Saturday, January 26, 2019

Socialism Fails in Venezuela

Sometimes we want to know what someone has been smoking. Sometimes we want to know what he has been drinking. In the case of Bret Stephens we want to know what he has been reading.

Apparently, when Stephens ambles through the mainstream media coverage of the ongoing calamity called Venezuela, he never finds anyone who believes that Venezuela’s failure is a failure of socialism. Apparently, socialism is trendy. It is sexy. Young people flock to it. They vote for Democrats because they love socialism.

Of course, young people have not only been brainwashed. They have been dumbed down to the point where that think that a notable imbecile like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is intelligent. Or where they can denounce President Trump for taking sides against President Maduro, and thus against Russia, China, and Iran… and then, in the same mindless breath, declare that Trump is in collusion with the Russians. Someone needs a brain transplant… presto.

In his column today Stephens calls out what he calls the mainstream media for criticism. Apparently, no right-leaning media outlets— think of the Wall Street Journal, where Stephens used to pontificate—  have noted that Venezuela is a case study in the failure of socialism.

Thus, the news outlets that are covering up socialism’s failure in Venezuela are not really mainstream. They lean radically to the left and have long since abandoned the pretense of reporting objectively. Their only standard is whether or not their story will hurt Donald Trump. They are leftist propaganda machines, and they ought to stop pretending to care about objective facts.

Stephens explains:

Conspicuous by its relative absence in much of the mainstream news coverage of Venezuela’s political crisis is the word “socialism.” Yes, every sensible observer agrees that Latin America’s once-richest country, sitting atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is an economic basket case, a humanitarian disaster, and a dictatorship whose demise cannot come soon enough.

But … socialist? Perish the thought.

Or so goes a line of argument that insists socialism’s good name shouldn’t be tarred by the results of experience. On Venezuela, what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, U.S. sanctions and trickery, even the residues of capitalism itself. Just don’t mention the S-word because, you know, it’s working really well in Denmark.

True enough, and sadly so. The mainstream media has long since forgotten to be liberal or progressive. It has thrown its lot in with the radical left and will not utter a work that will tarnish the good name of socialism. Think about it, we have seen decades worth of socialist governance, even the totalitarian and despotic versions. They have produced more destruction and calamity than any other governing philosophy in world history. And yet, some people still believe that socialism has a good name. Really? How stupid do you have to be, how gullible do you need to be, to hold out hope for socialism. Is that what it means: the audacity of hope? Or to call a monumental catastrophe a monumental human catastrophe?

Apparently, the mainstream media cannot bring itself to show socialism for what it is, to expose the misery it has produced in once-wealthy Venezuela. This tells us that the mainstream media is fighting the good fight against capitalist and patriarchal hegemony… and it has sympathized with socialism… just as it sympathizes with Palestinian terrorists who have been trying to destroy what capitalist Israel has produced.

As it happens Jeremy Corbyn, the notably anti-Semitic leader of the British Labour Party  is a mainstream political figure, but not a mainstream media figure. And Noam Chomsky, also cited by Stephens, is a far left crank, albeit a very smart one. Stephens opens with their assessments of Venezuelan socialist strong man, Hugo Chavez:

The late Venezuelan president [Hugo Chavez], said Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, “showed us there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice, and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step toward.” Noam Chomsky was similarly enthusiastic when he praised Chávez in 2009. “What’s so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela,” the linguist said, is that “I can see how a better world is being created and can speak to the person who’s inspired it.”

And Stephens quotes a professor’s obituary from The Nation, also not a mainstream media outlet:

In a lengthy obituary in The Nation, New York University professor Greg Grandin opined, “the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough.”

Without wading through too many current issues of  The Nation, I promise you that nary a week goes by without attacking Donald Trump for being an authoritarian monster. But, you were not expecting intellectual coherence, were you?

Of course, Stephens is a serious thinker, so he must also a nod to policy. So, he explains how Venezuela followed the socialist policy script… to the letter:

… Chávez’s erstwhile defenders … would prefer to forget just how closely Venezuela followed the orthodox socialist script. Government spending on social programs? Check: From 2000 to 2013, spending rose to 40 percent of G.D.P., from 28 percent. Raising the minimum wage? Check. Nicolás Maduro, the current president, raised it no fewer than six times last year (though it makes no difference in the face of hyperinflation). An economy based on co-ops, not corporations? Check again. As Naomi Klein wrote in her fawning 2007 book, “The Shock Doctrine,” “Chávez has made the co-ops a top political priority … By 2006, there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers.”

Ah yes, what would a list of leftist buffoons be without Naomi Klein? 

What did socialist policies produce? Or better, how did they produce the unmitigated catastrophe that is today’s Venezuela:

Government overspending created catastrophic deficits when oil prices plummeted. Worker co-ops wound up in the hands of incompetent and corrupt political cronies. The government responded to its budgetary problems by printing money, leading to inflation. Inflation led to price controls, leading to shortages. Shortages led to protests, leading to repression and the destruction of democracy. Thence to widespread starvationcritical medical shortages, an explosion in crime, and a refugee crisis to rival Syria’s.

As Stephens points out, at a time when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the new face of the Democratic Party, one needs to keep pointing this out. As it happens, it will probably do not good, the Democratic Party has completely lost its way, but there’s no harm in trying.

As for Trump administration policy toward Venezuela, Stephens approves. I am sure that that will make your day. He offers some further suggestions:

The Trump administration took exactly the right step in recognizing National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s constitutionally legitimate president. It can bolster his personal security by warning Venezuela’s generals that harm will come to them if harm comes to him. It can enhance his political standing by providing access to funds that can help him establish an alternative government and entice wavering figures in the Maduro camp to switch sides. It can put Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and warn Cuba that it will be returned to the list if it continues to aid Caracas’s intelligence apparatus.

And it can help arrange legal immunity and a plane for Maduro, his family, and other leading members of the regime if they will agree to resign now. Surely there’s a compound in Havana where that gang can live out their days without tyrannizing a nation.

As for the larger lesson, Stephens closes on this note:

Twenty years of socialism, cheered by Corbyn, Klein, Chomsky and Co., led to the ruin of a nation. They may not be much embarrassed, much less personally harmed, by what they helped do. It’s for the rest of us to take care that it never be done to us.

But, isn’t that the point: they are not embarrassed. They have no sense of shame. At a time when certain psycho professionals are filling the mainstream media with calls to overcome our sense of shame, they should try understand that overcoming your sense of shame means that you can never admit to being wrong… and thus that you are condemned to repeating the same mistake… over and over again. In truth, they do not mind that... as long as they don't have to pay for it.


trigger warning said...

There are some electrifying videos of the mass demonstrations in Caracas. Definitely worth viewing, like catching sight of a triple rainbow. I've been blessed to see this twice; once during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and now Venezuela. One is forced to question the sanity of anyone who fantasizes about the viability of socialism.

Regarding Stephens' comment that the mass murderer Maduro should be spirited out of Venezuela to live in quiet retirement on the tropical playas of Cuba, that notion is both ridiculous and morally bankrupt. I recommend the Ceaușescu Solution.

JPL17 said...

The entire, official talking point the Far Left uses to avoid blaming the Venezuelan catastrophe on socialism is contained in this one sentence from Bret Stephens' column:

Government overspending created catastrophic deficits when oil prices plummeted.

I hear this all the time from the media and people duped by the media. "Venezuela was fine until oil prices plummeted." "Venezuela's strong economy was the victim of falling oil prices." Et cetera, ad nauseam. I heard it as recently as yesterday when I accidentally saw a news report on CBS. It's everywhere, a drumbeat. It's never socialism, always oil prices.

But if this talking point were true, wouldn't all oil-export-dependent economies and societies have plunged into chaos like Venezuela? It's interesting, then, that while the dollar value of net crude oil exports of nearly all the top crude oil exporters have plummeted like Venezuela's in recent years (see, e.g., Saudi Arabia [value of net crude oil export surplus down 54.5% since 2013], Russia [down 46.3% since 2013], United Arab Emirates [down 44.1% since 2013], Canada [down 22.4% since 2013], Kuwait [down 52.1% since 2013], Nigeria [down 55.5% since 2013], Angola [down 53.4% since 2013], Kazakhstan [down 51.2% since 2013], Norway [down 47.8% since 2013], and Mexico [down 53.3% since 2013*]; and while the economies of all these countries have no doubt suffered as a result; none of them follow the command economy model of Cuba and Venezuela that's advocated by the Far Left in the U.S. today, and none of them have experienced the complete economic, demographic and social collapse experienced by Venezuela.

So. Oil prices plummeting everywhere, damaging economies of oil-exporting countries everywhere. Economic, demographic and social collapse only happening in Venezuela. Anxiously awaiting CBS News' report on this amazing coincidence.

* All these numbers from

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

No doubt Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is shielding her eyes from views of the Caracas implosion.

The bartender-turned-Congresswoman — who grew up on the mean streets of Westchester County, NY — is a true believer. With an economics degree from one of the most expensive colleges in America.

Clearly she didn’t get a lot of value from her education at Boston University.

Now she’s the champion for lots of expensive free stuff. Which will all come from the rich people (aka, Santa Claus).

Socialism is a grand lie. Socialists want us to all be equally miserable. We’re told that Trump’s rise represents the end of “facts.” It’s nice to know that the people of Venezuela are showing us that the truth will set you free.

I second the Ceausescu solution for Maduro, et al.

JPL17 said...

Socialists want us to all be equally miserable.

Except for the Party Leaders, Comrade IAC! As vanguard of the proletariat, they deserve to be exempt from the disastrous results of their own policies!

Sam L. said...

"Socialists want us to all be equally miserable." The important word here is "us". Not them, the Socialists, but "us", the peons. They're much better than "us".

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

No sane person wants to live with the consequences of idealistic fantasies — especially their own.

Socialists know their policies won’t work. That’s why they always exempt themselves.

UbuMaccabee said...

I also vote for the Ceausescu solution for Maduro, et al.

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence that all the mainstream news stories I've seen call the situation in Venezuela a political crisis instead of what it is an economic crisis.