A challenge for socialists under thirty
I ask because any socialist under thirty who is reading this will, if they're honest, be looking at the collapse of petro-socialist Venezuela and asking themselves some serious questions about socialism in practice. Venezuela's agony is not unique -- anyone over forty who's ever seen a news broadcast has seen it all before. Her fate was shared by every single country anywhere that ever adopted the destructive principles of More Socialism, More Government and the demonisation of capitalism and wealth production.
Both the collapse and the spiral into totalitarianism are the inevitable results of those ideals.
Peter Schwartz suggested back in 1995 that anyone over forty who had watched the collapse of the Berlin Wall and didn't draw the necessary conclusions about the abject failure of socialism as an ideology was either deluded, dishonest or braindead. Those too young then but who share those same ideals now should have been watching current events in Venezuela with the same interest, and hopefully with your brains switched on. Those of us old enough to have watched the crumbling, the penury, the totalitarianism, and the eventual collapse of every socialist regime known to man know what socialism looks like when implemented. This is your generation's opportunity to watch and to learn.
The process is the same everywhere: First they nationalise industry, then they censor all opposition, and then slowly the people starve -- and by that stage there's no one left to speak out. For those with eyes to see, Venezuela is just the latest tragic lesson.
Chavez's nationalisation of Venezuela's energy and telecommunications industries, of oil fields, banks and steel producers, these were just his first steps. His recent ham-fisted closure of the only remaining opposition TV station is the next. In the socialist gulag, free speech is not to be trusted:
These events make the news. The slow, stale stagnation of life (and death) under Chavez doesn't. Jeff Perren describes life under Chavez:
President Hugo Chavez's clampdown on opposition television stations widened Monday as police used rubber bullets and tear gas on demonstrators protesting what they called an attack on free speech. [The protests followed the] shutting-down of the country's oldest television station, the openly anti-government Radio Caracas Television network (RTC).
On Monday several people were injured as police in Caracas fired rubber bullets and tear gas to put down a demonstration against the RCTV shutdown, following the fifth straight day of protests... RCTV was replaced by TVes, a state-backed "socialist" station...
Like I say, to those of who saw the heyday of socialism, we look at all this with the benefit of hindsight. If we're honest about what we've seen, none of this is either unfamiliar or unpredictable. Those productive Venezuelans, for example, who went on nationwide strike four years ago to protest the imminent liquidation of their property rights and themselves under Chavez's communist revolution knew what they were about, and knew exactly what was afoot. Jonathan Hoenig makes their point:
Increasingly frequent reports reveal that — in true 1960s Soviet style — grocery stores in Venezuela are no longer stocking items we would take for granted, such as sugar or black beans. These items, it happens, are staples of the traditional Venezuelan diet. However, because Chavez is so determined to “help the poor,” the socialist way, soon neither rich nor poor will be able to find such items in Venezuelan grocery stores.
Chavez’s price controls are having the same effects in Venezuela they’ve had everywhere else they’ve been tried... True to form, Chavez has threatened to jail price control violators.
The economic effects of these socialist programs speak for themselves. Per-capita GDP in Chile is $12,600 per year. In Argentina, it’s $15,000. In Mexico — not exactly a rich country, by any standard — it is $10,600. In Venezuela, the figure is $6,900, behind even the Dominican Republic at $8,000.
Remember, this is a country that supplies 11% of U.S. oil imports, and who received over $46 billion last year in oil receipts (assuming 2.55 mb/d at $50 per barrel). Of course, as oil production continues to decline, those numbers will worsen. Revenues for Venezuela will decrease, and exports will decrease, as Chavez continues to forego infrastructure investment in favor of social welfare spending.
And note well: It's the same pathway down which every single socialist country before them has gone. Make no mistake: this is socialism's inevitable result. As Jeff Perren sadly concludes:
As Ayn Rand wrote, "without property rights, no other rights are possible." Chavez’s socialism, under which private property does not exist, is bringing this once-promising country back to the third world. He might have called Bush “El Diablo”, but it doesn’t take much to see the effect of Chavez’s benevolent populism.
Simply put, he is leading his people down a pathway to hell.
Given the country’s current trajectory, it’s almost inevitable that many people will have to suffer and die, needlessly, before Chavez’s increasingly harsh and unworkable socialist policies are discarded.I urge you not to let this suffering and despotism happen with your sanction. Socialism is a bacillus as destructive as smallpox. I implore you to learn from the suffering and dying in Venezuela; to refuse to sanction it; to help wipe the socialism that caused it from the face of the earth, just as smallpox itself was once eradicated.
Leo Tolstoy said once that everyone thinks about changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. I'd like to turn that around. Changing yourself and your own ideals for the better is precisely where changing the world actually begins. That's where positive change begins. The battle against the destruction and human misery brought about by the ideals of socialism begins by rejecting those same ideals in yourself, and then by ensuring that what's being done to Venezuelans in the name of "people power" isn't done to you, or done in your name.
"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"