The Phaserl


Selling the Golden Goose

by Jeff Thomas, International Man:

Venezuela is a naturally rich nation. It’s ranked seventh worldwide for biodiversity and has the world’s largest reserves of oil. This is a country that deserves, more than most, to thrive. However, as in all countries, it passes through economic cycles and, when on a downward curve, would-be leaders take the opportunity to claim that the “greedy rich” have sent the economy into a tailspin (which can sometimes be the case) and that the solution is to adopt a collectivist approach to governance.

In 1989, Venezuela was experiencing a downturn. Riots broke out, followed by two attempted coups in 1992. The following year, President Pérez was impeached for embezzlement of public funds and the red carpet of opportunity was rolled out for the charismatic former coup participant Hugo Chávez. He took office as president in 1998. A new constitution was drawn up in 1999 and, as in so many countries previously, the people enthusiastically welcomed the new collectivist regime.

“When people can vote on issues involving the transfer of wealth to themselves from others, the ballot box becomes a weapon with which the majority plunders the minority. That is the point of no return, the point where the doomsday mechanism begins to accelerate until the system self-destructs. The plundered grow weary of carrying the load and eventually join the plunderers. The productive base of the economy diminishes further until only the state remains.”
– G. Edward Griffin

As in all collectivist experiments, the new entitlements meted out to the population had to be funded somehow and, as is customary, those who create the wealth in Venezuela were required to pay for its distribution to those who were less productive.

In the beginning, this form of theft appears to work well and, not surprisingly, many of the supporters of Mister Chávez saw him as the messiah of the common man. Unfortunately, as is always the case, bleeding the wealth from those who create it makes it increasingly difficult for them to continue to expand the creation of it and, as the wealth continues to be drained, contraction eventually takes place, making the entire nation poorer in every way.

At some point the collectivist system begins to unravel and, as luck would have it, the unravelling for Venezuela coincided with the death of its cherished leader.

In 2013, former bus driver Nicolás Maduro was elected as his successor. Two months earlier, the currency had been devalued to combat increasing shortages of basic goods and Venezuela fell into recession within a year of Mister Maduro taking office. By 2016, he declared a state of national emergency and proceeded to institute a series of knee-jerk responses to increasing economic decline, which would, to some degree, appease the struggling populace, but which would, ultimately, exacerbate the problem.

As conditions have worsened, Mister Maduro’s “solutions” have become increasingly desperate. (Editor’s note: Jeff Thomas has provided commentary on Venezuela’s decline in several editions of International Man: “Watch the Movie,” Jan. 2014, “Venezuela, the Sequel,” Dec. 2016, and “A Chicken in Every Pot,” Dec. 2016.)

In so doing, he hasn’t exactly been creative. He has, instead, resorted to all the classic measures that have been used by collectivists before him. The unfortunate conundrum for a collectivist leader is that the real solution is a return to the free-market system and no leader is going to admit that his entire raison d’être has been based upon a false premise.

It’s important to note that, in any nation, the populace tends to believe that their leader’s efforts, however flawed they may have been, were intended to serve the people well. However, this is almost never the case. I’ve known many political leaders personally and can attest that, regardless of the nation they represent, their concern is almost entirely for their own personal welfare and advancement. In fact, those who are pathological in this pursuit are very often the most successful in rising to the top, by virtue of their heightened determination and obsession with self-aggrandizement.

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