Saturday, February 20, 2016

But...It Will Be Different This Time

Small problem: Socialist Venezuela has run out of food

[Question for the day: Will they ever learn?]

I’m sure the Bernie lovers will come up with a reason this is different and not the same, but every policy the Chavistas have put in place in Venezuela since the revolution has more or less tracked to what Bernie Sanders would do here - with one exception. At least Hugo Chavez and his hapless successor Nicolas Maduro believed in exploiting the country’s oil resources. It’s just that they used them to grease their own palms rather than meet the needs of their people, which is how we got to the point that one of the most oil-rich nations on Earth has no power. And no food. And no medicine. And no toilet paper, not that there’s anything available for you to eat and thus necessitate . . . OK, I’ll stop there:

  According to figures published by newspaper El Tiempo, there is a shortage of 90% on staple goods such as flour, coffee, sugar, and meat, and 80% shortage in medicines.

Rosalba Castellano, 74 years old, spent hours this week in what has become a desperate routine for millions: waiting in long lines to buy whatever food is available. She walked away with just two liters of cooking oil.
  “I hoped to buy toilet paper, rice, pasta,” she said. “But you can’t find them.” Her only choice will be to hunt for the goods at marked-up prices on the black market. The government, she said, “is putting us through savage suffering.”
  “Our food rots without electricity, and it’s sad because it’s so difficult to find food here,” said Mr. Chacin’s neighbor, Sasha Almarza. “When we are able to find any in the store, we eat it all the same day.”

The hope for Venezuela, at least politically, is that the opposition has made dramatic gains in recent elections and stands an excellent chance of taking back the presidency the next time it gets a chance. I don’t care how much you corrupt the process, not many people are going to vote for you when there’s nothing to eat and it’s pretty clear your policies are the reason.

But opposition leaders are still jailed with regularity, and it’s still not safe in the streets in most areas. It takes a lot just to run for office and stay alive in Venezuela, let alone win. And assuming the Chavistas do eventually get bum-rushed from power, it will take a lot of hard work for the new government to solve these problems.

Now I’m sure the Bernie supporters will say the difference is that Bernie wants “democratic socialism,” as if that’s really different in terms of the economic policies that lead to shortages like these. But the problem there is that you can call yourself “democratic” all you want, and it won’t change the fact that a government with this much control over the private economy becomes corrupted very easily. Sanders has been going around saying no one needs a choice of 23 brands of deodorant, and I guess his theory is that all the capital expended to make all that deodorant could be . . . what? Used to feed the poor or something? What he and his supporters don’t understand is that the profit motive to make those products and get a piece of the market not only keep people employed, but ensure people a certain level of quality and selection in the products they buy.

Disincentivize production, and you get what’s happening in Venezuela today. Anyone who thinks it would happen any differently in the United States is kidding themselves. It’s true that we have a much more robust entrepreneurial culture here, but a government determined to quash that culture will probably succeed in doing so.
That’s exactly what Chavez and Maduro did in Venezuela. They sought to make industry the servant of the state, and this is what the people of that nation got in the bargain.
You young Bernie supporters who don’t remember the Cold War should follow the headlines out of Venezuela that are happening right now, then give some serious thought to whether you really want socialism here. Because no, it would not be different. Not in the slightest.

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