Why the Left Refuses to Talk About Venezuela

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By:  @community, 2 weeks ago
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During the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders refused to answer questions about Venezuela during an interview with Univision. He claimed to not want to talk about it because he's "focused on my campaign." Many suggested a more plausible reason: Venezuela's present economy is an example of what happens when a state implements Bernie Sanders-style social democracy. 

Similarly, Pope Francis — who has taken the time to denounce pro-market ideologies for allegedly driving millions into poverty — seems uninterested in talking about the untrammeled impoverishment of Venezuela in recent years. Samuel Gregg writes in yesterday's Catholic World Report


Pope Francis isn’t known as someone who holds back in the face of what he regards as gross injustices. On issues like refugees, immigration, poverty and the environment, Francis speaks forcibly and uses vivid language in doing so.

Yet despite the daily violence being inflicted on protestors in Venezuela, a steadily increasing death-toll, an explosion of crime, rampant corruption, galloping inflation, the naked politicization of the judiciary, and the disappearance of basic food and medical supplies, the first Latin American pope’s comments about the crisis tearing apart an overwhelming Catholic Latin American country have been curiously restrained.


This virtual silence comes in spite of the fact that the Catholic bishops who actually live in Venezuela have denounced the regime as yet another illustration of the "utter failure" of "socialism in every country in which this regime has been installed."

Thus, for many Venezuelans, the question is: "Where is Pope Francis?"

As with Sanders, it may very well be that Francis has nothing to say about Venezuela precisely because the Venezuelan regime has pursued exactly the sorts of policies favored by Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis, and the usual opponents of market economics.

It's an economic program marked by price controls, government expropriation of private property, an enormous welfare state, central planning, and endless rhetoric about equality, poverty relief, and fighting the so-called "neoliberals." 

And, as Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has helpfully explained, "There are two models, the neoliberal model which destroys everything, and the Chavista model which is centered around people.”

The Chavista model is simply a mixture of social democracy and environmentalism which is easily recognizable as the Venezuelan version of the hard-left ideology espoused by a great many global political elites both in the United States and Europe. Neoliberalism, on the other hand — as I've noted before — is a vague term that most of the time really just means a system of relatively free markets and moderate laissez-faire. 

Indeed, no other regimes in the world, save Cuba and North Korea, have been as explicit in fighting the alleged menace that is neoliberalism. 

For this reason, as Venezuela descends into chaos, we are hearing a deafening silence from most of the left, as even some principled leftists have noticed. 

In an article at Counterpunch, for example, Pedro Lange-Churion points out: 


Venezuela was news while it was good news and while Chávez could be used as a banner for the left and his antics provided comic relief. But as soon as the country began to spiral towards ruination and Chavismo began to resemble another Latin American authoritarian regime, better to turn a blind eye.


Nevertheless, as a dedicated leftist, Lange-Chrion unfortunately still mistakenly thinks that the Venezuelan problem is political and not economic. For him, it's merely an unfortunate coincidence that the implementation of the Chavismo economic agenda just happened to coincide with the destruction of the nation's political and economic institutions. 

But here's the thing: it's not a coincidence. 

In fact, it's a textbook case of a country electing a leftwing populist who undoes years of pro-market reforms, and ends up destroying the economy. 

This has been going on for decades in Latin America where, as explained by Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastián Edwards, the cycle repeats itself again and again. 

It's happened in Argentina and in Brazil most recently, and it goes something like this: first, a relatively neoliberal regime comes to power, moderately reduces government spending, somewhat restrains government power, and ushers in a period of growth. But, even with growth, middle-income countries like those of Latin America remain poor compared to the rich countries of the world, and large inequalities remain. Then, populist social democrats convince the voters that if only the regime would redistribute more wealth, punish greedy capitalists, and regulate markets to make them more "humane," then everyone would get richer even faster. And even better, the evil capitalists would be punished for exploiting the poor. Eventually, the economy collapses under the weight of the new social democratic regime, and a neoliberal regime is again elected to clean up the mess. 

Venezuela is in the midst of this cycle right now. After decades of relatively restrained government intervention, Venezuela became one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America. During the most recent twenty years, though, the Chavistas were able to take that wealth and redistristribute it, regulate it, and expropriate it for the sake of "equality" and undermining capitalist evil. But, you can only redistribute, tax, regulate, and expropriate so much before the productive classes give up and the wealth runs out. 

To the leftwing mind, the explosion of poverty that results can't possibly be the result of bad economic policy. After all, the Chavismo regime got everything it wanted. It redistributed wealth at will. It "guaranteed" a living wage, health care, and plentiful food to everyone. "Equality" was imposed by fiat over the cries of the "neoliberal" opposition. 

The only possible answer, the left assumes, must be sabotage by capitalists or — as the Pope reminds us — too much "individualism." 

The problem the global left has in this case, though, is that this narrative simply isn't plausible. Does Colombia have fewer capitalists and individualists than Venezeuala? It almost certainly has more. So why do Venezuelans wait hours in line to cross the Colombian border to buy basic food items not available in the social-democratic paradise of Venezuela? Has Chile renounced neoliberal-style trade and markets? Obviously not. So why has Chile's economy grown by 150 percent over the past 25 years while Venezuela's economy has gotten smaller

The response consists largely of silence. 

This isn't to say that what the left calls call "neoliberal" is without its faults. Some aspects of neoliberalism — such as free trade and relatively free markets — are the reason that global poverty and child mortality are falling, while literacy and sanitation are rising.

Other aspects of neoliberalism are odious, particularly in the areas of central banking and crony capitalism. But the free-market answer to this was already long-ago voiced by Ludwig von Mises, who, in his own fight against the neoliberals, advocated for consistent laissez-faire, sound money, and far greater freedom in international trade. 

For an illustration of the left's answer to neo-liberalism, however, we need look no further than Venezuela where people are literally starving and will wait hours in line to buy a roll of toilet paper. 

And if this is what the the left's victory against neoliberalism looks like, it's not surprising the left seems to have little to say. 


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96WS6
link 05/19/17 02:12:47PM @96ws6:

Right.  If people were paying attention to Venezuela they might not keep drinking the Democratic Socialism Koolaid...

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Cerenkov
link 05/20/17 11:36:32AM @cerenkov:

Exactly. They are an abject example of the failures of socialism.

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XXJefferson#51
link 05/21/17 02:58:18AM @xxjefferson51:

Socialism is a universal failure.  

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Steve Ott
link 05/20/17 04:54:30PM @steve-ott:

Neither side really likes to discuss the failures of their kind.

Don't see many posts from Mises on here, thanks for the fresh air.

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Dean Moriarty
link 05/21/17 10:20:18AM @dean-moriarty:

I think most of us saw this coming when they dug their own graves embracing socialism years ago. 

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Fermit The Krog
link 05/21/17 12:16:58PM @fermit-the-krog:

Initially they were sold the Democrat socialism bill of goods Americans are buying. Over time this unsustainable myth turns into facism as the government picks winners and losers. The losers are always the majority and the socialist enjoys not living like a socialist. 

Venezuela was the Texas of South America with one of the world's largest oil reserves, fertile farming and ranching land and a self sustaining fishing industry. They exported in abundance and democrat socialism has them importing oil and food. All of their industries have been destroyed. Nationalizing the means of production always fails and they are a shinning example.

A country rich in resources is now a country dependent and unable to sustain itself.

We ought to offer our assistance removing these vile socialists from power and then make a deal for the oil. They will never put on turbans and kill our children.

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sixpick
link 05/21/17 12:44:36PM @sixpick:

How Venezuela’s socialist dream collapsed into a nightmare


May 26, 2016

Venezuela is in the midst of a stunning social, political, and economic collapse. The country of 30 million people is facing dire food and medicine shortages, frequent power outages, serious political unrest, the world’s highest inflation rate, rampant violent crime, and one of the world’s highest murder rates. Earlier this month, Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, declared a state of emergency.

 

In short, Venezuela has become the world’s most visibly failing state.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Not so long ago, Venezuela’s socialist revolution attracted its share of fellow travelersfirst-world idealists hungry for the next earthly utopia. Those folks are thin on the ground these days.

Here, then, is the story of how a relatively wealthy, relatively sophisticated country suddenly imploded under the weight of its own terrible choices — and why the worst may still be to come.

 

Chavismo’s disastrous policies created this nightmare


Venezuela’s collapse is the end result of two decades of chavismo: Venezuela’s own brand of aggressive left-wing populism, founded by the late Hugo Chávez and carried on today by his hand-picked successor, Maduro.

 

Taking his cue from Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Chávez saw the partnership between Venezuela’s business elite and the United States as the source of all of his country’s problems. To bring dignity and inclusion to Venezuela’s poor, he aggressively set out to break up that US-bourgeois alliance by minutely regulating every aspect of economic life and centralizing all decisions in his own hands.

The humanitarian tragedy these policies were creating was kept at bay, for much of the decade and a half, by sky-high oil prices, which buried Venezuela — a big-time oil exporter — under a tsunami of petrodollars.

 

Today that tsunami has receded, and what's left behind is the catastrophic consequences of the world’s most garishly mismanaged economy.

A wave of expropriations beginning in 2005 left most medium and large companies in state hands, to be run by bureaucrats who proved often venal and almost always incompetent. Even businesses left in private hands faced an unmanageable thicket of regulation over every imaginable aspect of their operations, hemming them in on all sides.

To take one example out of a million possibilities, it is now illegal for a dairy company to move raw milk from a collection center it owns to a processing facility it also owns 2 kilometers away without an explicit permit signed and stamped by a slew of government officials.

 

It is also illegal to fire a worker for basically any reason, including making threats of physical violence against a manager. And, needless to say, it is illegal to set your own prices: The state does that, often setting them below the cost of production, especially for basic goods. Under such circumstances, even "private" firms are in essence state run.

The Venezuelan economy today is a kind of caricature of US Republicans’ worst nightmares. The difference is that for us, it’s not just empty rhetoric: We actually do have a government that’s fanatically hostile to private enterprise and convinced that business poses an existential threat to it.

Fiscal policy is a disaster, too. Venezuela has been running enormous, unmanageable GDP deficits of more than 10 percent for years, even back when oil prices were high. Needless to say, it didn’t bother to save when the takings were good, and so it now finds itself facing a kind of fiscal Armageddon.

The government is so broke it can no longer afford to fly in the planefuls of fast-depreciating bolivar bills (the Venezuelan currency) it gets printed abroad; in effect, the country doesn’t have the money to pay for its money.

Unable to find enough investors foolhardy enough to lend it the shortfall, the government has given in to the temptation to just create money out of thin air to cover the difference, setting off a breathless monetary expansion that could see inflation top 2,200 percent in 2017.

 

In Venezuela today, more and more cash is chasing after fewer and fewer goods. The result looks very much like the old Soviet bloc economies, where people had plenty of money in their pockets but it didn’t help them because there were no goods on offer. In a strange way, chavismo has realized the old socialist dream of abolishing money: When there’s nothing to buy, money is useless.

Having either the world’s most punitively misconceived microeconomic policies or the world’s most mindlessly self-destructive macroeconomic policies would be bad enough, but having both of them at the same time is just killer.

~More from Vox"

I always find this rather amusing.....

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Petey Coober
link 05/21/17 05:14:07PM @petey-coober:

This story is nothing new . Here is an article I posted 2 years ago ...

http://thenewstalkers.com/community/discussion/3893/venezuela-reaches-the-final-stage-of-socialism-no-toilet-paper

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sixpick
link 05/22/17 03:05:39AM @sixpick:

They don't want to discuss Venezuela because it mirrors who they are and could possibly enlighten some of their useful idiots.

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96WS6
link 05/23/17 07:38:57PM @96ws6:

It might wake up some sheeple too.

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