuffer to PEP this holiday season, I can’t think of a better charitable contribution. Please e-mail Doug Irwin directly.

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