Hugo Chavez, the socialist who was celebrated by idiots while engineering Venezuela's rapid mass pauperisation, is dead.
The only thing about which to mourn is what he did to his country.
UPDATE: Here’s what Jeff Perren and I wrote for The Free Radical magazine back in 2007:
A challenge for socialists under thirty
by Peter Cresswell
What do you do when reality confronts your most cherished beliefs with unwelcome facts? "When the facts change," said economist John Maynard Keynes, "I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
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, as Yahoo News reported:
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...
Events such as these make the news.. The slow, stale stagnation of life (and death) under Chavez doesn't. Author Jeff Perren describes life under Chavez in the article below.
Like I say, to those of who saw the heyday of socialism, we look at the destruction of yet another country by the failed ideology of socialism 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:
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.
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, “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 any young socialist reading this 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; and to help wipe the bacillus 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 starts. 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?"
Venezuela, Your Three Minutes Are Up
by Jeffrey Perren
By now, anyone following the news even slightly is aware that Venezuela has been speeding toward full socialism for the past few years, picking up speed with every passing month. Abstract debates of the value and validity of socialism versus capitalism are worthwhile. But, it's possible for those living under the latter to lose sight of the very real, everyday effects on those suffering under the former. A few words in her second language from a college student in Venezuela should help bring the issue closer to home.
Before I turn 18, I was already went to several manifestations [political demonstrations], run from the military, smell the tear gas..., seen people die not only because of political violence but also for poverty, hungry and common delinquency.
[Posted by ‘Corina’ at AntiPatrioticVenezuelan.Blogspot.Com]
Her English may be flawed, but her thinking is perfect. She goes on to say
Chavez supporters screamed 'larga vida al socialismo' [long life to socialism]...you know that if the democracy was in danger before, now it was killed for sure... in a very legal way. Of course, people should understand that not all things legal are democratic or fair. The law it’s a tool, [it] depends on how do you use it.
Shades of Atlas Shrugged.
History sometimes repeats itself with depressing similarity. In January 1969, Ayn Rand published an essay in the magazine The Objectivist entitled ‘The 'Inexplicable Personal Alchemy.’ In it, she discussed an editorial in The New York Times that reported on a Soviet trial of several young dissidents. After being sentenced for merely speaking his mind about the then-recent invasion and suppression of Czechoslovakia, a young man stated "For three minutes in Red Square, I felt free. For that, I'm happy to take your three years."
During the same historical period, pay phones were common around New York City, mobile phones being largely limited to limousines. A user could insert a quarter and receive in exchange three minutes of talk-time. When the time expired a recording would come on the line to inform the caller that "Your three minutes are up." At that point they could deposit more money to continue the conversation.
Sadly, some citizens of Venezuela will not be allowed to deposit another quarter in the near future, nor even to have quarters. President Hugo Chavez and his supporters (which, judging by recent election results there, is a large percentage of the country) will make sure of that. Those who would be willing to pay a quarter — for a phone call, a slice of meat, or other things we take for granted — will simply find that those things are not there.
But goods and services are not the only victim of the Venezuelan government's socialist policies. Chavez and his socialist government has been steadily nationalizing the telecommunications business in Venezuela. Seizing material goods isn't the be all and end all of socialist-inspired tyranny. No one must be allowed to criticize the plan, for that might expose it to uncomfortable facts.
The de facto nationalisation of TV and other media began some time ago. For example, when Chavez gives a speech, all stations are required to interrupt programming to carry it live in its entirety. That entirety sometimes lasts hours.
The recent shutting down of the popular Radio Caracas Television and its replacement by a state-funded channel -- by the simple expedient of refusing to renew its broadcast license -- completes a now-familiar pattern.
RCTV was the only channel still critical of Chavez that had an audience of any significant size. Chavez ripped their broadcast license, claiming that the channel “poisoned” Venezuelans with programming that promoted capitalism. One thing Chavez knows well -- as does many a socialist dictator -- is that socialist ideas can't compete freely with those of capitalism. That is, they can't both compete and at the same time hope to rationally persuade the general public who just wants a better life. Hence, force must be used to shut off debate.
But in at least one instance, there was an opposing voice. As Corina puts it so eloquently:
Suddenly there’s a line in the middle of the TV screen and the rebels’ TV Channels shows in the right side Chávez speaking and in the left side, a familiar street of Caracas downtown, some smoke and confusion and some letters that says "1 muerto..2 muertos" [1 death, 2 death]. And then no TV at all, no Chavez, no streets, like the TV were damaged or something.
Venezuela could use a John Galt to ensure that the opposing voice isn't silenced. But, alas, no such thing is likely there anytime soon. Very soon, no one in Venezuela will be allowed to say anything the government might disapprove of, even were they able to obtain the means. To guarantee that, the National Assembly recently passed by a simple majority the "Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television".
Shades of Soviet Russia. Or, the FCC in the U.S. under JFK circa 1962.
(The title of the Act alone should tell you all you need to know, but if you wish to know the full line-by-line horror, details can be found here: RethinkVenezuela.Com/Downloads/MediaLaw.htm. In any case, legislation of this sort is familiar to those who have paid any attention at all to the actions of the FCC in the United States for the past fifty years. The difference is that Venezuela takes such things more seriously.)
Many people in Venezuela, however, have little time to think about their loss of free speech given the loss of simple food items. Reports are becoming more frequent that, in true 1960s Soviet style, grocery stores are no longer stocking the basic foods normally taken for granted — sugar or black beans, for example.
These have long been staples in the average Venezuelan diet. But because Chavez is so determined to "help the poor" in the socialist way, soon neither rich nor poor will be able to find them in Venezuelan grocery stores, and Chavez will have made everyone poor, and everyone hungry.
Chavez' price controls are having the same effects they've had everywhere else in the past 200 years. The Venezuelan President's moral purity — he excoriates George Bush while cosying up to Iran's glove-puppet dictator Ahmadinejad — apparently is matched by an equal understanding (or lack thereof) of the basics of economics.
The effects have already been felt in economic terms. Compare some statistics for the region. The GDP per capita of Chile is $12,600, that of Argentina $15,000. Even in Mexico, not exactly a rich country as measured by the life of the average person there, it's $10,600. In Venezuela however, the figure is $6,900, behind even the Dominican Republic at $8,000.
This in a country that supplies a full eleven per cent of U.S. oil imports, and who received over $46 billion last year in oil receipts. Of course, as oil production continues to decline, those numbers will worsen. The lack of investment and innovation that is part of the state-dominated Venezuelan oil business will see to that.
But to make matters worse, Chavez has recently completed the takeover of the oil business in Venezuela. Abrogating contracts and ignoring non-Venezuelan company rights is just socialist 'business as usual.’ After all, if individual property rights are chimera, and private properties are anathema why shouldn't he act 'in the name of the people' to take what belongs to 'the people.’ La gente? “Ése es yo.”
All this should come as no surprise to observers of events there of the past few years. Just as Hitler was plain for seven years or more before he was elected, so too Chavez has made no secret of his goals and plans. The comparisons don’t ends there. As the new law granting Chavez sweeping powers was enacted, National Assembly President Cilia Flores declared, "Fatherland, socialism or death. We will prevail!" Citizens of Nazi Germany would have found the rallying cry familiar. The Nazis, fortunately, did not prevail – taking the third of the three options espoused -- but many others died seeing that they did fail. Let's hope Corina in Caracas isn't one of them who dies as part of today’s opposition.
There is a point here that extends beyond Venezuela, and that is this: After decades of real-life experience in dozens of countries all across the world, anyone who still believes that applied socialism can have any other result than what we are now seeing in Venezuela simply doesn't believe in scientific induction. No matter how 'scientific' or 'rational' they may claim Marxism to be, it's the same old fantasy wherever it thrives.
That telephone operator phrase from the 1960s mentioned above rapidly became a euphemism for someone whose life was about to end abruptly. Venezuela's three minutes are just about up.
Jeff Perren is a professional writer with a background in philosophy and physics.
Cartoons by Cox and Forkum