What if You Ran a Whole Country Like the VA? The TSA?

Flag_of_VenezuelaThe answer has always been there, throughout history: top-down, central management-by-bureaucrat of an economy fails. Always it ends in a crater. The bigger the nation (think France under the Bourbons, or the Soviet Union), the bigger the crater when from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, as interpreted by bureaucrats, comes home.

The latest example is, of course, Venezuela (although the next might be the USA. We have no shortage of Chavistas among our would-be “political scientists”). The whole nation is going the way of Obamacare, with ways and means diverging ever more from needs and expectations. The government is holding the lid on with force. That works, until it fails: “gradually, then suddenly.”

Peter Wilson, a US expat turned enthusiastic Chavista, has become disillusioned and repatriated himself, and tells the sad story of the country in a long, thoughtful piece at Foreign Policy.

I left Venezuela. It was perhaps the most difficult decision in my life, even after a wave of armed robberies in my village and mounting shortages of food, medicine, and spare parts that have made lives a constant struggle for survival.

Sometimes it seemed to me that only President Nicolás Maduro and I would remain in the country, which has seen 1.5 million inhabitants flee to seek better lives abroad since Chávez’s swearing-in as president in 1999. The exodus shows no sign of easing. In fact, it will probably get worse.

Venezuela is on the edge of a political crisis that could push it into a protracted and violent conflict along the lines of Colombia’s civil war. …Maduro may be difficult to topple, even if polls suggesting that 80 percent of the country’s 30 million inhabitants want him gone.

Even if he leaves office, Venezuela will need years to recuperate from the damage wracked by the socialist revolution spearheaded by Chávez and carried on by Maduro. The economy is in shatters, a victim of mass expropriations of local businesses and industries. Twelve years of price and foreign exchange controls, state giveaways, and rampant corruption have pauperized Venezuela.

Just 12 years! But then, when fewer years of Obamacare have turned one’s $680 premium to $2000, one’s deductible from $2k to $6k, and one’s monthly med co-pays from $24 to $440, one gets the sense that it can happen here, and what happened to the hapless Venezuelans has nothing to do with any of their supposed national institutions or characteristics.

If a foreign nation had done it to Venezuela, they’d be at war already. Industrial production approaches a nullity, even as inflation soars to 500 percent per annum. There are fuel shortages in a nation with immense oil reserves. Women die in childbirth, and babies die of 19th-Century ills, summoned like demons from the books of medical history. Diabetics die. Cancer patients die. Cardiovascular disease? You die. The old and the young die. Infectious diseases kill, and one of the best ways to catch one is to go to the fllthy, ill-equipped hospitals.

The Soviet Union is in the history books as a failed state, but diabetics got insulin.

And then there’s the crime, largely linked to political militias, and sustained in part by massive public corruption — corruption that becomes greater and greater the longer that public probity is not rewarded.

This year, about 30,000 people in a country of 30 million will be murdered. In 92 percent of the cases, their killers will never be arrested. By contrast, about 13,000 Americans will lose their lives to crime this year — but that’s with a population 11 times that of Venezuela. Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, now has the world’s highest murder rate. And seven other Venezuelan cities are in the world’s top 50.

That makes Chicongo look like Monaco, for crying out loud.

We saw the toll in my little village of 2,000 souls. And yet, I felt we were relatively safe until I began tallying the body count. In my 10 years in Tasajera, I counted at least six murders, three kidnappings in which the victims were held for more than a day, and more than 50 armed robberies. …..

My neighbors begged the police to do something to stop the carnage. They replied they didn’t have the resources. When my neighbors finally caught two thugs in flagrante and were in the process of lynching them, cooler heads prevailed and someone called the police. When the officers arrived hours later, they asked my neighbors why they hadn’t finished what they had started, especially as they had taken their time coming up the hill.

After being kidnapped himself, he decided, finally, to go. This one-time social justice warrior’s initial love for Chavez and his “social experiments aimed at reducing poverty and creating a more just society” had burned out, and the question that people marvel at is: what took him so long?

He offers an explanation that might be familiar to many citizens of failed states:

We have been hoping all along that Venezuela would get better. We didn’t think it would get any worse. We comforted ourselves that once you hit rock bottom, there’s no place to go but up. After all, how bad could things get? Each time we were proven wrong.

He would probably reject the idea that he had “gone Galt.” The dystopia that Hugo Chávez and his less-talented follow-on caudillo Nicolás Maduro have created, though, bears a passing resemblance to the dystopia that Ayn Rand imagined in her dense, didactic novel. It differs mostly in being much less benign.

Maduro and his coterie will not leave of their own free will, and yet, they have a death grip on every institution in Venezuelan society, and, amazing though this is, international supporters. (These international supporters include the Vatican, which has worked to undermine the opposition). Maduro’s support in Venezuela is bought, and wafer-thin: but it is the Venezuelans themselves who must effect regime change, and it will be very difficult, as all the levers of power seem to end in Maduro’s hands. But those levers themselves are made up of people, largely disaffected people; when it begins, the preference cascade will be fast.

But the lure of Chavismo is ever there, and some time after the Venezuelans free themselves, no doubt with great expenditure of blood, tears, sweat and toil, some other country will snap at the tasty baits of “equality” and “fairness” and the page-locked beauty of from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. May the good Lord grant that country not be ours.

Updates 1400

The Atlantic has a similar despairing view of Venezuela, from a Venezuelan expat in the USA. Dean Weingarten at Gun Watch notes a 2nd Amendment angle (to wit, the Venezuelans have no gun rights, and the regime has numerous paid, armed, lawless supporters).

28 thoughts on “What if You Ran a Whole Country Like the VA? The TSA?

  1. Leslie Bates

    And the whole thing was the result of a couple of drunk collage students, Marx and Engels, managing to somehow get noticed by a bunch of idiots.

  2. Roger

    Ahh but you forget that socialism will succeed in our country because socialism has never
    been done the way WE”RE going to do it!
    Obamacare needs to be tweaked just a little bit and it will be true Obamunism.

  3. robroysimmons

    I will make a giant assumption that the opposition in Ven will be the usual feckless right wing “shame” model against the Left and it won’t bear much fruit. A leftist cannot be shamed, they are like the robot whores in Westworld, broken to the wheel of their particular cult’s nonsense, programmed to dust themselves off and repeat endlessly their mission.

    Blame them not waste time shaming them.

  4. Boat Guy

    T’was up to me we wouldn’t have let this loser return until he truly understood the lesson. Doesn’t appear to have fully done so.

    1. guy

      …until he truly understood the lesson. Doesn’t appear to have fully done so.

      Pedophiles, alcoholics and lefties never truly ‘get better’.

      He’ll gleefully pull the lever for whatever freaks the collectivists here decide to run.

      1. Sommerbiwak

        Makes you wonder if socialism and then later communism can be implemented correctly by human beings? So far evidence says no, humans are not fit for glorious socialism. Hence soviet experiment to breed a new homo sovieticus, because the ideology cannot be wrong it must be the human.

        There seems nobody around on the left to invent a better society model than regurgiating the failed models of the past. Does not look progressive to reenact past social experiments. More like stuck in the past. Maybe that was really meant by “the end of history”?

      2. Sommerbiwak

        Makes you wonder if socialism and then later communism can be implemented correctly by human beings? So far evidence says no, humans are not fit for glorious socialism. Hence soviet experiment to breed a new homo sovieticus, because the ideology cannot be wrong. It must be the human.

        There seems nobody around on the left to invent a better society model than regurgiating the failed models of the past. Does not look progressive to me to reenact past social experiments. More like stuck in the past. Maybe that was really meant by “the end of history”?

      3. Aesop

        In a just world, they’d dig up ol’ Pineapple Face, execute his corpse the old-fashioned way, and then do the same to his entire government, down to the local level, whilst still kicking and screaming through the drawing and quartering parts.

        Like burning a termite-infested hovel, it’s the only way to end the infestation.

  5. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

    I keep a pretty close eye on the situation down there and without the military stepping up things are going to drone on. The upper middle class bailed already, the rest of the middle class is packing to bail and the poor are still buying the bullshit. Nobody in the opposition is ready to bleed, not yet anyway, and to be honest I wonder if anyone has it in them anymore.

    1. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

      The ability to bail is at the root of the problem in my opinion. Nearly half of My Lovely Wife’s family is here already and they lean to the right. They are more vested in a life here than they were there, only a generation or two out of Spain and Italy-seeing a pattern? The wife bitched about income taxes once saying the don’t have them there and the state takes care of a lot of stuff-with petro money- we have to do here on our own. I had to not so gently explain how that was screwed and added that the also have no toilet paper. She gets it once I break it down but it’s hard to overcome the mentality. The people just don’t have a sense of having a stake in trying to do things right or fixing anything.

    1. Aesop

      Not quite, red, but we live in hope.

      Come the day, I hope to be able to drag Dear Leader around from a trailer hitch by a lovely tow chain around his pretty neck, but I suspect there’ll be a line to do so.

      It’s all about time: CA has something like $750B-$1T in unfunded pension liabilities.
      When the government drones get cut off here, and they can’t afford to pay out welfare any more, socialism dies, and it’s going to look like the thrashing basilisk at the end of Chamber of Secrets.

      That which cannot continue, won’t.

      Mind the falling statues.

  6. Matt in IL

    I believe you meant “affect” rather than “effect” towards the end there. Second to last paragraph before the update.

    Otherwise, yet another thoughtful post; very much appreciated.

  7. John M.

    If you want to ask Bernie for a comment, I think he’s at his lake house this week.

    -John M.

  8. Jim Scrummy

    I always like bringing up Venezuela to my die-hard lefty acquaintances (they are neighbors, not friends, and yes I am cordial, not the knuckle-dragging gorilla I typically portray). I always get the but “Venezuela didn’t do it right”. Same as the USSR, PRC, Burma former Warsaw Pact countries (many now thriving), Mozambique, now South Africa, Cuba, and the list goes on and on, as I point that they are socialism/communism failures out to them. They typically walk away mumbling. Dam, I hate it when I’m right…

    Of course, it could happen here. Never kid yourself that it can’t.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Yeah, guys. All those pikers like Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot weren’t trying hard enough. This time, we’ll get there.

  9. Critical Eye

    That’s always been my response to those who want government furnished health care: would you rather have a package delivered by the US Postal Service or Fedex? Why would health care be different?

  10. Keith

    I’m afraid as long as whatever game is on TV Sunday and the power and water still flows and the grocery store is still stocked up and the trash collection is still done the vast majority of Americans simply don’t care.

    1. Loren

      I remember an Ag secretary under LBJ got fired over a joke he told.
      “All (certain demographic) need are soft shoes, a warm bed and a tight p***y.” We have to add ebt card now.

  11. John Distai

    Oh, I wanted to post this from work, but I didn’t:

    From John LeCarre’s “Call for the Dead”, 1961:

    “They were ashamed of having pencils and paper. But it’s no good just throwing them away, is it? That’s what I learnt in the end. That’s why I left the Party, I suppose.” Smiley wanted to ask him how Fennan himself had felt, but Fennan was talking again. He had shared nothing with them, he had come to realize that. They were not men, but children, who dreamed of freedom-fires, gipsy music, and one world tomorrow, who rode on white horses across the Bay of Biscay or with a child’s pleasure bought beer for starving elves from Wales; children who had no power to resist the Eastern sun, and obediently turned their tousled heads towards it. They loved each other and believed they loved mankind, they fought each other and believed they fought the world.”

    This describes so many leftists. Children.

  12. Cap'n Mike

    Socialism fails because it operates under the mistaken belief that people will do whats best for everybody.
    People always do what is best for themselves.

  13. Dienekes

    A disturbingly high percentage of the electorate are essentially brain-damaged children in their thinking (?) and behaviors.

    Which is unfair to actual children, particularly to those that suffer through NO fault of their own.

  14. g.grass

    what you see at venezuela is the future of all of south america.
    the only thing keeping these countries running is the white middle and upper class.
    once they are gone the whole societies fall apart quickly.

  15. 2hotel9

    Read an article from The Telegraph earlier about Venezuelan government telling city people to grow their own food. Problem is they will still starve because the army/policia will come along and steal all the food the city people manage to grow. And if you don’t hand it over with a happy smile and a heartfelt”Thank you for serving me, Sir!” they will kill you, rape your wife and children, then kill them. And the leftards will cluck their tongues and explain it is YOUR fault for not happily submitting to your superiors from the State. Just ask the people of Ukraine and Georgia.

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