The Tragedy of Democratic Socialism

We have chronicled the catastrophic decline of Venezuela’s economy under socialists Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. The situation has gotten so bad that even the New York Times has taken note: “Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals.”

By morning, three newborns were already dead.

The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward.

Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died.

“The death of a baby is our daily bread,” said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas, referring to the toll from Venezuela’s collapsing hospitals.

The Times does a good job of describing the disastrous state of health care in Venezuela–there is much more at the link–but never mentions the cause of the disaster, democratic socialism.

A Venezuelan hospital

A Venezuelan hospital

The BBC is similarly confused as to the reasons for Venezuela’s collapse: “What has gone wrong in Venezuela?” The BBC article begins:

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has declared a state of emergency to combat the economic war he says foreign powers and right-wing forces in Venezuela are waging against the Latin American country.

Right. If you keep reading, a glimmer of reality breaks through:

President Hugo Chavez, who governed Venezuela from 2002 to 2013, introduced price controls on some basic goods in 2003.

The idea was to make essential goods affordable for Venezuela’s poor. The prices of items such as sugar, coffee, milk, rice, flour and corn oil were capped.

Producers complained that the new regulations forced them to operate at a loss.

Some refused to provide goods for the government-run stores where the price-controlled goods were sold; others decided to stop producing these goods altogether.

Of course! This is what always happens when a government controls prices. Apparently, hundreds of years of experience have yet to penetrate the thick skulls at the BBC. More:

With subsidised goods becoming increasingly scarce, many Venezuelans have been forced to queue for hours to get the essentials.

When a sought-after staple such as cornflour arrives at a supermarket, the word will spread quickly over social media and hundreds of people will queue to get it.

The government says the shortages are being made worse by an “economic war” being waged against it.

It says that some people are hoarding goods while other buy more than they need to sell them on at a profit. To cut down on such behaviour, President Maduro announced in 2014 that he would introduce fingerprinting for shoppers.

Fingerprinting shoppers! I wonder how supporters of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders would view such measures here in the U.S.

For a more perceptive analysis of Venezuela’s problems, see this excellent roundup by AEI’s Mark Perry. Among other headlines: “Hungry Venezuelans Hunt Dogs, Cats, Pigeons as Food Runs Out.” That is what happens under Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialism. Currently, inflation is running at stratospheric rates, and Venezuela can no longer afford to buy the paper needed to print more worthless currency.

Of course, with a country as rich in natural resources as Venezuela, it takes a few years for socialism to wreak its inevitable destruction. Thus, as Mark Perry notes, American liberals were hailing “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle” as recently as 2013.

Let’s remember, too, that Barack Obama treated Hugo Chavez with respect, not as a charlatan who had set his nation on a path to disaster, but as a world leader from whom much could be learned. In 2009, we wrote about Barack Obama embarrassing himself at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad:

While [Obama] doesn’t seem to have actually bowed to anyone in Trinidad, he has adopted a submissive posture at every opportunity, telling Latin America’s leaders that he “has a lot to learn.” I’m afraid that’s truer than Obama knows.

One can only speculate as to what was running through Hugo Chavez’s mind when Obama humiliated himself by posing for this photo:


We know, though, how Chavez responded to Obama’s plaintive confession that he “has a lot to learn”–-he contributed to Obama’s education by pressing upon him, before the cameras, a book by a Uruguyan leftist named Eduardo Galeano:


The book’s title translates as The Open Veins of Latin America; the subtitle is Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

In this book, he analyzes the history of Latin America as a whole from the time period of European contact with the New World to contemporary Latin America arguing against what he views as European and later U.S. economic exploitation and political dominance over the region. … It is a classic among the left of Latin America.

So, how did Obama react to Chavez’s insult–-an insult, we should note, both to Obama himself and to the nation of which he is, for better or worse, President? With his usual cluelessness:

When a reporter asked Obama what he thought of the book, the president replied: “I thought it was one of Chavez’s books. I was going to give him one of mine.” White House advisers said they didn’t know if Obama would read it or not. [Ed.: Not likely, since it’s in Spanish.]

When asked what he thought of Obama, Chavez replied:

“I think it was a good moment,” Chavez said about their initial encounter. “I think President Obama is an intelligent man, compared to the previous U.S. president.”

Obama welcomed this sort of insult, which was directed not so much toward George W. Bush as toward the United States.

Let’s remember, too, Hugo Chavez’s grandstanding in 2005, when Venezuela’s national oil company provided free heating oil to residents of the Northeastern states. Liberals portrayed this as a sign of the superiority of socialism. We wrote about it when Chavez died:

Remember when Hugo Chavez sent heating oil to the United States to keep our poor victims of free enterprise warm during the winter? Idiot leftists like former Congressman Joseph Kennedy Jr. praised Chavez’s publicity stunt, which was intended to embarrass the Bush administration. This was Kennedy’s statement on the death of Chavez:

Former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II offered his prayers Tuesday to the family of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying he cared deeply about the poor and helped nearly two million Americans through the former lawmaker’s heating assistance charity.

Joe Kennedy distributes Venezuelan oil in Massachusetts

Joe Kennedy distributes Venezuelan oil in Massachusetts

What does Joe Kennedy have to say about socialism now that babies are dying and people are starving in Venezuela? Crickets.

Venezuela’s collapse is complete. The country is being described as a war zone, without the war. President Maduro ascribes his country’s problems to “saboteurs and wreckers,” in time-honored socialist tradition. He should get out of Venezuela while he can. Otherwise, he is likely to suffer the same fate as fellow socialists Benito Mussolini and Nicolae Ceaușescu.

Meanwhile, has Barack Obama reconsidered his opinion of his former mentor, Hugo Chavez? Does Bernie Sanders have second thoughts about democratic socialism, the disastrous program espoused by Chavez and Maduro?

Just kidding. Socialists don’t care about the millions who are slaughtered, enslaved and impoverished under socialism. They care only about the power and riches that socialism confers on those at the top of the pyramid.