Cuba is going to be free.
If you’re a fan of human flourishing, this is a good thing. The loosening of the US embargo is on net a very good thing, but the final nail in the coffin of tyranny is going to be a relatively little-noticed development: the availability of NetFlix in Cuba. The company announced today that it will sell subscriptions to Cuban residents, although given the pricing (same as in the US), spotty internet access in Cuba, and the need for a non-Cuban electronic method of payment will probably limit the audience at first. In the long run, though, it may be one of the biggest contributors to Cuban freedom.
I’m not exaggerating for effect here. There is a reason why countries like Cuba or (worst of all) North Korea exclude outside information: it makes it impossible to avoid change. A dictatorship, of course, doesn’t want change – they have everything to lose and little to gain. (On the other end, a well-functioning democracy is the institutionalization of constant change.) That’s why repressive regimes have to keep out new ideas, and that’s why NetFlix is so important. TV and movies are, at their core, reflection of ideas.
It’s not even important what the intended idea of a movie or TV show is. What’s important is the setting which in the West mostly reflects freedom of some kind – on any given TV show, women are relatively equal, free speech is exercised, etc. This has worked before:
In the last decade, cable television has arrived in remote Indian villages, bringing with it commercial television programming heavy on game shows and Indian soap operas. Before you laugh—a feminist Days of Our Lives?—consider that the most popular Indian series take place in urban settings. Their emancipated female characters are well-educated, work outside the home, control their own money, and have fewer children than rural women. So, Jensen and Oster asked, does the arrival of these shows change attitudes in ways that improve women’s lives?…
What’s the effect? In the places that didn’t get cable by 2003, and in the places that already had it at the beginning of the period studied, attitudes concerning women remained relatively stable. (They were more pro-women in places that already had cable.) But in the 21 villages that got cable between 2001 and 2003, women’s attitudes changed quickly and substantially.
After a village got cable, women’s preference for male children fell by 12 percentage points. The average number of situations in which women said that wife beating is acceptable fell by about 10 percent. And the authors’ composite autonomy index jumped substantially, by an amount equivalent to the attitude difference associated with 5.5 years of additional education.
TV got Indian women more cultural acceptance and more freedom. Just wait until NetFlix (and everything else) enters Cuba. It won’t be a panacea – nothing is – but the flow of ideas can’t be stopped.
This is a good thing.