The death of data

By Tom Quiner

Voters aren’t dumb. That was always Ronald Reagan’s belief.

Specifically, he believed that you knew how to spend your next ten bucks better than the government did.

In this election cycle, though, one can’t help but notice a lack of curiosity on the subjects of facts and data.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Donald Trump tells his supporters that he is going to negotiate better deals with Congress, China, Russia, Isis, Mexico, and the entire world, and as a result of his negotiating prowess, America is going to be so, so, so much better off, that we’re going to get sick of talking about it.

Mr. Trump provides no facts, no data to back up is ideas. His supporters simply believe in Trump the man.

It’s much the same on the Democratic side of the campaign. Bernie Sanders wants universal healthcare and free college education for all. His supporters love all the freebies he promises to lavish on them. But no one seems interested in the data.

Keep in mind, Medicare is already $40 TRILLION in the hole. Mr. Sanders’ plan would increase federal spending 30% over it’s already record level of bloat. He would increase taxes on everyone (not just the most productive Americans). The non-partisan Tax Foundation said his plan would reduce the GDP and give all Americans a 12.8 percent pay cut on average.

This seems like important data to me.

His unabashed embrace of socialism should give his supporters pause, if they ever look at data. Let us look at the data for two countries that chose diametrically opposed paths at about the same time. One took the Sanders approach, one the Ronald Reagan approach.

Hong-Kong-v-CubIn 1961, Cuba embraced unabashed socialism while Hong Kong embraced unabashed capitalism.

Interestingly, Cuba owns some nice assets, such as productive agriculture thanks to their rich soil; such as 7% of the world’s Nickel and Cobalt reserves; such as 20 billion barrels of oil reserves (top 20 in the world); such as tourism, thanks to their beautiful beaches. Oh, and their people were well-educated.

By contrast, Hong Kong had nothing except a harbor and uneducated people.

When the Castro brothers took over then-capitalist Cuba, how did they leverage their nation’s considerable assets? Under their new socialism system, per capita GDP rose from about $2500 in 1961 to about $4000 by 2007.

By contrast, Hong Kong’s per capita GDP grew from about the same starting point as Cuba in 1961 to over $30,000 by 2007.

To make this really simple, the Hong Kong economy grew more than 7 times faster than Cuba, as you can see on the accompanying chart. And that was with practically no assets.

When they started out, the per capita GDPs of these two countries were in alignment with global averages. But the economic drag produced by socialism, and the corruption that usually accompanies it, has ground Cuba into the dirt.

Interestingly, the Corruption Perceptions Index produced by Transparency International ranks Hong Kong as the 15th least corrupt public sector in the world (ahead of the United States’ 19th place ranking) compared to Cuba’s abysmal 63rd place ranking.

Data like this seems relevant in light of Bernie Sander’s desire to be more like Cuba, as you can see in the video clip above.

I present this data in the humble hope that a few socialist wannabes will rethink their coming vote.


  1. Shawn Pavlik on February 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Sanders and his supporters will tell you that his form of socialism is more comparable to what Europe has than what Cuba has.

    • quinersdiner on February 25, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      True, and he’s probably correct. What I like with this comparison is the striking difference between the two systems. More freedom (capitalism) produces more wealth than less freedom (socialism). Why give up more freedoms for less prosperity?

      • bluebird of bitterness on February 29, 2016 at 10:21 am

        Because Sanders groupies aren’t concerned with prosperity, they’re obsessed with equality.

        • quinersdiner on February 29, 2016 at 2:13 pm

          Even as it lowers their potential standard of living and erodes their liberties …

      • bluebird of bitterness on February 29, 2016 at 3:41 pm

        Making an idol of equality always leads to lower living standards and loss of liberties. But Bernie’s supporters don’t care; they think that if we have to accept lower living standards and more government control over our lives in order to achieve their dream of equality, then that’s just the sacrifice we all will have to make.

        • quinersdiner on February 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm

          I think the animating idea is to punish the super producers to make themselves feel a little bit better about themselves. They believe that wealth is static, a zero-sum game, and by golly the only way they can get a bigger piece is to tax or arrest Wall Street barons. I like conservative thinking better: let’s expand the pie by creating a freer marketplace and a smaller central government.