This is the first in a series of articles by Liberty Nation author Andrew Moran examining how socialism has failed the countries and the citizens it was meant to benefit.
The eminent economist Milton Friedman modified the classic Benjamin Franklin quote when he said, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither.” This is exactly what is unfolding in a Latin American state that should be one of the richest nations in the world but instead has devolved into a pit of insolvency, insanity, and indigence.
Venezuela is home to the latest socialist experiment, one commenced about 20 years ago by the late Hugo Chavez. As expected, the results have been deadly, thanks to an unfortunate cocktail of a totalitarian regime, central planning, and price controls – the hallmarks of socialism. Poverty, starvation, and a humanitarian crisis are now synonymous with Venezuela. It has also served as Exhibit No. 2323 for the case against adopting this destructive system.
And with good reason.
Despite maintaining the largest crude oil reserves on the planet, Venezuela is marred with riots, faced with shortages of essentials, and crippled with a worthless currency. This is all because the government launched a crusade against capitalism and pledged to establish an egalitarian society.
Before the wails of “that’s not real socialism” emanate from the progressive haven of Seattle, let’s concede that these shrieks are technically correct. It’s another brand of socialism; it’s democratic socialism, the very ideology promoted by such intellectual heavyweights as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jim Carrey.
War Against Bakers
At first, proponents of socialism declared Venezuela and its leadership as models for the rest of the world. Actor Sean Penn stated in 2013, “Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of vice president Nicolas Maduro.” Jesse Jackson espoused at a funeral service, “Hugo fed the hungry. He lifted the poor. He raised their hopes. He helped them realize their dreams.” Michael Moore tweeted, “Hugo Chavez declared the oil belonged 2 the ppl. He used the oil $ 2 eliminate 75% of extreme poverty, provide free health & education 4 all.”
Today, it is rare for these celebrities to champion Venezuela as a country to mirror. What good is free healthcare when you can’t access it, or free education when you’re too hungry to learn? Even President Nicolas Maduro conceded to lawmakers that socialism has failed, though that hasn’t stopped the disgraced empanada-eating leader from maintaining the same policies.
Where did it all go wrong?
It started with price controls and production quotas, the antitheses to sound economics.
Chavez began the failed measures in 2003 when he capped the flight of capital by instituting currency controls. This was followed by slowing down the domestic output of agricultural staples like beef, rice, and milk. Under Maduro, these price controls were then extended to other essentials, such as flour, cornmeal, and toilet paper. Anyone who has taken an Econ 101 class could have prognosticated the consequences: widespread shortages and the heroic formation of the black market.
Trying to find a scapegoat for these tumultuous conditions, the socialist government used the Committee for Supply and Production (CLAP) to expropriate several industries, including bread makers. Because bureaucrats found that bakeries failed to prevent long lines and use 90% of their wheat supplies, Maduro vowed to a crowd that he would wage war against the odious bakers.
“They will pay, I swear. Those responsible for the bread war will pay and, later, don’t go and say that it is political persecution. Even our lord Jesus Christ put bread into the Our Father.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) might believe bread lines are virtuous, but they’re symbolic of misery.
But Caracas exacerbated the food crisis collapse by enacting other policies that were meant to spur unicorns in the sky. Food rationing, complemented by fingerprint scanning systems, were implemented to curb hoarding. Shoppers complained that the lines were even longer because the technology malfunctioned.
Other economic measures were established: The minimum wage was raised dozens of times in a three-year period, more public holidays were given to civil servants, and the state handed out free money to pregnant women – this didn’t seem to work, as mothers are giving away their babies.
Power outages have even become the norm nationwide, leading to the candle hoarding. Maduro went as far as encouraging women to stop using blow dryers and adopt the wet hair look, so perhaps this is the new socialist style that Teen Vogue could recommend to readers.
A Daily Nightmare
Unless they have U.S. dollars, maybe a bitcoin or two, and can access the black market without security forces clamping down on these economic heroes, Venezuelans are permanently entrenched in destitution – if price controls were removed, the free market would spring into action in mere moments.
The food shortages have led Venezuelans to eat just about anything they can get their hands on, from pigeons to zoo animals to abandoned cats and dogs. This is not enough to sustain the public, which is why 75% of the country has lost approximately 20 pounds every year. Of course, President Maduro can eat all the empanadas he wishes, another hallmark of this iniquitous system of socialism: for thee but not for me.
In addition to the food crisis, medical supplies and clean water are non-existent in the socialist paradise. This is breeding illnesses and diseases, leaving doctors and nurses hopeless because they lack the tools necessary to treat sick patients.
Unfortunately for Venezuelans, the government is completely out of bullets with which to fight the crisis. The inflation rate has topped 46,000%, gold reserves will be emptied by next year, and debt payments could spiral the country into bankruptcy.
Socialism was mentioned for a total of zero times.
And, to the left, these conditions are somehow superior to those created by capitalism.
Blind to Socialism
Whenever a left-leaning outlet or figure muses on Venezuela, they often omit socialism from the discussion. Typically, when a socialist country falls, Marxist defenders will blame the U.S., fault the leader, or contend that it wasn’t implemented correctly. These excuses have become a cliché.
In December 2017, The New York Times penned a 5,000-word article, titled “As Venezuela Collapses, Children Are Dying of Hunger.” Socialism was mentioned for a total of zero times. In 2016 and 2018, HBO host John Oliver performed segments on the state of Venezuela and refrained from alluding to socialism as the cause for its food and energy shortages.
In the U.S., socialism is becoming popular again, particularly among young Americans. Perhaps it is because they were not alive when the atrocities and massacres in Mao’s China or Pot’s Cambodia, or Amin’s Uganda were committed. But could the situation unfolding in Venezuela, as well as in other socialist heavens, finally cure the typhlosis inflicting millions of youths wearing Che Guevara t-shirts? No, because our supposed moral and intellectual superiors will proclaim to us that “it’s not real socialism.”