Claude Cartaginese

Hugo Chavez’s Socialism: the Little Engine that Couldn’t

Posted on January 12 2010 3:00 am
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Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro enjoy a tender moment

One thing socialists are good at is overlooking the deficiencies of the socialist model, wherever that model is put into practice. The world, unfortunately, is full of examples of those failed models. In our own hemisphere, for example, we can study how socialism has failed Cuba, that tropical island-nation run by the autocratic Castro brothers, the co-Presidents-for-life who have managed to turn that country into a living museum where every year is 1950.

Or we can look at another example of a socialist state that has not yet failed, but is failing: Venezuela. Venezuela’s soon-to-be-President-for-life, Hugo Chavez, is the architect of the failing socialist model in that country, which he has comically named “Socialism of the 21st Century.”

Let’s have a look at how things have been going with Chavez’s socialist experiment.

Last week was a busy one for Chavez, for it required him to take some steps to forestall the further contraction of Venezuela’s economy—which shrank 3% last year alone. With inflation now the highest in all of Latin America, Chavez took a play out of the socialist economic handbook (which worked so well for Cuba) and devalued the national currency. What this means is that for the average consumer, the price of many goods (especially imported ones) will double overnight.

Of course, being a socialist means that you don’t just take an action like that and walk away. There must also be the threat of violence in order to maintain strict form, so naturally he announced that any business that violates his edicts by raising prices will be “confiscated,” and has called out the National Guard to act as his enforcer.

Here is the edict from Chavez himself:

Right now, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to be raising prices of absolutely anything. I want the National Guard on the streets with the people to fight against speculation, [and to] publicly denounce the speculator, and we will intervene in any business of any size.

In other words, seize the business (a favorite socialist tactic).

How did Venezuelans take to the news?

Panic buying and hoarding ensued over the weekend.

In a country that is rich in natural resources, the average Venezuelan struggles to eke out a living amidst power shortages, water shortages, a rising murder rate, inflation and recession. Chavez’s devaluation of the currency will only make life even more difficult.

But fear not, Chavez has already taken all of that into account.

In order to make life a little easier on the people, he also issued another edict:

CHAVEZ: A while ago, I was in Cuba and they broadcast soap operas there, not capitalist soap operas but with a social content, “socialist” soap operas. I’m going to ask that we make socialist soap operas (in Venezuela), instead of capitalist ones.

He has ordered film producers to make “socialist soap operas,” which should help keep the people sufficiently distracted while he continues to dismantle the country’s infrastructure.

But why stop there?

CHAVEZ: We can also make good movies. Not capitalist movies that are poison and incite our children to take drugs and even push them into crime, but good socialist ones.

Chavez’s socialist model for Venezuela is starting to resemble panem et circenses (bread and circuses), the method employed by the Roman emperors—which they used quite effectively—to keep the people sufficiently pacified, while they plundered and squandered the resources of the state.

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