While Americans are subjected to a political circus in our nation’s capital, riots, shortages, and repression are rocking the streets of Venezuela as their citizenry is finally fed up with Socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s rule.
Thousands have been arrested as inflation spirals into Weimar territory and Venezuelans are even losing large amounts of weight en masse from food shortages in one of the world’s most oil-rich nations. The Socialist experiment has neared the end of its natural and inevitable course in Venezuela.
When Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez died in 2013, there briefly was a glimmer of hope that the socialist state apparatus he had built over the prior decade would start on the road towards reform and freedom. However Nicolas Maduro has continued many of Chavez’s socialist policies, both economically and politically.
Almost two decades of strongman socialist rule in Venezuela has led not to more prosperity for the people, but, according to the Economist, to 82% of households living in poverty compared to 48% prior to Chavez. Amid rhetoric championing redistribution and struggle against wealthy elites, Venezuelans now have neither liberty nor prosperity and must watch as their nation collapses around them.
Venezuela’s socialist system is the same rehashed model of left-wing redistribution and repression that has existed in many other nations over the course of the 20th century. In many such nations, people give their rights to soothsayers who promise to solve all their problems. After securing its power, the state’s ruling class reigns supreme, enriching themselves at the expense of the citizenry and with all liberties and human rights existing only in accordance with their desires.
Skip several thousand miles to the United States and we come to a nation where almost half of millennials have a favorable opinion of socialism, according to a recent Harvard University survey, and a “Democratic Socialist” nearly won the nomination for one of our country’s major political parties.
Countries like North Korea are so distant and twisted that it may be difficult for Americans to draw lessons from their situation. Cuba is right off our shore, but lacks immediate events that thrust it into our public consciousness. Venezuela thus ought to serve as a timely and relevant reminder for us to avoid a similar and too often-repeated cycle.
Venezuela was not always a repressive socialist state, but rather was once an emerging democracy and a developing economy. While wrangling with the challenges inevitably such modern liberal democracies face as they grow, it nonetheless had the foundation for a free press, free markets, and a constitutional system of representation and rights.
However in such a system, even without a revolution or military conflict, a mass vote by enough people can wipe it all away. And that’s precisely what happened in Venezuela, where strongmen like Chavez played to the passions of the poor, enraged them against the wealthy private sector businesspeople and elites, used the name of “America” as an ethereal scapegoat, and sold them a system that bled their supposed “enemies” a little but resulted in a smaller pie for everyone.
Here in America we face a similar challenge. Many Americans are reeling from some of the unique economic challenges the 21st century is presenting us with. In response, already many are singing a siren’s song that threatens to repeat Venezuela’s situation here, inciting hatred against elites supposedly at fault and advocating for socialist redistribution as the solution to our new woes.
These redistributionists do this all while ignoring that their proposals will leave the people they purport to be helping more poor and deprived than ever before. Furthermore, proper policy responses to these new developments in technology and our economy have the potential to bring us incredible levels of prosperity and an even faster rising tide for everyone.
The people of Venezuela have found themselves in a situation that is difficult to escape. Their struggle to restore their republic and liberty will be a long one, and hopefully will succeed.
In the meantime, we Americans ought to look closely at what has transpired in Venezuela and ensure it is not repeated in our country. We must always be vigilant in standing for free markets and God-given constitutional liberties, which have led to and will continue to lead to more prosperity and liberty than any other ideas throughout history.