How’s that socialism working out for Venezuela?

Socialism has never worked anywhere in the world, neither has communism, you’d think they’d learn.

Venezuela is the latest country to learnt he lesson, and they have massive oil reserves, but spend like drunken sailors.

When Senator Bernie Sanders describes himself as a socialist and his critics point queasily to such socialist experiments as those in Cuba and North Korea, the response is always predictably the same: No, no: democratic socialism. But of course Boss Hugo advanced through the democratic process (when he wasn’t attempting coups d’état) and Maduro’s rule was confirmed in a special election. Perhaps he even legitimately won that election; regardless, he is stacking the deck this time around by ensuring that those who might challenge him are sitting on the sidelines or languishing in prison.

There is more to democratic legitimacy than open ballots truly counted. As the Founders of our own republic keenly appreciated, genuine democratic engagement requires an informed populace and open debate, thus the First Amendment’s protections, which extend not only to newspapers and political parties but also to ordinary citizens, despite the best efforts of Harry Reid and congressional Democrats to trample those rights. (They call this “campaign-finance reform,” on the theory that political communications more sophisticated than standing on a soapbox outside the Mall of America requires some sort of financial outlay.) But Venezuela has been for years cracking down on newspapers, radio stations, and television stations, even as the Maduro regime’s inspirations in Havana have been locking up outlaw . . . librarians.   
In fact, the Maduro regime is so terrified of public discourse that it has stopped publishing basic economic data, such as official figures for inflation (estimated to be well in excess of 100 percent), unemployment (high), and economic growth (currently about negative 7 percent, it is thought). Not that Venezuelans necessarily need the statistics to tell their heads what their bellies have already learned: The United Socialist party’s disastrous economic policies have led to acute shortages of everything: rice, beans, flour, oil, eggs, soap, even toilet paper. Venezuela is full of state-run stores that are there to provide the poor with life’s necessities at subsidized prices, but the shelves are empty.

Socialism has two relevant features: Central planning of the economy by political powers and the public provision of ordinary goods (as opposed to public goods such as national defense and judicial systems). This is distinct from welfare-state policies such as those found in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Sweden has a large and expensive welfare state, but it has a robustly capitalistic trade-driven economy that in many ways is more free-market than our own, with lower corporate taxes and fewer trade barriers. The difference between welfare programs and socialism is the difference between food stamps and the state-run groceries that were the bane of the common people’s existence in the old Soviet Union and in modern Venezuela. The former is imperfect, the latter catastrophic.

The price of free stuff ends up being terribly high. While Venezuela has endured food riots for years, the capital recently has been the scene of protests related to medical care. Venezuela has free universal health care — and a constitutional guarantee of access to it. That means exactly nothing in a country without enough doctors, medicine, or facilities. Chemotherapy is available in only three cities, with patients often traveling hours from the hinterlands to receive treatment. But the treatment has stopped. Juvenile cancer patients taken by their parents to the children’s hospital in the capital are being turned away because the treatments they need are no longer available. The scene is heartbreaking, but that’s the political mode of thinking: Declare a scarce good a “right” and the problem must be solved, regardless of whether that scarce good is any more plentiful than it was before. As you could probably have guessed, the Venezuelan government stopped publishing health statistics years ago.

Socialists never really get that you eventually run out of other people’s money to spend…then it all comes crashing down.


– National Review


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  • cows4me

    The sadist thing about democratic socialism is that it relies on human nature to implement. And it’s the bad side of human nature that it relies on , greed, envy , self interest. Most informed people know that socialism fails in the long run but they will still vote for policies that remove the rights or property from others for short term gain but of course it leads to long term pain.

    • Richard McGrath

      Socialism relies on self-sacrifice and the destruction of the individual. Capitalism succeeds because it appeals to the better human virtues, such as a desire to raise living standards for yourself and those you love (often referred to as “greed” and “self-interest” by the left) by trading voluntarily (non-violently) with others. In fact, rational self-interest is essential if one wants to get ahead in life.

    • Andrewj

      we have got a lot of debt in our free capitalist country, in a way a kind of modern day peonage. I am not in favour of socialism but I also don’t follow the blind adherence to Neoliberal capitalism thats ends up with 1
      a handful of people owning most of the wealth of a country.
      Lets have a peak at the States, the home of the free and the brave, where 50 million people live below the poverty line.

      39% of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
      52% of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
      63% of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
      72% of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

      You need to look around and see what debt has done to your industry and ask who benefits.

  • Isherman

    Socialists will never believe it doesn’t work, they always find an excuse for the catastrophic results of hard socialist societies, they make themselves believe that the ideology is pure, and good and righteous…and so they will persist, and continue to fail.

    • Brian Smaller

      The excuse always ends up being ‘convservatives’ or ‘reactionaries’ or ‘insert group to blame’. The next step is imprisonment of these enemies of socialism and the end game is finally killing them.

  • Kevin

    But, but, but. I thought Venezuela was the model for 21st century socialism, proving that socialism could work. That’s what all the Lefties were saying when Chavez got in power and started putting in practice his inane policies. Even our human rights commissioner was singing his praises, IIRC.

  • kloyd0306

    The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing, over and over, but expecting a different result.

    Socialists and communists continue to believe that their ideology will work (“We just need better people to enact our beliefs”) yet it always fails.

    Liberalism, leftism, socialism, collectivism, unionism, communism = insanity.

  • JohnO

    The free market creates wealth that was not there before. When someone needs something and a provider supplies that need for an agreed price then both supplier and buyer have their wealth increased. One has goods or services valued by the price paid and the merchant has the cash. When this is done thousands and millions of times per day it creates a market which rewards valuable productive work and punishes and reduces unwanted work.
    This collective decision making and resource allocation of the market is akin to a living organism which produces wealth for most of its participants and their fellow citizens.
    Any government which interferes with and throttles this market with controls (price or availability or who is the producer) is interfering with and reducing the growth of this wealth producing organism which is the market. Venezuela has throttled and killed its own wealth producing market and must now exist in poverty.
    The free market needs honest trustworthy hard-working people who freely make their own decisions in buying and selling to better themselves. That is why the market grew explosively in Christian (or post-Christian) societies where these gospel character traits had become the norm in a majority of the population.
    Instead of providing handouts to poor countries NZ should be helping them develop laws of private property, equality before the law, equality and freedom of women, freedom to set up companies and commercial entities and all the other necessities to initiate and sustain a wealth-producing free market in that country.

    • Mark

      Very well said & I would go as far as to suggest that NZ should be providing no handouts until the laws are in place that would permit what you describe.
      Thus accomplishing at least two things,charity beginning at home & an affirmation of our values to all & sundry.

      Thou we need to work on that equality before the law thing…

      “Instead of providing handouts to poor countries NZ should be helping
      them develop laws of private property, equality before the law, equality
      and freedom of women, freedom to set up companies and commercial
      entities and all the other necessities to initiate and sustain a
      wealth-producing free market in that country.”

    • Tony

      Really well written J

    • Richard McGrath

      Music to my ears, John. And as George Reisman points out in his magnum opus, Capitalism, the division of labour has been critical in raising living standards over the past 150 years.

    • Andrewj

      Have you ever been to Venezuela? They had a massive amount of oil, where do you think the oil came from for the great wars? Venezuela was run by a cabal of rich pricks, who based themselves in Florida. They did deals to siphon off the oil wealth to American corporations taking a cut on the way, leaving the people of Venezuela worse off than if they had no oil at all.
      The country was deliberately kept poor and divided because it suited certain organisations involved in the rape of the place.

      • JohnO

        Chavez was in power for 20 years. He had a heart to prosper the people economically but was held back from leading them into economic growth by left wing socialist dogma that disrespects the free market.
        China had a slack economy at the beginning of the 1980s but by respecting and nurturing the free market they became an economic giant by the year 2000 with annual economic growth 11% or higher.
        20 years of wealth growth vs 20 years of wealth destruction the difference being respect and nurture of the free market in China vs socialist destruction of the free market in Venezuela.

  • Bombastic

    “Democratic socialism” is the version where you get to vote for your tyrant. But otherwise, it fails like all the other versions.

  • phronesis

    Given that the left in the US currently want to imprison Trump for such crimes as saying mean things about people it’s not hard to imagine that democratic socialism would not be democratic for long.

  • Pita

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of
    government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote
    themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority
    always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public
    treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal
    policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s
    greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

    Possibly, Alexander Tytler (circa late

  • Andrewj

    How does a country with so much oil end up broke, the money must have gone somewhere?

    • rexabus

      I’d guess the bureaucrats and political elite entrusted with running the great socialist utopia decided that heros of the people such as themselves in positions of power and responsibility really should be paid quite a lot more than just your average run of the mill people of the revolution. Solidaridad comrades!

      • Andrewj

        Nah, it all went to the corrupt elite living in Florida. The rest of the country got screwed. Venezuela is a tragedy, it’s not a country ruined by socialism, it was ruined by a bunch of greedy corporates and powerful capitalists, they took all the money and left the place in ruins.
        It was super good to the West during the great wars and got shafted in return by the US oil industry.

        • Doc45

          A slightly distorted view. Yes, there was massive corruption prior to Chavez but he had 20 years to put things right plus a decade of very high oil prices. He was an unmitigated disaster because of his interfering in every aspect of the economy. It is hard to find anything he did well after the initial burst of growth and benefits following his crazy expenditure levels on health and welfare. Today the place is a basket place because of his crappy socialist ideals.

          • Andrewj

            Venezuela was a mess and it was the doing of big oil in the States. It’s time we woke up to the pillage of the lower and middle classes all over the world. What has been done to the people of Venezuela is a disgrace. We get pedalled all the B/S thar Russia is a big enemy when it’s total military spending is just 3 weeks of the USA’s.
            Look at Panama, when they got a leader that the USA didn’t like his plane was bombed, just the same as Ecuador.


            The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World

            The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

            The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power

            War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier

            Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century

            Legacy of Ashes, may also be a good read.

            Or watch
            The war on democracy by Pilger

          • Doc45

            Not a fan of Pilger. Did some good journalism but was anti-Semitic and a lot of his work was just driven by bigotry and an irrational antipathy toward America and Britain. I am not excusing the Americans for their foreign policy anywhere least of all Venezuela but making out Chavez was not responsible for the mess now is just too one-eyed. I have in my mind that you and I would be a Japanese outpost now if the Americans hadn’t come to the rescue.

          • Andrewj

            I don’t think so, most of those troubles came about due to WWI and if we had kept out of that war and let it be an Eastern European war, we would be living in a lot healthier place today.
            It was nuts for young men with so much in common, to be blowing each others brains out across trenches,often with the same religion, while the elites tried to sort out future boarders, the USA entered and extended the war and the casualties.
            Japan entered WW2 after the USA shut down it’s oil supply, which mostly came from the States and Mexico, leaving Japan with 10 days storage. Japan had no where to go and the nearest oil was Burma way but not possible with the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.
            Japan was marginalised and destroyed for the benefit of few. When Nagasaki was bombed Truman celebrated but it was only bombed to show the power that was in American hands now it had the bomb. Then Japan was rebuilt and interconnected to the States via the banking system.
            We talk about capitalism but what we really have is a love of money and power mostly, in the hands of a few. We get taught that the system benefits us because we are smarter or stronger than others, when it obvious that mostly it’s circumstance and timing and opportunity. The machine that we call capitalism is corrupted, if you get too close it will cut you it strikes like a poisonous snake destroying your soul.
            We become slaves to the dollar but it’s really just debt and we have added 58 trillion of it in the last 7 years. We feel rich and fear losing what we have, so we cling to the ideology even when it’s so obviously failing all around us.


            Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

          • Doc45

            I am too pragmatic for all of that. Capitalism, like democracy is the very worst of systems except all of the others. It has proved the most useful approach to growth and development for most nations. I tend to believe that Churchill engineered the entry of the Americans into the war with a very big gamble that eventually paid off.

        • Richard McGrath

          Can you provide a link to confirmatory information, Andrew?

  • Tony

    As a sailor currently having a beer in Whangamata I object to your comment about spending like drunken sailors – I haven’t paid for anything yet :-)

  • Disinfectant

    Was having a conversation about Cuba with someone only last week.
    Then she said; “they have the best healthcare system in the world”
    My response was; “why have there been no medical discoveries attributed to Cubans?’
    Her next response was silence.