Socialism destroyed Venezuela & it could do the same here

It’s so bad in Venezuela that nearly four million Venezuelans left the country in the last 10 years, half of them during the last two and half years. Leaving is preferable to staying, starving and trying to live with an upward spiral of crime and daily riots. Quote: 

City streets are marked by black markets and violence. The last reported murder rate, in 2014, was equivalent to the civilian casualty rate in Iraq in 2004.” End of quote.

View through a looted San Cristobel supermarket in Táchira, image credit Getty

Many Venezuelans eat only once a day. Three in four people report involuntary weight loss of 19lbs a year. Competition for Jenny Craig and the perfect home for our dole bludgers? Please, could we swap out our overweight beneficiaries (the ones who could work but won’t) for skinny Venezuelans who would give up their first born child for a minimum wage job? Quote.

Venezuelans are giving up on their country. Venezuela had never experienced significant trends of outward migration until recent times.” End of quote.

My dad was an ardent socialist who lived through New Zealand’s Great Depression of the 1930’s. He lived and died a socialist after witnessing major social reforms, including the introduction of the welfare state and health, housing and education reforms brought about by New Zealand’s first Labour government of 1935, led by Michael Joseph Savage. Quote.

Caracus mural, Chavez on the left, Getty Images

 The Great Depression touched the lives of every New Zealander alive at the time, causing widespread unemployment and poverty.

By the end of 1932 close to 80,000 were unemployed, a figure which does not include those who did not qualify for pensions or relief work, such as women and Maori.

An estimated 30% of the potential workforce were unemployed in 1933, the peak of the Great Depression in New Zealand.” End of quote.

Dad told tales of 1930s lean living because there were no jobs. Families who couldn’t grow food in their own backyards, or didn’t receive charity from their neighbours, simply starved. Perhaps this is where we developed that lovely kiwi quality of looking out for each other because we survived. Regardless, Dad was not too proud to beg for food to supplement his daily bread and dripping, and, as young boys do, smoke pine needles in lieu of tobacco.

Another relic of the 1930’s socialist reforms is unionism. Compulsory trade unionism was first introduced to protect workers and their families from employer exploitation which thrives when jobs are scarce.

Those reforms were great for their time, but the long-term effects of compulsory unionism gave us wage spirals and a depressed economy. Thankfully, unions were de-fanged during the 2000’s, but recently there has been a resurgence of destructive union activity.

NZEI copped criticism from teachers recently when teacher Callum Baird stumped up to express his opinion, saying his views are shared by his teaching peers. He said NZEI has removed itself so far from its teacher base that it doesn’t even understand what they do, much less how to fairly represent them. Quote.

I am a teacher. And we’re currently being screwed.

I know what you’re thinking. Here we go again: the usual teacher sob story. We don’t get paid enough! No one respects us! No one ate the muffins I baked for morning tea! My god, what have I done with my life!

But you’re wrong. This time I’m not claiming to being screwed by the Government, parents, management, society, or even Novopay.

So, who’s got us hot under the collar this time?

Surprisingly, for some perhaps, I am talking about my union, the very people who claim to represent me. NZEI is the one who’s handing out the frustration this time and it’s all because it doesn’t listen to teachers. Its views are set and its voting processes are undemocratic. It has been this way for some time too and I for one have had enough.”quote.

NZEI grew too big for its boots when it forgot its roots. It stopped listening to its people and became a selfish political animal of little use to anyone else.

The social reforms of the 1930s were very effective in addressing 1930s problems, but it is a big mistake to set them in stone in perpetuity.

Challenges for any government must be to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of policies and practices inherited from previous governments. When political parties don’t stay flexible they become entrenched in the past, with an associated disregard for current needs. This is lazy and ineffective governance.

Current challenges for New Zealand include disempowering a welfare state which has become a dead duck dangled around our necks. We need people in government who are nimble and brave enough to address the horrendous entitlement welfare mentality which paralyses us today, nearly 90 years after its invention.

This coalition government is not the one to do it. They are taking us from bad to worse. Not only do they support the current welfare system, but they also want to make it worse by removing welfare sanctions altogether, see WhaleoilGreens want no sanctions on welfare”. 

We can console ourselves that we are better off than Venezuelans whose sweeping socialist reform took them from riches to rags in less than 20 years and that our devilishly ideological Labour-Greens alliance is far too disorganised to be effective, giving us time to stop them in their tracks.

Venezuela is an oil-rich country and the first drop in oil prices in the 1980s, and subsequent drops hit them hard. It is also a mineral rich country but it was not the oil price drops or dwindling coal production that sounded the death knell for Venezuela; it was the socialist leadership of Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro.

What took Venezuela from a thriving democracy similar to ours, down to the bottom of the hill of financial ruin? The answer is greed and arrogance.

Founded in 1958 Venezuelan democracy was made up of three political parties that eventually became two after they agreed to share the power between them, and the wealth from its oil reserves with their constituents. Quote.

Their pact, meant to preserve democracy, came to dominate it. Party elites picked candidates and blocked outsiders, making politics less responsive. The agreement to share wealth fostered corruption.

Economic shocks in the 1980s led many Venezuelans to conclude the system was rigged against them. In 1992 leftist military officers led by Lt Col Hugo Chávez, attempted a coup. They failed, and were imprisoned, but their anti-establishment message resonated, eventually catapulting Chávez to stardom.” End of quote.

Chávez was freed from prison in 1994 and immediately aligned himself with dictator Fidel Castro and his son Raul.

Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro meet in Havana 1994, image credit Getty

The Venezuelan economy worsened and Chávez took the presidency in 1998 with his populist message of returning power to the people clinching the deal for him. He also aligned himself with the socialist governments of Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Thereafter, anyone who disagreed with him was called an enemy of the state, dictatorship had replaced democracy. Chávez’s promises to end corruption were meaningless words because corruption simply came by his own hand, and his successor, when they tried to maintain control.

Chávez and Maduro did not allow debate from opposing viewpoints so their positions were never moderated. They also battled a lack of public support and insurgencies, but it was the lack of consultation and government paralysis when the economy dived that resulted in hyperinflation. Socialist governments are much better at spending money than they are at generating it. Quote.

President Maduro who took over when Chavez died in 2013, image credit Getty

Its economy, once Latin America’s richest, is estimated to have shrunk by 10% last year [2017] – worse even than Syria’s. GDP shrank by 19%.  The South American country also has the world’s largest inflation at more than 700 percent (nearly double that of second ranked Sudan).”  End of quote.

In a democracy, we expect our leaders to be moderated by opposing political opinions to stop them from inflicting abuses on sectors they may not have considered, or prefer to disregard.

It is only the strength of our democratic processes that will save us from a government going mad and sinking the ship.


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The subject evoked in the collage is the debating of political issues with friends in a public place

Pablo Picasso
Glass and bottle of Suze (after 18 November 1912)
pasted paper, gouache and charcoal

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