The Tragedy of Elian

by Russ Roberts on June 16, 2008

in Cuba

My new book, The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity, is a novel that tries to help the reader understand a bunch of related topics–the role of prices in steering resources, the role of prices in creating innovation, the role of prices in letting us weave our own dreams of what we want to buy and how we want to spend our lives. It’s also about the role prosperity plays in our lives and why the average American lives better than in past generations.

The novel is the story of Ramon Fernandez, a Cuban-American tennis prodigy who finds himself in the middle of a campus protest at Stanford.

Ramon is a fictional character. So is Ruth Lieber, the provost at Stanford who seeks him out and begins talking to him about economics, for reasons that he and the reader do not at first understand.

Ramon is the son of a legendary Cuban baseball star. After the death of his father, Ramon’s mother comes with him to the United States, bringing the young boy to America.

And while the story is fiction, I was inspired by the Elian Gonzalez story. What would have happened to Elian if he had stayed in America. Would he have prospered? Would he have been torn between an allegiance to his new country and his father’s Cuba?

A number of pundits at the time of Elian’s return to Cuba talked about how he was lucky not to grow up in such a materialist society as America’s. I try and explore this issue in the book as well.

Word comes from out of Cuba, that the real Elian Gonzalez has joined Cuba’s Young Communist Union. (HT: Drudge):

Eight years after a headline making international custody fight which
ended with his return to his father in Cuba, Elian Gonzalez has joined
Cuba’s Young Communist Union.

In an article in Cuba’s communist youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde,
the 14-year old Gonzalez said he would never let ex-President Fidel
Castro and his brother Raul Castro down. He joined more than
18-thousand others who joined the group on Saturday.

Who knows what he really feels? It was inevitable that incentives would encourage or force him to be happy with his lot. And maybe he really is. Who knows? I just wouldn’t put a lot of stock in today’s story as a sign of a happy ending.


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