Could Venezuelan socialism come to America? Let’s hope not, but let’s be frank. Many Democratic presidential candidates and vocal congressional leaders, if believing they will “do it better,” are promoting exactly the approach taken by Venezuela’s Chavez and Maduro. That approach has produced hell on earth for Venezuelans, who cannot find water, meat, gasoline, safe haven, or even so much as an egg in Caracas.
Specifically, left-pressing Democrats say they want control over the means of production, that is, federal authority over producing and distributing health care, medicine, energy, education, transportation and any other sector they can pull into a command-and-control economy.
If this sounds radical, it should – it is. This is precisely the bankrupting philosophy, and specific practical ambitions, that have animated socialists and communists for the past hundred years. And everywhere this failed ideology, which trades individual political and economic freedom for the promise of heaven on earth through collectivism, submission and centralized control, has produced misery.
Venezuela is just the most recent example of the same old witch’s brew – conceit and arrogance, ambition advanced by government coercion and violence, raising a socialist ideology over prerogatives and choices of the individuals in a free society.
But let’s be even more specific. While Democratic presidential candidates and congressional voices speak glowingly of free things for everyone, from health care and medicine to education and energy, let’s come back to reality.
First, from a purely economic perspective, only the private sector generates income, wealth and revenue, not the government. Entrepreneurs, skilled workers, citizens who invest their savings in technologies, services, and markets produce things. They are incentivized by profit, returns on their work and investment, and a better life. Governments tax, tap and confiscate property earned in the private sector, sometimes for worthy or agreed purposes, but always on the backs of those who work.
Second, Venezuela is a classic example of the witch’s brew producing – what it always does – high minded words, promises of something for nothing, then confiscation of property in growing amounts, loss of liberty, then loss of access to formerly available material items – from food and energy to stable economic conditions and security.
What happens is that political freedoms and free markets are taken over, opposition sporadically and then methodically squashed, protesting voices put down, wage and price controls imposed, rationing begun, class warfare encouraged – the rich and increasingly the middle class vilified, and as more become poor, state dependence for survival fanned, expanded and made life’s only option.
That is what happens everywhere socialist ideologies are promoted, whether by slick-tongued, half-falsifying, half-historically ungrounded political candidates, or by party organizations hoping to wrestle control from the people, in the name of the people. It is an old game, by now – but a scary one.
So, once again, let’s see what it brought those who were duped, threatened, indebted, promised, cajoled, hoodwinked or deceived into believing that socialism was their ship coming in. Consult – for reference – the miserable lives of those who lived or live in socialist or communist countries, including the former Soviet Union, communist East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, or in the Far East, China, Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam. In this hemisphere, try Cuba on for size.
In Venezuela, you have seen the photographs of radiating misery, and it has been a long, inevitable process of decline, demoralization, diminished liberty and ultimate impoverishment and dependence. But here are some numbers that drive the point home.
In Venezuela, while misery began in the late 1990s, the descent into hell has just continued to accelerate. Centralized control, whatever the motivations, can never replace individual choice and freedoms. The present inflation rate is estimated at 1.3 million percent annually, which means a cup of coffee today will cost the price of a house by this time next year, in current currency.
Put differently, as one recent analysis demonstrated, the socialist economy is unstable, and has spun out of control. While food is nearly impossible to find, a basic MacDonald’s “Big Mac” cost a year ago roughly $145,000 bolivars, while in America it cost roughly $5.30. That means that a dollar converted, a year ago to roughly 27,500 bolivars. A year prior to that time, a dollar converted to 27 bolivars. And today, you will not likely find a Big Mac in Caracas.
Similarly, exports fell by 67 percent between 2013 and 2016, while imports fell by 66 percent. In other words, a country – where energy (oil) was plentiful – could not sustain production under centralized control. Imports could not be afforded and, to preserve centralized control over such goods as electronics, were cut off. All this was done in the name of elevating the quality of life, while the socialist leaders – including Chavez and Maduro – missed no meals.
Bottom line: Socialism is a failed, naïve, dehumanizing and immoral approach to life, suppressing political and economic freedoms in the name of nirvana, or the perfect state of the human condition. Those candidates who promote it are either historically uninformed, power hungry, insensibly naïve, or intentionally deceptive.
In any event, the present state of affairs in Venezuela – an undeniable human, political and economic disaster, boldly buttressed by Cuba, Russia, China and Iran – should be enough to warn any American candidate and voter off embracing socialism, even if they imagine they will “do it better.”
Could Venezuelan socialism come to America? Let’s hope not. Freedom requires individual responsibility, but Americans have always preferred that to being told what to do or told what they are no longer allowed to do. This is America, not Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China or Iran. Let’s keep it that way.