How do we measure the cost of Venezuelan socialism?
- Is it people eating household pets?
- Is it people dying of malnourishment?
- Is it women selling their bodies?
Actually, it’s all of the above.
And there’s plenty of additional evidence – all of which shows that more socialism results in more misery.
Let’s review some examples.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. But with government running the industry, producing petroleum products has been a challenge – to put it mildly.
“Venezuela — home to the world’s largest oil reserves — has started introducing in some areas to tackle extreme fuel shortages. … for ordinary Venezuelans, it is a cruel joke without a punchline — a driver recently died of a heart attack after waiting in line for days to fill his tank. … Lopez had been waiting in line to fill her tank for six hours in Lara’s capital Barquisimeto, but had to leave without getting any fuel because she had to go search for medicine for her ailing brother, who suffers from meningitis. ‘It’s a joke!’ she fumed again as she left the gas station empty-handed, despite the fact that between state-regulated gas prices, hyper-inflation and black-market dollar exchange rates, a dollar could technically buy almost 600 million liters of fuel. … According to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Venezuela’s oil output has dropped from 3.2 million barrels per day a decade ago to 1.03 million barrels in April this year. Other estimates put that output as low as 768,000 barrels per day.”
Here’s another sign of Venezuela’s descent into third-world status.
“… the Center for Malaria Studies in Caracas … is not immune to Venezuela’s economic crisis and is struggling to treat patients. This is a country that lacks 85 percent of the medicines it needs, according to the pharmaceuticals industry. … Scientists who would later work for this clinic contributed in 1961 to helping Venezuela become the first country to eradicate malaria. However, there was a resurgence seven years ago, worsening to become an epidemic in 2016, according to the Red de Epidemiologia NGO. Today the clinic is in a sorry state: yellowed microscopes, a dishwasher stained by purple chemicals, refrigerators corroded by rust. … According to the World Health Organization, Venezuela registered more than 400,000 malaria cases in 2017, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in the Americas. Noya, though, believes the true extent of the epidemic is ‘close to two million’ people affected.”
I have no idea if Juan Guaido, the putative leader of the opposition, has what it takes to lead Venezuela out of the dark ages (maybe he’s another Macri rather than a Thatcher). But he’s definitely getting some first-hand experience with socialism.
“On Thursday, Juan Guaido woke up and doused himself with a bucket of water. It was his shower. Like millions of Venezuelans, the man who dozens of countries recognize as the legitimate leader of his broken country can’t rely on the taps to run. … ‘It’s going to get worse’ before things turn, he warned.”
Reuters reports on how parts of Venezuela are descending into autarky and barter.
“At the once-busy beach resort of Patanemo, tourism has evaporated over the last two years as Venezuela’s economic crisis has deepened and deteriorating cellphone service left visitors too afraid of robbery to brave the isolated roads. … These days, its Caribbean shoreline flanked by forested hills receives a different type of visitor: people who walk 10 minutes from a nearby town carrying rice, plantains or bananas in hopes of exchanging them for the fishermen’s latest catch. With bank notes made useless by hyperinflation, and no easy access to the debit card terminals widely used to conduct transactions in urban areas, residents of Patanemo rely mainly on barter. It is just one of a growing number of rural towns slipping into isolation as Venezuela’s economy implodes amid a long-running political crisis. … In the mountains of the central state of Lara, residents of the town of Guarico this year found a different way of paying bills – coffee beans. Residents of the coffee-growing region now exchange roasted beans for anything from haircuts to spare parts for agricultural machinery.”
One can only wonder, by the way, why the collapse of trade isn’t creating more jobs and prosperity. Could it be that Trump is wrong on the issue?
But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to our main topic.
What can you say about a country that’s so poor that even criminals are suffering?
“Venezuela’s crippling economic spiral is having a negative impact on an unlikely group in society: criminals, who are struggling to afford bullets, and unable to find things to steal as the country’s wealth declines rapidly. … While bullets are widely available on the black market, many muggers cannot afford the $1 price tag anymore, a criminal known as ‘Dog’ told the news organization. … Another gangster, ‘El Negrito,’ who leads a gang called Crazy Boys, has found it increasingly hard to support his wife and daughter with assaults. Firing a bullet is a luxury now, he said. … homicide rate…went down by nearly 10% last year— though Venezuela remains one of the most violent countries in the world. The non-profit, which aggregates the data from morgues and media reports, partly attributes this decrease to the reduction in muggings — because there is nothing to steal. … Shoemaker Yordin Ruiz told The Washington Post: ‘If they steal your wallet, there’s nothing in it.’”
What a perfect symbol of socialism! People are so poor that there’s nothing left to steal.
I want to conclude by emphasizing a point that I’ve made before about greater levels of socialism being associated with greater levels of misery.
As you can see from this chart (based on EFW data), Hong Kong has the most freedom, though it isn’t perfect.
Then you have nations such as the United States and Denmark, that have some statist characteristics but are mostly market-oriented, followed by France, which has a lot more socialist characteristics, and then Greece, which presumably can be described as a socialist nation.
But Venezuela is an entirely different category. It’s in the realm of near-absolute statism.
P.P.S. It’s hard to believe, given the pervasive statism that now exists, but Venezuela in 1970 was ranked in the top 10 for economic liberty.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy and is Chairman of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Mitchell is a strong advocate of a flat tax and international tax competition.