Dynamic comparative advantage: Costs and benefits, the case of Cuba

Political and economic systems are often fraught with emotional comparisons.  Few create more of an uproar than Cuba – with those on the far left seeing it as an ideal to aspire to, while libertarians view it as a fundamentally broken and immoral state.  However, no matter how we feel it is always useful to ask what the trade-offs are, and what “theories” these ideas are indicative of.  This is what Mieke Welvaert did on her recent post about Cuba trading doctors (Infometrics link here).

Cuba provides an interesting case study in how government policies can help individuals coordinate in their choice of job and educational attainment.  However, it also shows some of the costs of trying to generate a “dynamic comparative advantage”: the misallocation of human capital as people are pushed into specific areas, the restrictions to freedom required to solve the time inconsistency issue between government and the service providers, and ultimately the risk of being exposed to an industry ‘picked’ by a government.

In truth is does appear that one of the key issues, when looking at how the system works, is the freedom of choice of the individuals involved – understandably, people’s beliefs and judgement around this in ethical terms should drive their view on what is appropriate.