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March 5, 2018

The Problem with Socialism

Jason Miller

In looking at the troubles facing Venezuela right now, I can’t help but recall a quote by a brilliant political thinker. United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said famously: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”


Venezuela was once hailed by the American left as being the modern vision of properly applied socialist policy. Hollywood actor Sean Penn practically worshiped the ground that Venezuelan Socialist President Hugo Chavez walked upon. In the Obama Administration, American progressive scholars demanded that our country needed to join the dialogue on the benefits of socialism in the world. It didn’t help that Chavez donated heating oil to needy Americans through a non-profit called the Citizens Energy Corporation.


Citizens Energy Corporation was founded by former Democrat U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II. In those days Mr. Kennedy was a media darling who promoted Mr. Chavez at the most exclusive Hollywood parties, in testimony before Congress and on commercials paid for by the Venezuelan government.


At a meeting of the Union of South American Nations, the Venezuelan president offered President Barack Obama a gift. It was a book entitled “The Open Veins of Latin America,” a scholarly text that analyzes Latin America’s dependence on the north. In the book, the author laments that throughout the modern history of South America the “United States would not allow a leftist experiment to succeed.”


My question is show me where a leftist experiment has ever succeeded? In every case where one has been attempted, socialist movements to liberate ‘liberate the worker” have ended up oppressing them. The great short success in Chavez’s Venezuela has been overshadowed by the long term failures. Socialists live in the now.


Venezuela was flush with cash when Chavez came to power because of the standard rate of oil prices. Chavez was as popular as Santa Claus when he promised money, luxury, and comfort to all Venezuelans. Mr. Chavez promised to change the culture of the nation as he envisioned the common good.


When Chavez took power, money was pouring into the Venezuelan government’s coffers based on oil. Venezuela nationalized the oil industry after Chavez initiated a social justice tax system that targeted the wealthy. Mr. Chavez berated the economists and conservatives on his TV show “Hello President.” Each week he would pick a new target of blame for the failures of the past.


Next Mr. Chavez embarked on the nationalization of private property. Farms owned by farmers became community farms owed by no one. Shortly after the land seizures, farm production in Venezuela started to fall drastically as crops planted by volunteers failed. Mr. Chaves blamed the culture of corruption in capitalism and all the prices on goods and services were fixed in Venezuela. It looked like the socialist experiment in Venezuela was a becoming a success until the country was denied its economic lifeblood.


Oil prices plummeted on the world market and Venezuela’s state-owned oil industry could not adapt fast enough to the change because it was plagued with corruption and incompetence. All the socialist bureaucrats who predicted a worker’s utopia some 25 years into the future were left holding an empty promise. President Chavez died shortly after the crisis started. Power was then handed to a former transit bus driver Nicolás Maduro Moros on March 5, 2013, who promised to make everything better.


Today marks the fifth year of Moduro promising to fix all the problems of Venezuela. He told his starving people to shoot wild rabbits if they were hungry while forgetting that he took away most of the average Venezuelan’s firearms following anti-government demonstrations. Today more Venezuelans have indoor plumbing, but it works only on occasion. Yet still a national toilet paper shortage grips the country. The once mighty oil refineries that paved the way for social projects lay rusted and broken down.


These errors might have been avoided had Chavez listened to another United Kingdom prime minister. Margaret Thatcher said: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money.”


Thatcher would have known all about Venezuela’s plight because in 1976, the United Kingdom racked up such a heavy public debt that it became one of the first countries to be "bailed out," in the modern understanding of the phrase, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


Shared misery is the problem with socialism.


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