Giving people free money can be expensive!

Cornbread muzzle
Cornbread muzzle

Reading Quico’s arbitrage how-to-manual, the casual reader could be forgiven for thinking that these are the exceptions in Venezuela. It’s not like that. The revolution is all about giving people free stuff to avoid their wrath.

Whether it’s housing, Haier washers, or free Cadivi dollars, whether you’re from the government or the opposition, the whole point of the revolution is to take an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation oil windfall, and simply throw it at various constituencies.

I thought about this when I heard the latest news from that insane asylum called Cadivi Headquarters: faced with planeloads of phantoms travelers wanting to use their free cash but not even bothering with the actual traveling, Cadivi will now demand that your fingerprints get scanned as you’re boarding the plane.

As you can imagine, this is expensive. It’s time-consuming for airlines, passengers, and the public in general. The technological requirements for putting this together are not negligible.

And all for what, exactly?

Cadivi gives travelers cheap dollars, money that is worth one seventh of their actual value. Why does Cadivi care whether or not the person getting the money actually goes abroad or not? Does it make any difference, from a public policy point of view, if the person is actually, physically present at the time they swipe their cards to activate their scam? And given how Venezuela is essentially bankrupt, why do you need to create a new bureaucracy to give people free stuff?

If we take peoples’ fingerprints, then journalists can’t write about how people are scamming the system. Get it? The goal here is to keep Cadivi an orderly, properly documented scam. Not just any scam, you know, but one with fingerprint machines and everything.

Populism is what the Revolution is about. Everything from Cadivi to the GMVV to Mercal is really about giving stuff to people so that they shut up and stop bitching. It’s not about delivering housing to the poor or administering the nation’s wealth – it’s about giving people free money – the illusion of gimmes – so that they don’t march down Avenida Bolívar. The dominant dogma is that giving free stuff to people is so damn essential to the Revolution’s survival, any time people abuse the system you need to create the “illusion” that the system works.

Cadivi is a non-sensical farce. The last thing it needed was more bureaucracy, more public money going into its administration. Then again, if people need to actually go overseas to activate their Cadivi cupo, it’s better to keep them there than back in Caracas, bitching about the government.

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