While there are many who, apparently, seem to have been caught by surprise at the level of economic and social degradation occurring today in Venezuela under chavismo, the movement founded by the late leftist dictator Hugo Chávez, who, praise God, died of cancer three years ago, after seeing what has been the result of every other attempt at socialism, there’s really nothing surprising about it. What began as a war against the “squalid” oligarchy in order to build what he called “21st-century socialism” — cheered on as he was by many leftists from abroad — has collapsed into an unprecedented heap of misery and conflict. As has always been the case wherever the implementation of this twisted ideology has been attempted.
Unsurprisingly, Chávez was incapable of reinventing socialism as anything other than a prescription for abject failure. Ultimately, all he wound up bequeathing to his people is this century’s longest national train wreck. The distressing stories that continue to flow from Venezuela only continue to worsen. From stories about the simple necessities like being unable to buy toilet paper to horror stories about the spiraling public-health emergency there due to shortages of medicine, doctors, and, among other things, electricity to keep hospitals and medical equipment functioning. Stories of babies dying in maternity wards, lack of water to wash blood from operating tables, surgeons forced to wash their hands with bottles of seltzer water.
The easily preventable deaths of innocents is tragic, but it is only one more ghastly layer atop Venezuelans’ increasingly brutish quality of life. Added to this are levels of street crime among the world’s highest; shortages of the most basic goods, leading to hours-long queues and looting; triple-digit inflation, which has resulted in more than 70 percent of the population’s living in poverty; and the collapse of government services exacerbated by the two-day work week, ordered by Chávez’s hapless successor, Nicolás Maduro, to save energy. This explains why, for three years running, Venezuela has been ranked No. 1 in the world in the Cato Institute’s annual Misery Index. All this in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world.
So you may ask, how could it all have come to this? While it may be true that international oil prices have dropped to less than half of what they were at the height of Chávez’s power, anyone who has been watching Venezuela closely knows that the downward glide path predated by years the oil-market collapse. It also doesn’t explain how other countries heavily dependent on energy exports have weathered the storm without such catastrophic consequences. No, what has brought on Venezuela’s nightmare is the systematic destruction of economic freedom through politicized rule of law, the wanton confiscations of private property, and an orgy of price and currency controls, which have led to rampant distortions and dislocations.
Still, it wasn’t so long ago that legions of leftist admirers of Venezuela were falling all over themselves singing the praises of Chávez. In 2012, Mark Weisbrot, wrote in the New York Times: “Since the Chávez government got control over the national oil industry, poverty has been cut in half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent. College enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.” And it was in a Salon article titled “Hugo Chávez’s Economic Miracle” (2013) that we read: “As shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chávez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.”
But perhaps the most shameless of the Chavez apologists was the hardy perennial Oliver Stone, who, unable to limit himself to one hagiographic documentary on Chávez, felt compelled to make two. On Chávez’s death in 2013, Stone issued this statement: “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history.” But it’s not enough to simply point out the enduring folly of socialism’s apologists, of which there are many. Now I suppose will always have our Useful Idiots. But the point is to prevent yet another generation of Americans from being led astray by the siren song of socialism.
In other words, those Millennials currently enamored by the quixotic campaign of “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders for the U.S. presidency. They seem to have an idea of socialism as a sort of imaginary Scandinavian bliss rather than as a pernicious deal with the devil whereby you relinquish more of your rights to government on the faulty promise of improving your security and well-being. All you are left with is poverty, less dignity, and no hope. Every new generation must be made to understand that ideas will always have consequences. And, if you have any doubts about that, a visit to Venezuela, just a few hours’ flight time from Miami, will likely convince you of that essential fact. Government is NOT the solution!
We have in Venezuela that which was once a thriving country and it was the leadership of a madman that proceeded to drive it straight into the ground. Those Hollywood elite royalty that so many worship, the likes of Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and Danny Glover, probably push the radio station button or quickly turn the page of a newspaper when they now read of the destruction that Hugo Chavez has wrought. It’s amusing to see the spin put on this by places like National Public Radio (NPR), your tax dollars at work, when they actually mention it, that is. It’s not the socialism’s fault, it’s solely the fault of falling oil prices. Otherwise Venezuela would be a little socialistic heaven.
We do not appreciate enough the fact that socialism doesn’t start by asking you to give up your rights. It begins by demanding that others give up their rights for the sake of the public good. It is popular to demand that the 1% pay their workers more, and pay more taxes. All this is done by centrally applied force, and the persons applying the force are incompetent, and soon enough we all suffer consequences. The problem is that young America, courtesy of our public school system and out institutions of ‘higher learning’, has now so propagandized that using another’s money to make your life a little more comfortable is a good idea. So the realistic question we are faced with is how can we now introduce them to reality?