Another Sign That Central Planning Works: Condom Shortage In Cuba

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Simon Black via Sovereign Man blog,

Having traveled to well over 100 countries, I have seen some pretty shocking signs of poverty around the world.

In parts of Asia, it’s not uncommon for parents in poor villages to sell their children for bags of rice… or for children to be stolen outright and sold as orphans to unsuspecting foreigners.

In Africa, I’ve seen people who are so destitute they intentionally mangle and gash their own bodies just to give themselves good cause to shock foreign tourists into donations.

But I’d have to rank poverty in Cuba as the most extreme.

Going to Cuba is like going back in time. The country lacks basic products and services, many of which we consider staples in modern life.

Most roads and buildings are in horrendous condition. And the average person in the country has to make do with just a few dollars a month.

All of this stems from a system of central planning in which government essentially owns and controls… everything. Businesses. Property. Medical services. Anything larger than a bicycle.

Teams of bureaucrats lord over the Cuban economy trying to manipulate and control every possible variable. They dole out housing allowances. They set manufacturing quotas. They control prices of goods and services.

Nevermind that any high school economics student understands why price controls don’t work… and typically lead to shortages.

That’s precisely what’s happening right now.

Cuba’s state-run condom distributor has been centrally planning safe sex for years. And, surprise, surprise, they’re not doing a very good job of it.

Condoms are now at critically low levels in Cuba. And the government’s solution is to sell expired condoms from two years ago. It’s genius.

Like the toilet paper shortage in Venezuela, the infamous electrical blackouts in Argentina, or those mythical stories of Soviet boot factories, it’s clear that central planning simply does not work. Ever.

Even in a single industry as innocuous as toilet paper or condoms, there are simply too many variables in the equation.

Taking that a step further and presuming that a government committee can centrally plan an entire economy or financial system is just ludicrous. But it doesn’t stop people from trying.

John Maynard Keynes is one of the most famous economists in history; decades ago he wrote THE economic playbook still used by governments and central banks around the world today.

His writings include such pearls of wisdom as:

“earthquakes, even wars… serve to increase wealth. . . ”

and my favorite:

“Can a country spend its way into recovery? Yes.”

Keynes was a staunch advocate of ‘state-run capitalism’, an oxymoron rivaled only by “almost pregnant” and “fight for peace”.

Keynes believed that we little people aren’t competent enough to arrange our own finances, and “the duty of ordering the current volume of investment cannot safely be left in private hands”.

He was also a staunch advocate of modern central banking– the concept of awarding a tiny unelected banking elite with total control of the money supply.

He saw it perfectly fine to have a group of men sitting in a room making monetary decisions that would literally impact the entire world… so long as it was the right men.

As he wrote, “State-run capitalism must be run by the right people.” Precisely. And everyone else is just supposed to trust them to be good guys.

Cuba may be centrally planning its condom industry. But the United States is centrally planning the entire global monetary system.

Cuba may be selling expired condoms… but the United States is selling expired credibility.

And just as in Cuba, they are creating bubbles, panics, shocks, crises, and gargantuan inefficiencies.

Like Cuba, the cracks are showing and the system is decaying rapidly. Major governments and central banks are now insolvent, particularly on a mark-to-market basis.

History shows that central planning has always had a finite shelf life. Do you really want all of your assets, savings, and income invested in this system as it collapses?

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Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:33 | 4680845 NoDebt
NoDebt's picture

I'm looking around and seeing some eerie similarities, without the need to travel to Cuba.

"Do you really want all of your assets, savings, and income invested in this system as it collapses?"

No, and "all of my assets" are not.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:37 | 4680866 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture

That's ok.....the excess population will just come to Florida.  More constituents for the political whores......more wage slaves for the corporations here.


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:46 | 4680890 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

So... lets recap.

"Visible Hand" makes too many condoms in years past, where they waste away unneeded. Decides to cut production in later years, which leads to shortage.

Meanwhile, the "Invisible Hand" which doesn't rely upon centralized bureaucracy to determine production functions just fine, adjusting production as demand changes.

Perhaps the "Visible Hand" needs to go play with itself?

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:52 | 4680909 DoChenRollingBearing
DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Quick!  Get me a containerload of them from Malaysia, now!

Oh, and "precio nada mas!"

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:55 | 4680919 remain calm
remain calm's picture

Time to go bear back.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:41 | 4681161 mjcOH1
mjcOH1's picture

"Time to go bear back."


That's probably the plan.   Birth rate is currently under 10 per 1000.  El Comandante needs more people to comandante.


See....central planning does work!   Just don't catch the AIDS.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 21:28 | 4681383 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Bill Clinton suggests that the Cubans use cigar tubes instead. Call it the Monica solution.

They've lived through a "cuban missile crisis" before.



Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:32 | 4680846 Yancey Ward
Yancey Ward's picture

the government’s solution is to sell expired condoms from two years ago. 


Next up is selling used ones.  Then comes banana peels.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:41 | 4680877 SilverIsKing
SilverIsKing's picture

What about one year old condoms?  Where are all the three year old condoms?  Why two?

There's got to be a hidden message in the fact that they are only using two year old condoms.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:48 | 4680900 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

As per my post above, it's all due to the glacial timescale of central planning by bureaucrats, and the fact that two wrongs don't make a right.

(Think "Stalin's Five-Year Plans")

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:48 | 4681051 BandGap
BandGap's picture

Depends on the primary packaging and the storage conditions. If these are in aluminum foil wrap and stored at less than 85F they could last for a decade. Plastic sheet wrap (glued and edged) stored above 85F and with a high relative humidity and I wouldn't give these more than 2 years, at the most. Oxygen will attack the latex like no ones business.

My bet would be a higher degree of latex integrity failure during use given the attention of central planning towards cost.

Cuba could use more kids, right?

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:21 | 4681112 Dugald
Dugald's picture

Three year old condoms will be declared a VINTAGE YEAR and attract a premium......

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:25 | 4681123 BobPaulson
BobPaulson's picture

Uh, can we be a bit more honest that bureaucracy is not to only cause of Cuba's economic woes? Be serious. 

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:27 | 4682025 PT
PT's picture

Meanwhile in capitalist USA, they make plenty of big houses and big cars but no-one can afford to buy them.  Much better.   Oh, oh, oh, sorry, I meant to say "Crony capitalist USA".  Shame about "Crony communist Cuba".  If only they could get rid of their cronies, they would have a perfect communist system!





What's the difference between "capitalist" US and "communist" China?  In the US, empty houses are spread all over the country.  In China, the empty houses are all stacked together neatly into empty cities.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:35 | 4680849 RafterManFMJ
RafterManFMJ's picture

I'm curious Simon's parents are in Cuba? If so, we see firsthand the tragic outcome of a dearth of condoms.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:35 | 4680859 are we there yet
are we there yet's picture

Next is refurbished condoms. Politicians are first in line.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:16 | 4680977 itstippy
itstippy's picture

Q: How do you recycle a condom?

A: Turn it inside out and shake the fuck out of it.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:49 | 4681056 BandGap
BandGap's picture

I saw a photo of recycled condoms in China. Lterally drying on a clothes line.

Crazy world.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:38 | 4680867 Smegley Wanxalot
Smegley Wanxalot's picture

the new cuban superhero is El Prophalactico Grandé.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:38 | 4680869 kurt
kurt's picture

Haven't the Pig Bay Boys died off yet?  

Who still finances anti-Cuba propaganda?


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:49 | 4680903 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

The CIA and their southern Florida tools?

In other words, you.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:40 | 4680875 Tinky
Tinky's picture

I'm guessing that there may be some holes in the proposed solution.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:42 | 4680883 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

expired condoms? the horror the horror

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:04 | 4680942 nuclearsquid
nuclearsquid's picture

yeah i would rather use a dusty old jimmy hat, that mutilate my self for donations.  seriously.  

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:09 | 4680957 1stepcloser
1stepcloser's picture

Good thing the Secret Service will never need to go there!

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:45 | 4680888 Jota
Jota's picture

12 hours of blockade = the anual insulin needed for every patient in Cuba.

We should not ignore the U.S. blockade.



Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:03 | 4680937 29.5 hours
29.5 hours's picture



We also should keep in mind that we Americans must violate some very serious U.S. gov't laws to visit Cuba. Apparently our gov't does not trust us to come to the right conclusions upon seeing affairs for ourselves.



Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:47 | 4680895 Vracar
Vracar's picture

What a bull! In Cuba lacks everything not b/c of the central planing but b/c of inhumane 50 years long ussa sanctions. The autor of the text is an ahole

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:52 | 4680907 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

I think the truth is far more likely to be BOTH.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:29 | 4681011 machineh
machineh's picture

U.S. sanctions don't stop Cuba from trading with Mexico and the rest of LatAm.

But Cuba is too poor to buy anything. 

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:37 | 4682134 Pool Shark
Pool Shark's picture



There's nothing preventing Cuba from getting condoms or even toilet paper from Venezuela,.. oh,... wait...



Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:48 | 4680899 taketheredpill
taketheredpill's picture



Isthe Embargo a factor?  Seems kinda important even tbough Central Planning sucks for lots of things.


Key is to set up system properly iin the first place and then let market take over.  For instance, leaving environmental costs as Externalities has led to a lot of problems. 

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:41 | 4681043 Hobo Sapien
Hobo Sapien's picture


I remember well Econ 101 at a University of Ca campus, being introduced to the concept of Externalities... my visceral reaction was, "OK then, that makes all of the concepts being taught in this class total bullshit."

As an aside, the professor for the course was quite good - the only Econ prof I ever had that didn't just read from the book and put everyone to sleep. He was Iranian, but had full fluency in English, almost no accent. Come to think of it, that last part describes all the Iranians I met in college, they were very smart, adroit; I used to practice speaking French with the ones in my dorm, none of the Americans I knew had a second language, or they'd taken 2 yrs in high school to satisfy a requirement, got their C grade, and promptly repressed the memory once they were done.

Anyways, one day this Econ prof started class with a discussion of current events (this was about 1989 or 1990) and he was amazed at the political situation over here. "In my country, if something like this were going on, the streets would be filled with protestors in every city! Here, nothing happens! How can this be?" Nobody in class had an answer for him, I think most just filtered it as, "not on the test, so ignore."


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:48 | 4680902 deeply indebted
deeply indebted's picture

So...cuban condoms are bigger than bicycles? Wow.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:52 | 4680912 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

+1 for unintended logic!

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:52 | 4680910 Matt
Matt's picture

Price controls without rationing obviously cannot work. It must be much easier to enforce anti-smuggling on an island, without having any neighbours.

Here's my solution: raise prices to higher than the cost, say triple the bulk price, then issue 90% off coupons. The customers use the coupons at the store, then retailers turn them in to the government and get 95% off.

Example: In Venezuala, instead of selling gasoline for $0.06 / 10 gallons, crank the price to retailers to $5.00 per gallon, set the price to consumers at $6.00 / gallon, then once per week everyone gets 5 coupons for $5.50 off a gallon. The retailer then turns the coupons into the government, where the coupons are destroyed and the retailer is issued $5.90 refund/credit.

That way, people can buy as much gasoline as they want, but all consumption over the ration limit is charged at an exorbant price, instead of having people smuggling thousands of gallons of gasoline out of the country for profit.

As a side-effect, this could lower domestic consumption and allow more oil to be sold overseas, bringing in more funds to run the government and import more neccessities. 

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:56 | 4680923 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Yeah, cuz the criminals running the place now would NEVER figure out how to scam such a convoluted system. When any solution to a lack of freedom requires even more coercion to implement, well... that idea's a real winner, right there.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:05 | 4681088 Matt
Matt's picture

You think it would work out if they just suddenly ended all social programs, and went instantly to free markets? How well did the privitization of public assets work out with the fall of the Soviet Union?


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:40 | 4681160 acetinker
acetinker's picture

No, if we suddenly ended all 'social programs' society would collapse into chaos- Not cool.  Most Amerikkans are intellectually adolescent and require a moderated weaning.  The rest of the world has grown accustomed to US hegemony, and their leaders are smart enough to realize this.  Thus, they will not immediately and unilaterally abandon the USD as the 'reserve' currency.  They know who Robert Triffin was, and what he had to say about such hegemony.

Instead, they (the BRICS) are making bilateral agreements which don't exclude the USD, but at the same time, do not automatically include it , either.

Suddenly, the US has a shitload of back-tracking to do- and it will do it, or be shut out of the global economy.

Sanctions aside, the real players at the world's poker table have spoken.  The US is due a notch or three takedown.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:45 | 4681173 object_orient
object_orient's picture

How well did the privitization of public assets work out with the fall of the Soviet Union?


Very, very well.



Russian oligarch

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:45 | 4681175 nmewn
nmewn's picture

They were only public on paper Matt.

There were billionaires in the former Soviet Union, much to the chagrin of the left, who did have "Das Kapital" to purchase "the publiks" paper, a public which needed to eat, have water and heat more than the paper they could easily afford to take off their hands for pennies.

Very benevolent ;-)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:52 | 4680911 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

  Are those the kind of condoms that have the "Just Add Water" instructions on the back?

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 19:42 | 4681165 petolo
petolo's picture

3 D printers for everyone, Fidel.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:11 | 4680934 Latitude25
Latitude25's picture

If you've been to Cuba you also know that:

Cuba has free healthcare for citizens

Education through college is free although college grads are waiters and have to perform other menial tasks since there are no jobs for them

Cuba exports their collge grads, especially doctors, all over Latin America and they are obliged to send a huge amount of their salary back to support their government.  Many find a way to defect and never return.

There are virtually no cell phones in the hands of ordinary Cubans so a twitter revolution is impossible.

Ordinary Cubans are poor but most have nice clothes sent by their US relatives.

Cubans have a simple style of life and visiting a small town you will find most people just hanging out chatting with friends and neighbors.

There is zero starvation but basic food allowance is abysmal.

Ordinary Cubans make about $10 per Month.

Visitors to Cuba pay exorbitant prices for most things compared to what Cubans pay however for a price just about anything is available

Private business is making a comeback and it is common now to see private grocery stores and bed and breakfast hotels in peoples' houses.

Private taxis are common although figuring out the bus system as a visitor is difficult.

Cuba has the best collection of restored 50s cars with Russian diesel engines installed anywhere.

Cubans are making inroads into more economic freedom although it's a huge uphill battle.  The elite there are like the elite in the West, filthy rich and powerful compared to their population at large.

Cubans are very friendly to visitors and treat them very well

Chasing beautiful young men and women is very easy.  Even ancient European women have a few young studs hanging on their arm.


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:15 | 4680966 nmewn
nmewn's picture

That freeeee! health care is pretty damned expensive huh? ;-)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:26 | 4681002 Latitude25
Latitude25's picture

Paid for by doctors working overseas.  How's that Obamacare working out for ya?

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:41 | 4681040 nmewn
nmewn's picture

Oh ya know, triple the deductibles now, 60% more on premiums since passed, less choices in doctors or hospitals.

Ya know, the usual when fucking crony-socialists-commies get a hold of something.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 20:05 | 4681215 Ifigenia
Ifigenia's picture

Wonder if there is no sanction from USA and the americans can travel to Cuba, perhaps the shortage wouldnt be so acute. The problem is without hard currency, Cuba could not import a lot of things they need.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:08 | 4680935 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Lack of condoms sounds like Family Planning.  Catholic style.  ;-)

My friend Monty has a Protestant view on family planning:

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