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Forbes Says that Castro is Worth 900 Million Dollars.--

In Forbes's annual list of the net worth of "Kings, Queens & Dictators," Fidel Castro is listed as having $900 million (tip to Betsy). USAToday reports:

Cuban President Fidel Castro was furious when Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $550 million last year. This year, the magazine upped its estimate of the communist leader's wealth to a cool $900 million. Castro, who says his net worth is nil, is likely the beneficiary of up to $900 million, based on his control of state-owned companies, the U.S. financial magazine said in its annual tally of "Kings, Queens & Dictators" fortunes Thursday.

Kings and sheikhs of the oil-rich Gulf Arab states still top the Forbes list, to be published in its May 22 edition.

Saudi King Abdullah is number one with an estimated $21 billion, followed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei at $20 billion and United Arab Emirates' President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan at $19 billion.

Among Europeans, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein improved upon his family fortune of palaces, real estate and artwork with an investment in a U.S. producer of hybrid rice, for total estimated riches of $4 billion.

Perhaps the most industrious of the leaders listed is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, with a net worth of $14 billion.

Forbes estimates the renowned racehorse breeder also helped raise Dubai's gross domestic product from about $8 billion to nearly $40 billion since 1994 by diversifying its industries outside of oil and making successful investments overseas.

"He would probably be the shrewdest of the bunch," said Luisa Kroll, associate editor at Forbes.

Forbes requires registration to read the story, which if you follow an internal link for 10 rich heads of state eventually leads to this entry on Castro:

Fidel Castro
President/Cuba
$900 million
Age: 79


Comandante since 1959. We estimate his fortune based on his economic power over a web of state-owned companies including El Palacio de Convenciones, a convention center near Havana; Cimex, retail conglomerate; and Medicuba, which sells vaccines and other pharmaceuticals produced in Cuba. Former Cuban officials living in U.S. assert that he has long skimmed profits. Castro insists his net worth is zero.

Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
God, he is 79? I like Russian revolutionaries better. They had the decency to kick the bucket much earlier on, (natural causes or not).
5.6.2006 5:36pm
Fishbane (mail):
That number looks low to me. The NPV of ruling a nation state with ~12M people in it for nearly 50 years has got to be worth more than $.9 billion, even if you're terribily inefficient.
5.6.2006 6:07pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Wow, that makes Dick Cheney look like an amateur.
5.6.2006 6:37pm
Observer (mail):
This seems like petty nonsense. Claiming that state-owned properties that he controls, by being head of state, conts as his personal property is pretty nonsensical. Then they turn around and decide NOT to count things like Buckingham palace (and all the others) for the Queen of England.

Just a lame little political shot. Not that things like that arent deserved, but really, whats the point?
5.6.2006 6:58pm
AppSocRes (mail):
The interesting thing here is how medieval monarchies do so much better than modern communist dictatorships and social welfare states at increasing the well-being of their citizens. Raising GDP 500% in a decade is awe-inspiring.
5.6.2006 7:28pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
This seems like petty nonsense. Claiming that state-owned properties that he controls, by being head of state, conts (sic) as his personal property is pretty nonsensical.

No it's not petty at all, it's makes an important point about communist dictators. For example, let's consider Tito versus Marcos. Marcos was condemned in the US for being too rich at the expense of the people he ruled. Marcos enjoyed the luxury of a string of villas. Tito on the other hand seems to escape this kind of criticism. But I know a Yugoslav who once came across a book with pictures of the lavish villas Tito kept for his exclusive use all over the country. Officially he did not own these properties, they were state properties provided for his personal and official use. In reality there is little distinction. To control is to have, especially when you are dictator for life. I suppose Tito could not sell these villas to a private party, but so what? Western liberals seem to have a double standard along these lines.
5.6.2006 7:35pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, we wouldn't count leases as ownership under our rules. Seems like the free rental value should be imputed to Castro but not the property value. The double standard would be in not counting Buckingham Palace, if that is true.

A free marketer should realize the difference between the use of property and the ability to sell it or leave it to one's heirs. (Perhaps Castro can leave it to his heirs)

On the other hand, I suspect Forbes may fail to count the value of other inkind services received by Castro (like the diver that supposedly puts fish on his hook).
5.6.2006 8:21pm
reneviht (mail) (www):

Then they turn around and decide NOT to count things like Buckingham palace (and all the others) for the Queen of England.


Yeah, it doesn't seem like these should count for nothing. I know little about the monarchy, but I'm fairly certain that they have constitutional limits on their power. So, I'm inclined to think that the Queen wouldn't be allowed to sell Buckingham Palace, etc. or do some of the other things associated with ownership, whereas Castro, etc. would be able to order the government to try to convert their villas into fluid assets somehow. Thus, I think it's fair to count the national assets of a dictator towards his/her net worth, but for a monarch, the value should be lowered depending on the control s/he has.

Of course, if she could sell Buckingham Palace, etc. then my point is entirely vapid. I just don't care enough to do any research on the topic. I'm commenting because I like the sound of my own voice.
5.6.2006 8:28pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
frankcross,

I agree that there is more to ownership than "control," but it's not fair to characterize what Tito had as a leasehold. He did indeed have the power to tear the villas down, build new ones, or indeed to re-lease them to third parties without securing anyone's consent. This is well beyond a leasehold, and the closest thing we have is a life interest, except Tito was more than free to waste the asset in any way he chose, which a life estate does not permit.

I also strongly suspect that he had considerable ability to leave the villas to his heirs. The way this was done in Russia is along the following lines: (1) Stalin's son Vasiliy is given a generalship, (despite his incompetence, alcoholism and inexperience). (2) Stalin, Sr then orders that the State give/build General Jr. a dacha on the Black Sea coast. So while they did not have the kind of estate controls that we have here, in practice, if not in form, they very much existed.
5.6.2006 9:11pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
People who fret over the income gap in free markets should pay more attention to the income gap in unfree markets. The gap between me and Bill Gates may be bigger than the gap between Castro and the average Cuban serf, but I think I'm better off than the serf.
5.6.2006 10:13pm
Bobbie:
But Alan, our market is also not a free market. It's a question of degree to which the market is free. So, you're right: the way in which Cuba is run is worse than the way the United States is run. That doesn't validate the United State's economic system, but only means if we're looking to improve, we shouldn't look to Cuba. (Then again, I don't know anyone who thinks Cuba has the ideal economic system.)
5.6.2006 10:56pm
Bored Lawyer:
"Then again, I don't know anyone who thinks Cuba has the ideal economic system."

LOL!!!!!

Walk into any dept. of liberal arts in the U.S., throw a rock, and you're more likely than not to hit someone who fits this description.
5.6.2006 11:03pm
Fishbane (mail):
LOL!!!!! Walk into any dept. of liberal arts in the U.S., throw a rock, and you're more likely than not to hit someone who fits this description.

I won't speak to the probability distribution that Bored Lawyer suggests, but I will say that he or she is fundamentally and obviously wrong. I talk to the output of universities daily. Sure, there are a few socialist basket cases. But they are the exception. I frankly can't understand where Bored Lawyer got his/her impression, to be honest. It would be interesting to hear from Eugene, or any of the other professors, about how much chronically communist would-be attorney waste they see cycle through.

I suppose I shouldn't care, not being a lawyer and making a surprising about per day. But I do care, and I'm trying to fix things such that I can go back to school to become a lawyer.
5.6.2006 11:34pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
People who fret over the income gap in free markets should pay more attention to the income gap in unfree markets. The gap between me and Bill Gates may be bigger than the gap between Castro and the average Cuban serf, but I think I'm better off than the serf.

Was this example intended to be ironic? Microsoft's wealth was gained by using monopoly power to close markets and end competition. How many of Bill Gates' products were adopted because they were in fact better than their competitors'? When MS tries to compete in a free market, they lose billions, as with the Xbox.
5.6.2006 11:41pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
How many of Bill Gates' products were adopted because they were in fact better than their competitors'? When MS tries to compete in a free market, they lose billions, as with the Xbox.

Gates was visionary enough to recognize that nobody would need more than 512K RAM, at least.
5.6.2006 11:56pm
Bleepless (mail):
Coming up with a total for Communists and the like gets quite difficult when trying to value unrestricted access. Castro's favorire watering hole is the Miramar Yacht Club, which "belongs to the people." Yeah. Right. Also, take a look at the report written by the commission that took the inventory of Stalin's personal property after his death. They were impressed by how little there was: a 1947 geography schoolbook, a pair of boots, a couple of tunics, a chipped tea set. Yet this was, in a sense, the richest man who ever lived: he owned every object and every person in the USSR and its satellites, and exercised that ownership whenever he wished.
5.7.2006 12:04am
FireFox User (mail):

How many of Bill Gates' products were adopted because they were in fact better than their competitors'? When MS tries to compete in a free market, they lose billions, as with the Xbox.


Funny that you should describe the computer software industry as unfree, despite the fact that Windows doesn't prevent the user from using FireFox (which I'm using right now) or Quicktime over competing Microsoft products, and the Console industry, where no developer can create a commercial game without paying royalties to Sony or Microsoft, as a free market.
5.7.2006 1:01am
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
Microsoft dominates the operating system market because they were the first to offer an affordable product on commodity hardware. Due to the eventual extreme cheapness of this hardware, linux arose and eventually caught up to windows in terms of features.

I dont really feel that microsoft has gotten to where it is through unfair practices. Many of microsoft's competitors like Sun and Netscape hurt themselves by venturing away from their core competencies and into areas that microsoft dominated.
5.7.2006 1:15am
Ace (mail):
Officially he did not own these properties, they were state properties provided for his personal and official use. In reality there is little distinction. To control is to have, especially when you are dictator for life. I suppose Tito could not sell these villas to a private party, but so what? Western liberals seem to have a double standard along these lines.

So, Camp David is counted in President Bush's net worth? I want to know Castro's net worth as defined as if he dies tomorrow, how much does he pass on to his heirs? The answer may be not the same amount as reported.

Sure, he has access to a state owned industry, but what is that really worth? When he dies it reverts to the state.

On the other hand, if he has been really good about skimming off the top, he could have almost a billion in his own personal assets.
5.7.2006 2:00am
A. Zarkov (mail):
So, Camp David is counted in President Bush's net worth?

No. Bush does not serve for life, and he is not free to use it however he pleases. I doubt he could order the destruction of Camp David. He's not even free to modify it as he would need an appropriation from Congress. Remember Clinton had to return certain property he removed from the White House.
5.7.2006 2:30am
Ken Arromdee:
Microsoft dominates the operating system market because they were the first to offer an affordable product on commodity hardware. Due to the eventual extreme cheapness of this hardware, linux arose and eventually caught up to windows in terms of features.

I dont really feel that microsoft has gotten to where it is through unfair practices. Many of microsoft's competitors like Sun and Netscape hurt themselves by venturing away from their core competencies and into areas that microsoft dominated.


First of all, Microsoft has copyrights which prevent people from just running off a couple of Windows CDs and selling them at a cheaper price than Microsoft, like they could if someone was building furniture or selling crops. Copyrights are government-granted monopolies and the antithesis of the free market.

It's misleading to confuse the issues of Microsoft *gaining* a large OS market share, and Microsoft *keeping* one. The former is indeed partly because they were first. The latter is different; it has more to do with network effects and switching costs, and Linux can't catch up in this area. (This doesn't even count Microsoft's use of software and file format patents. These are more government-granted monopolies, of course.)

It's also misleading to refer to Microsoft "dominating the OS market" and then use that in an argument mentioning Netscape are complaining about. Netscape didn't enter the OS market; Netscape entered the browser market. The problem for Netscape wasn't Microsoft's monopoly over the OS alone, but rather its use of a monopoly in one area (OS) to gain a monopoly in another (browsers).
5.7.2006 4:34am
Ken Arromdee:
Funny that you should describe the computer software industry as unfree, despite the fact that Windows doesn't prevent the user from using FireFox (which I'm using right now) or Quicktime over competing Microsoft products, and the Console industry, where no developer can create a commercial game without paying royalties to Sony or Microsoft, as a free market.

The console market is free on the per-console level; you're talking about the per-title level. If you publish for the PS2 you need to pay Sony money, but if you release a console that competes with the PS2 you don't.

And Firefox is not something Microsoft has to completely stop. By bundling a browser with a monopoly operating system, Microsoft can ensure that it is unprofitable to sell a competing browser, and can force their own browser to be the default. The fact that competing browsers may still be given away for free and installed manually doesn't change this.
5.7.2006 4:41am
The River Temoc (mail):
How much is the president of Bolivia worth as the result of this week's nationalization?
5.7.2006 7:37am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Funny that you should describe the computer software industry as unfree, despite the fact that Windows doesn't prevent the user from using FireFox (which I'm using right now) or Quicktime over competing Microsoft products, and the Console industry, where no developer can create a commercial game without paying royalties to Sony or Microsoft, as a free market.

Sure, Windows doesn't prevent the user from using Firefox or buying a Mac or installing Linux; that's not the point. Windows is pre-installed on nearly every pre-built PC--buying a computer is tantamount to also purchasing Windows. So, whether the user likes it or not, Microsoft gets money from the PC the user just bought. This is also known as the "Microsoft tax" or the "Windows tax." Hmm, a tax... what kind of free-market system likes those?

And about the games market, sure, to develop software for a platform commercially, licensing fees have to be paid. However, since neither Sony, MS, nor Nintendo control upwards of 95% of the market as MS does in PCs, a new company's barrier to entry is somewhat low.
5.7.2006 12:07pm
mr.meade (mail):
Disparate incomes shouldn't be such a surprise. After all, Cuba is a red state.
5.7.2006 12:56pm
Vovan:
Heh, where is Putin on that list? or Nazarbaev, or Turkmen-Bashi? If they put a guy that has no oil or gaz resources above these dudes, Forbes seriously does not know what it's doing - but then again, one of Forbes head editors got wacked in Russkiland for suggesting such a thing, so maybe they are just scared shitless of the Russki Democratic leaders and their ilk.
5.7.2006 3:01pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Ken Arromdee-

So you're saying there should be no protection for intellectual property, period? If someone has an invention, creation, artwork, design, etc. they shouldn't be able to protect it?
5.7.2006 4:17pm
pst314 (mail):
"This seems like petty nonsense."

No, it's necessary to counteract "progressive" claims that their socialist heroes are/were modest men of the people who lived frugal unassuming lives. For instance, just recently I read a China trip report by a far-left sf writer who admiringly related how Mao lived in a small, modest house. Somehow he conveniently forgot all those villas, private trains, personal servants, and so on.
5.7.2006 5:21pm
dleins (mail):
Comments regarding Microsoft's "monopoly" are laughable. Since Microsoft's inception, there have always been plenty of competitors selling (or giving away) their products. Apple and Linux have both been readily available for years, and there are multiple alternative web browsers available for a free download. Sorry, no conspiracy, just better value software.

Is this off-topic or what?
5.7.2006 6:22pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Sez pst314:

"No, it's necessary to counteract "progressive" claims that their socialist heroes are/were modest men of the people who lived frugal unassuming lives. "


Except it gives us no information on that subject at all, let alone compelling evidence. We've got fairly detailed information as to the vast discrepancy in life style between the highest and lowest rungs on the ladder in the PRC at the time of Mao's death, the CCCP during much of the time since WWI, and certainly N. Korea (though frankly, I'm not sure, except as to the last, that the discrepancy isn't actually comparable to that in the agri-feudal societies which preceded them; Chinese and Russian peasants weren't doing wonderfully under their respective last imperial goverments, either).

What this story notably fails to give us is ANY info that from which we can draw an inference that Fidel actually lives like a shiekh, which is the inference the authors clearly are contriving to force.
5.7.2006 6:32pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Is this off-topic or what?

Hey, you mentioned "conspiracy."
5.7.2006 7:56pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
But Alan, our market is also not a free market.

I should have said "relatively free market." Hong Kong tops the Index of Economic Freedom, not us, after all.
5.7.2006 10:58pm