(This was originally posted 9/10/18.)
(Author’s note: Today is Halloween. I can’t think of a scarier idea than socialism in America. This post recalls the tragic consequences of socialism in Venezuela today.)
For most people with any gray hairs it is a given that socialism is evil. The lessons of the failed governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union are still fresh in our memories.
But for many young people socialism has become the “latest thing.” Recent polls suggest as many as 43% of Americans favor socialism over capitalism – and most of these are young people. Unfortunately, they are being led down this destructive path by an elder statesman, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and his young acolyte, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic Congressional candidate from New York.
The evils of socialism are being demonstrated in dramatic fashion not far from our southern border in Venezuela. Venezuela is a tragic example how socialism has brought economic disaster and resultant famine and hyperinflation upon a nation with the world’s richest oil reserves!
This dramatic real-world tragedy is playing out in Venezuela while American socialists talk of utopian dreams with their heads firmly planted in the sand. The real story is told by Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, in a article published in The Wall Street Journal.
Pipes gives us the background needed to understand just how bad socialism can be. Venezuela discovered vast oil reserves in 1914 that brought the country vast revenues and produced a relatively free economy. By 1950 Venezuela enjoyed the fourth highest per capita income in the world, behind only the U.S., Switzerland, and New Zealand. As late as 1980, it boasted the world’s fastest growing economy in the 20th century.
However, beginning in 1958, government interference in the economy, including price and exchange controls, higher taxes, and restrictions on property rights, led to decades of stagnation. Per capita real income declined0.13% from 1960-1997, despite their strong oil production.
A Tragic Decline
Pipes tells us the reality of Venezuela today:
“Today the country with the world’s largest oil reserves suffers from a severely contracting economy, runaway inflation, despotism, mass emigration, criminality, disease, hunger and starvation, with circumstances deteriorating daily. Venezuela’s economy contracted by 16% in 2016, 14% last year and a predicted 15% in 2018. Inflation was at 112% in 2015 and 2,800% at the end of last year. Economist Steve Hanke finds an annualized rate of around 65,000% for 2018, making Venezuela’s one of the most severe hyperinflations ever. Food shortages led to an average weight loss among Venezuelans of 18 pounds in 2016 and 24 pounds in 2017.”
What caused this crisis?
Socialism. Hugo Chavez convinced Venezuelans to try it in 1999, then stole, dominated, polarized and jailed anyone who disagreed. With about a $1 trillion in oil sales during his 14 years as president, he had the means to launch massive social spending programs to secure votes to strengthen his control. Then he replaced oil professionals with his agents, stooges, and sycophants further consolidating control.
As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
Hugo Chavez didn’t reach that situation because he died in 2013, about a year before oil prices tumbled, when he sought cancer treatment in Cuba and was “assassinated by Cuban malpractice” according to Fox News reports. However, his successor, Nicolas Maduro, has proven even more brutal and incompetent. The result of Maduro’s handling of the economy is the disaster chronicled above.
The lesson of the evils of socialism could not be clearer for the world today. It is the job of our national media, and all clear-thinking Americans, to educate people to the tragedy playing out not far from our southern beaches. It’s time our young people stopped listening to the sirens of socialism and got in touch with reality.