Yes we can! Podemos = chavismo


imageOver at Foreign Policy’s Transitions blog, I make the case that Spain’s rising party Podemos – which is now leading the polls in Spain – is chavismo’s first cousin.

The value added:

“Regardless of the distance they want to put between themselves and the chavista revolution, chavismo is strikingly evident in most of what Podemos’ leaders say. For example, Iglesias, upon being sworn in as a member of the European Parliament, vowed to respect the Spanish Constitution “until the citizens of his country change it.” The move had more than a trace of Chávez in it. When the Venezuelan was sworn in for his first term, he also swore on a “moribund” constitution while at the same time vowing to change it, all in the name of “democracy.”

Podemos’ approach to the Constitution directly parallels the rise of chavismo in Venezuela. Chávez began the process of reform in Venezuela by dismantling the institutions that the public saw as corrupt. The system in Venezuela was evidently broken, and Chávez used his initial popularity to do away with the old system and build a new one tailor-made for his movement. Popular approval of most of his reforms in frequent elections gave his changes the legitimacy they needed. Fifteen years after Chávez was first elected, Venezuela is mired in civil unrest and economic turmoil. Its democracy is severely eroded, and the chavista elite is deeply entrenched.

Like Chávez, Iglesias has sworn to open the doors to a “constitutional” process that undoes the “locks” of the 1978 Constitution. His justification is Spain’s dire economic situation, which he blames on “oligarchs.”

I don’t know if this came across in the piece or not, but the parallels between Podemos and chavismo are striking. In fact, I’m a bit startled there is still any sort of debate on the upstart party’s true nature.

Here is a bit of advice for Podemos: you’ve been peddling anti-private property, left-wing, radical chavismo for years. Own it. Don’t run away from your true nature. Say it loud and clear: “we are chavistas, and we’re proud of it.”

Saves us all a whole lot of trouble.

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    • “bowed” —> “bound”

      But, yes, I agree and Podemos would inevitably lead Spain down that same sad well-trodden path to poverty and subservience to the State that Venezuela has experienced. I wonder if the mechanisms of the E.U. can block Spain from going there? It would be a disaster for the rest of Europe as Spain would become a dead-weight on the rest of the E.U. members, or worse than it already is.

  1. This is a pretty good interview of Iglesias:

    In this interview, Pabo shows a much more moderate face. I think PODEMOS is similar to chavismo in that they change their views based on who they are talking to. This way people will chose to hear what they want to hear. For instance, I’ve had dozens of arguments with chavistas who claim Chavez never said “ser rico es malo”.

    • “For instance, I’ve had dozens of arguments with chavistas who claim Chavez never said “ser rico es malo”.”

      Those are the worst sort of chaburros, the most hypocrites of all.

  2. Spain will walk our walk. Don´t forget they devised our current system of stupidity based values centuries ago.

    Resentment from the past and the apparent uselessness of the modern european young will drive Iglesias to power in no time. Then, he will singlehandedly fuck things around.

  3. Bueno, given that it’s CaracasChronicles Venezuelocentrism is to be expected, but I think you’re leaving an important bemol out, Juan.

    If Pablo is smart, the model won’t be Venezuela. It’ll be Ecuador, or Bolivia. All the political authoritarianism, all the populism, but none of the macroeconomic chaos. Pablo can’t fail but have noticed that Evo and Correa are much more securely installed in power than Maduro.

      • I don’t think so, Rodrigo. Francisco is quite right. He’s pinpointing the missing piece in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Spain that is overtly present in Venezuela: militarism. Felipe VI is the commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed Forces. No further comment is required.

        • Sorry to disagree, Gabriel. But both Ecuador and Bolivia are no different than Venezuela regarding militarism. They are maybe less clumsy and lousy about their military parades, but that’s it, Correa and Morales both have the military strings in their hands. In Spain, that would be unlikely because, as you correctly pointed out, Felipe VI is the commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed Forces. But I don’t see any reason why they would avoid the macroeconomic chaos. If anything, we have all the reasons to believe that with Podemos, Spain will have the economic chaos without the political authoritarianism.

          • Of course Correa and Morales do but that’s not militarism. No government could be stable without military support, especially in Latin America. Take Manuel Zelaya and his fall from power in 2009 as an example.
            In Spain, Podemos will not only make the economic chaos worse but also try to get closer to the China-Russia axis, and I underline the attempt since it won’t be an easy task.

          • Spain and the rest of the non-German European Monetary Union members are dollarized economies, dollarized in terms of the Euro (German Mark). Spain and the other EMU members cannot implement quantitative easing, for example. If Germany says austerity, then austerity it will be. Spain cannot unilaterally increase its money supply if it were to be needed.

            So, one macroeconomic policy is safe: there will not be high or hyperinflation in Spain – not while Germany controls the purse strings.

    • You’re giving waaay too much benefit of the doubt to Pablo Iglesias and his copy-cat schtick. Then again, for a lefty once and likely still enamoured of the ideas from a communist, this is no surprise. Own it, Quico.

    • Quico, I think I read it in prodavinci that the difference between Podemos and Chavismo is that Chavismo is a military movement, it was from the begining, whereas Podemos is not…and now that you are talking about Ecuador and Bolivia, that’s the difference with them

    • I would say let them elect chavismo and let them take their chances and have some of what we have had over these 16 years so that they can learn from it, but Venezuela seems to be living evidence that a society can potentially never learn from its mistakes. Maybe in some time they will be ashamed to call us sudacas again and some of those spanish-venezuelans who went back to spain thanks to chavismo will come back to vzla, igniting a never ending cicle of inmigration.

  4. The Podemos talking heads all refer to the other political parties as “la casta” which clearly demonstrates their complete lack of self awareness, as they are nearly all university professors who have never received a salary other than that provided by the education budget. They are members of a parasitic caste who if given the chance will have yet another go at installing a Marxist regime.
    The problem is that too many people will vote for them to punish the PP and PSOE and damn the consequences.

    • Just for the record, not all people who provide and/or receive public education or are public employees, are parasitic to society, when it is in fact the contrary in most cases, you have the right to think that way and I respect it, but it makes you look like an USA republican lunatic.

  5. We can’t forget that the ‘breeding-ground’ that allows this kind of socialist party’s ascension is a collective conscience permeated by socialist values and their version of morality. I saw in Spain the same trait I had seen in most South American countries: the people are socialist.

    And it’s very hard to fight a bad collective conscience. The Spanish people want to tax the rich until they gett poor, expropriate corrupt private companies, gag the capitalist press, kick the imperalist US ass etc. They also think that the social divide should be blamed on the rich, the list of misjudgements is endless, but as South Americans you know as well as me the socialist lingo.

    In my opinion, this is the number 1 factor that you should pay attention to the possibilities of a party like Podemos ascending to power in your country: what do the average person say? Are they all sounding too much fascist/socialist? If yes, you should start getting ready to darker times ahead. Likewise, Hitler himself didn’t teach anything about anti-semitism to the average German before being elected, he only based his political platform on something that he knew Germans would approve him for. Podemos is doing exaclty the same. The people are mad, and they are personifying the horrible collective conscience of the country. Just like Chávez did.

    I must have travelled to Spain 5 or 6 times in my life, and I’ve never met a single Spaniard that didn’t (consciously or not) parrot all socialist slogans that we can find so easily in South America. And I remember thinking to myself: “What prevents those people from going ahead with that? What inhibits them from putting in practice what they preach? Because those people are not fond of democracy and democratic values at all!” And I would immediately answer myself with two words: “strong institutions”. But the lesson learned is that not even the most strong institution can’t resist a population’s will. It’s doesn’t really matter if the institution is German, Venezuelan, American, Italian or Spanish. The collective conscience will ALWAYS prevail.

  6. Has anyone compiled a chavista lexicon, meaning catch-all words and phrases that aimed to condition the public before political change, often with disastrous effects?

    I suspect that many of the words and phrases being used by Podemos are similar to those once so liberally used by Chávez.

    My suspicions have to do with seeing, in recent months, and in the community of First Nations peoples, words like “oligarchy” and phrases generally devoid of meaning (can’t recall which ones at the moment) whose translation into Spanish are from a Chávez page.

  7. “Here is a bit of advice for Podemos: you’ve been peddling anti-private property, left-wing, radical chavismo for years. Own it. Don’t run away from your true nature. Say it loud and clear: “we are chavistas, and we’re proud of it.””

    The diarrhea mummified turd castro hid that he was a communist until he was fastened and chained to the power in the prostibule-isle.

    The wax doll kept repeating that he wouldn’t do any of the cuban stuff until he was fastened and chained to power here.

    The same applies here, these bastards will keep claiming themselves as “socialists” and in a couple of years we’ll see currency exchange control, destruction of all property and shortages in everything. All while the nomenklature swims in euros and dollars.

  8. Step back for a second – why do these lefties get any traction to begin with? If the current governments would not better address the shortcomings and socioeconommic issues, then these “radicals” wouldn’t become so popular.

  9. Not sure that Podemos and chavismo are equal. Francisco makes a good point that Iglesias looks to Bolivia, Ecuador more so than to Venezuela. Also Spain’s history (Civil War followed by protracted, repressive & isolating dictatorship, then transition to democracy) plus EU context makes for very different dynamics. Iglesias is a curious and puzzling figure. He’s named after the founder of the Spanish socialist party (PSOE), Pablo Iglesias, and in his political discourse he makes frequent references to Spain’s historical past and to his family’s involvement with the left going back to the Civil War (1936-39). He also underscores how in Spain significant political issues were left unresolved during the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975. One of those issues is that Spain’s governing party (PP) traces its roots to Francoist Spain. Another thorny issue is the configuration of the Spanish state where Cataluya, and other regions, have not felt fully recognized under the existing centralist model. Iglesias is also shrewdly capitalizing on the deep discontent in Spain with both traditional political parties, the PP & the PSOE, as well on the general malaise that austerity has brought to Southern Europe. In contrast to the traditional parties and to the old guard in the EU, Podemos’s youthfulness is appealing to the younger crowd in Spain, who have and continue to get hammered by EU austerity measures.

  10. I think he IS smart. But Spain is too proud, and too racist, to have Bolivia, Ecuador or Venezuela as a model. I predict he will announce “22nd century socialism” very soon.

    • But Spain is too proud, and too racist, to have Bolivia, Ecuador or Venezuela as a model.

      Which reminds me of an anecdote from my time in Argentina during the time that Bolivia was stuck in the coup-a-month mode. I got into a conversation with an expat Bolivian in the city of Salta. He said that his parents- or was it grandparents- had immigrated from Spain. IIRC,there was some beer involved in the conversation.

      I was then working in Salta province with a number of Bolivians whom I had also worked with across the border in Santa Cruz. My Bolivian co-workers quite often discussed Bolivian politics with me, usually without any prompting on my part, so from my experience politics was not a taboo subject in Bolivia. Exasperating, but not taboo.

      With the assumption that the Bolivian I met in Salta city had the same attitude about discussing Bolivian politics as my Bolivian co-workers, I brought up the subject of Bolivian politics. IIRC, there had recently been a coup. The response: I was accused of being a CIA agent.

      The Bolivian of Spanish background then pulled up his pants leg, pointed to his uncovered leg and told me, “See, I’m just as white as you.” As I had never brought up anything about race, his response surprised me. Which also suggested to me that he had inherited some racist views from his Spanish parents or grandparents.

      I left the conversation.

  11. In his beginnings Iglesias was heavily financed by your money:
    I can’t believe that he has a real chance to get real power.
    If so, it would be a problem for Spain, much less for EU. Even more well educated spanish experts will emigrate to UK/Ireland, Central and Northern Europe. Because of our aging workforce, there is demand for them here. Catalonia would look for independence day one after elections.
    And they have no oil. You simply can’t run a radically populist Government in Europe. Last serious try were the first 2 years of Mitterand in France 1981-3. It failed miserably. Mitterand became a middle of the road socialdemocrat quickly.

  12. I agree to a big extent with LemmyCaution, probably because I see things from Europe.
    That character Iglesias is indeed despicable and a lot of Spaniards are falling for him, even a huge amount of young, educated people. That’s very sad. On the other side, Iglesias won’t have the oil and Spain is just too embedded in Europe by now.
    It will be a mess but corrections will follow up rather sooner than later.

  13. I want to add that the North should have shown more solidarity in this South European Crisis. I am clearly not so neoliberal to believe that subsidies for a time are a complete waste of resources. A lot of waste, yes, but maybe worth the effort. The good development of Ex-GDR in the last years shows, that it may work. But as we now have countries much poorer in EU now, such a policy would have been very difficult to sell, even if we had the political determination.
    Sometimes I understand of the more intelligent part of our left that now with our Ukraine policy we generate hope for support there, we probably won’t deliver in the end.

    Iglesias had (or has) a show in a spanish speaking iranian TV channel. Its called Fuerte Apache. A lot of programs were about Venezuela. In the last one he invited someone very good critical to Chavismo.

  14. I don’t doubt, PODEMOS is the Spaniard chavista-like chapter, like MAS is the Bolivian one and Alianza Pais the Ecuadorian one.

    Common sense dictates that PODEMOS shouldn’t use Venezuela as an example, but rather Ecuador or Bolivia (political authoritarianism with decent economic policies). Reality also dictates that PODEMOS can’t go the way of Chavez, or even Bolivia or Ecuador, because the whole European framework provides an external check on power:
    – No currency controls, because of the Euro.
    – No price controls, or import restrictions and similar shenanigans because of the single market.
    – No runaway budget deficits because of the Euro and the EU limits on deficit.
    – No judicial fuckups or political prisoners, because of the European Court of Justice
    – No expropiations, because of the economic and judicial institutions of the EU.
    – People and companies have it easier to relocate to other countries (vote with their feet).

    Not to mention, the head of state is the King, whose prerrogatives may allow to hold back some moves. (by returning controversial laws to parliament until they get a wider consensus), having command of the military, etc.

    • Some of your points assume that Podemos would want Spain to remain in the EU. They might not want to, as well it might be to Spain’s benefit given how German intransigence on both EU economic policy has clobbered Spain.

      • Exactly. And if the spaniards are stupid enough to vote for these “resentidos”, I’m sure they would also vote for leaving the EU.

      • Even if PODEMOS wanted Spain to leave the EU (and join ALBA or whatever), I doubt it would be politically viable.

        I don’t see regular Spaniards nor Spanish companies, giving up the Euro, Schengen, the single market, etc. On the other hand, there are the subsidies Spain gets from the EU, the debt rate advantage they get from being in the EU, the possibility of borrowing EU money for bailouts, etc.

        It might be a similar situation with Ecuador and the dollar. In my experience, at least 9 out of 10 economists abhor dollarization because it “disallows the country to use monetary policy as a variable and because the monetary policy of the US may not be the best fit”. Correa is an economist, and a leftist economist to emphasize the point, yet he hasn’t got rid of the dollar in Ecuador in the decade he’s been president, where he’s always enjoyed a parliamentary majority. My guess is he hasn’t, because it isn’t politically viable.

        • Spain could remain in Schengen and drop the euro, it probably should have never been in the monetary union.

          The dollar has been historically weak with the euro gaining strength since its inception, and Ecuador is a commodities exporter (oil and bananas) which means it can remain competitive selling bananas to Europe and doesn’t have to worry about the exchange rate when selling to the USA. In addition adopting the dollar makes it easy to invest in Ecuador, and unlike a peg you don’t have to worry about a run against your currency (like in Argentina). That and not having to worry about the overhead and politics of running a central bank probably has made the dollar a comfortable fit. Still, dollar denominated Ecuadorean bonds may become expensive to service, and the Ecuadorean government may find itself in trouble with commodity markets weakened and slow growth. Bolivia is also growing on the commodities teat. This is my very quick and dirty assessment.

          Fig 1.6 in the following doc captures some of the structural problems with countries like Bolivia and Ecuador (actual data is for other countries though):

          • Do note my point wasn’t that leaving the EU (or the Euro) is economically unfeasible for Spain, but may rather be politically unfeasible. I’ll leave the discussion on monetary policy to economists.

            I will say that I have not heard of the Euro being impopular in Spain, which precludes any move towards launching a new peseta.

            Going back to Ecuador, Correa has always made clear his distaste for dollarization. He even went on the record, as president, calling it a big mistake, but reassuring everyone that the dollar would stay. He has not made any moves to reintroduce any national currency, even though he has enjoyed broad political cover with a friendly parliament and courts.

  15. A collapsed economy, an entrenched, corrupt and insular elite, and a society with deep historical class divisions. Sounds like prescription for something like what happened in Venezuela. What you don’t have in Spain is a massively oversized and venerated military, a big export industry in drugs, dependence on a single volatile resource, and a marginalized, impoverished, not well educated underclass concentrated in huge slums. So maybe the outlook is a little different.

    • Canuck,

      Take a closer look at Spain. It’s not the modern society you may think it is. The “marginalized, impoverished” underclass may not live in slums, but they are still highly uneducated- mostly of their own doing. Many chose the path of the quick buck (or Euro) during the building boom orgy years instead of going to college. So what you have now is an inordinately large number of youth with absolutely no meaningful qualifications. Those that do have university degrees, have all been leaving the country, leaving a county of asistidos that has to compete with the much more motivated immigrants for the few jobs available.

      • In the late 1960s Spain was roughly equivalent to Mexico in terms of its development. Today it is a very different country. I think that is indisputable. Also, I think though it is always tempting to attribute unemployment to a lack of moral fibre, when we are talking about 24% unemployment, we are indisputably talking about a problem of different origins.

        • The reason of their high unemployment is the same as in Venezuela or Portugal: horrible labor laws. If you hire someone, you can only get rid of him if your company goes bankrupt or if the worker dies. Thus, companies hire the minimum number of workers possible. A McDonalds that would function normally with 6 people must function with 3, for example.

          • I thought the issue was the bursting of a large housing bubble.

            I must confess, the parts of Spain I am familiar with largely do not consider themselves parts of Spain, which, parenthetically, is another question that distinguishes Venezuela from Spain. A problem in “Spain” with the left, as I understand it, is that regional or “national” differences prevent a consensus of the kind that would produce a truly coherent movement, or a Hugo Chavez (i.e. a personalized movement). But I probably have no authority but beer with some non-Spanish people who happen to have Spanish passports to back that up.

          • “I thought the issue was the bursting of a large housing bubble”

            High unemployment in Spain is not a ‘new’ trend. But of course we can’t deny that the crisis has aggravated a pre-existing condition – Spain’s labor contracts being one of the most rigids in the world.

            The Spanish unemployment figure in 1995 was as bad as the current one. Notice that since 1980 it barely has gone below 10%.


          • I guess one thing that makes me skeptical, just on the basis of that graph, about labour laws being the core issue is that Venezuela reports a 6 or 7% unemployment rate, and its laws truly make firing someone a difficult process. (Unless of course the dismissal is politically motivated, in which case it is a breeze.)

            Similarly, I am not aware of labour law deregulation of any significance corresponding to Spain’s “good” years on that graph.

            I come back to my point that I think there is something else big going on which has made Spain dysfunctional, but not so dysfunctional, by many degrees, as Venezuela. Paul Krugman I think talks about why Spain’s unemployment is really about 10% higher than it should be if you factor out the housing bubble… I don’t know what conclusions he is asking me and my ilk to draw from that, though I suspect it is not that Spain has bad labour laws.

            So I think it is an interesting and debatable question, and my sense is that two explanations, that spanish workers are inherently short-sighted and follow the quick money (i.e. housing construction jobs?), or that their laws are unduly onerous (since when is a Spaniard held in check by a law he did not like, anyway?) do not really get to the root of it.

  16. I guess I am one of the few Spaniards here and it is interesting to read so many opinions about my country, most of them wrong. Podemos may be as chavista as you want it to be but Spain is not. Francisco Toro is more or less right, those guys will implement left-wing policies but not the chaos and self-destruction that Venezuela is suffering now. Spaniards are socialists, yes, but if a party starts such a destruction processs, they won’t last in office more than 1 or 2 years. Podemos likes Chavez but they like power much more. People have more or less socialist ideals but they want money too. All this and the fact that Spain is not Venezuela 14 years ago makes me read with scorn some of the dramatic predictions written here.

    • “Spaniards are socialists, yes, but if a party starts such a destruction process, they won’t last in office more than 1 or 2 years. (…) People have more or less socialist ideals but they want money too. All this and the fact that Spain is not Venezuela 14 years ago makes me read with scorn some of the dramatic predictions written here.”

      Well, the dramatic predictions will hopefully scare the Spaniards from going that path and prevent them from becoming a new failed country, don’t forget that 1 or 2 years of bad policies might be enough to destroy one country for decades, i.e.: Argentina still fighting in Court over its default more than one decade later.

      • don’t forget that 1 or 2 years of bad policies might be enough to destroy one country for decades, i.e.: Argentina still fighting in Court over its default more than one decade later.

        Not that simple, as the default was the consequence of a poor policy decisions lasting over ten years of linking the peso to the dollar while not limiting expansion of government spending. Moreover, the current economic mess in Argentina is a consequence of years of the government freezing energy prices plus hiding the true inflation rate. Very rarely does merely “1 or 2 years of bad policies” suffice to “destroy one country for decades.” It takes longer.

        • Alright, but defaults are not always mandatory.

          If Argentina had followed more strictly what is commonly called the ‘Washington Consensus’ and had had a better relationship with the IMF during the worst of its crisis (just like countries like Brazil and Mexico had done back then), Argentina would possibly have avoided defaulting so many times in the past two decades.
          Likewise, the Brazilian default of 1987 is unanimously considered as being ‘unnecessary’ (even the former-president who conducted the default recognizes that today), it was an act of insanity that only a populist/socialist president like what we had could do it. So, one year (1987), ruined the Brazilian economy until the early 2000’s, more than one decade of ‘economic recovering’ because of a single ‘bad year’ of a Podemos-like president.

          Imagine if Portugal had defaulted and told the IMF to go to hell in 2011? The Portuguese would be suffering even more, and the wounds would have taken longer to heal: again, another example of one or two years of insanity that would have dragged a country to hell for decades to come. That’s what I was saying, but I got your point.

  17. Fernando Savater is one of the best minds of Spain.and he is again right when he speaks about podemos. You can read here his comments

    “Al poco de terminar la Revolución de los Claveles, Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho recorrió Europa reuniendo fondos para apoyar a Portugal en ese paso de la dictadura a la democracia. Entre los países que visitó estuvo Suecia, donde conversó con Palme, un hombre abierto y progresista que no dudó en recibirlo. Otelo, entusiasmado, le dijo que en Portugal acabarían con todos los ricos. Palme le respondió: ah fíjese, nosotros estamos haciendo todo lo contrario, intentamos acabar con los pobres. El discurso de Podemos busca acabar con los ricos, pero no explica cómo acabar con los pobres. La gente no quiere reformas, quiere revanchas, y ese es el discurso del votante de Podemos. Y ahí está el peligro. Es difícil contener la indignación y uno entiende que la gente quiera castigar a quienes lo han hecho mal. El asunto es que eso sirve para desahogarnos, pero no resuelve para nada el asunto”

  18. An open question is: why if Bolivia , Nicaragua and Ecuador follow the same doctrinaire anti capitalist anti american line that Chavez did and they are much poorer countries than we are why are their economies in so much better shape than ours , why are they not facing the ruin in their lives that we are . Is it possible that the Political vices of a govt dont necessarily impinge on their good economic performance , Could it be that had Chavez been a different man even with the same ideological affectations but more careful about permitting more rational economic policies we would be in a much better situation . If that is possible then it is also possible that a radical conservative govt even if politically unsavory could have given us a better governance than a democratic one .

    A related question is, if Podemos comes to power in spain and follows a balanced economic policy but otherwise acts in violation of the Spaniards political rights and freedoms , do we hail its economic policies while condemning its brand of political governance. The modern assumption is always that democratic or popular politics go together with good economic governance , we know thats not the case but then what is our position vs a government which is good at economic and functional governance but bad at protecting the rights and political freedoms of its people ??

    Is China an example of this kind of govt ??

    • On the surface, China may be an example of a govt that is good at economic & functional governance but bad at protecting the rights and political freedoms of its people. And certainly there’ve been scores of media types and financiers that have swallowed whole the propaganda to regurgitate it in their reports to Western eyes and ears. But the veneer is chipping. Google this: “The End of China’s Economic Miracle?” And check this:

      • Thanks for the clarification Syd, I am in no way convinced that China is anything like an utopia in the making but taking aside the political and freedom aspects and the fact that they are far from reaching those economic goals which they claim to be achieving , are they better governed than us Venezuela ?? if so how come ??

        • Define “better governed”, BB. Do you mean, by force? If so, then yes, China’s government, in conjunction with its armed forces, imposes far greater social control over its vast population than does Venezuela. How has China’s government achieved this? Through a well-oiled planning machinery based on an historical use of repression and discipline of an entire population. Through the existence of vast amounts of poverty, behind the urban Potemkin villages, and as a result, dependency on the State. Those are just a few things that come to mind following my piecemeal discussions with Chinese and visitors to China, over the decades, (my first conversation having taken place in 1972, at McGill University, with a young man/student dressed in a dark blue Mao suit), and far fewer readings.

          • Better governed as in no hyperinflation, as in no shortages, as in high levels of economic growth, as in increased levels of welfare to millions of people mired in extreme poverty just a few years ago , as in no rampant violent crime , etc nothing to do with civil and political rights which are violated by an authoritarian govt with no compuction . How did they do it ??.

    • Bill,

      The difference is that in all of the countries you mentioned, except for Venezuela, the governments rely on the production of the population and the economic activities of the population to fund the government through taxes. This makes the government at least partially accountable. The Venezuelan government does not have this constraint. It finances itself with oil revenues primarily and does not need the Venezuelan population or their economic activity. This makes it entirely unaccountable and its economic performance is a reflection of this reality.

      This government’s best strategy is to force as many Venezuelans to leave as possible, since the consumption needs of the population are a liability. They are currently maintaining a fine line between reducing local consumption to a minimum and avoiding outright rebellion. The more miserable they can make the population, the better it is to encourage ex-migration, especially of those capable of opposing them.

      • Do you really think that China , Ecuador, Bolivia are better governed because their govts being dependent on the taxes they recieve from their population they feel more accountable for what they do with those taxes.?? Might there be something else helping those govts do a better job ? just asking .

        • Bill,

          Yes, I do think so. It isn’t just that their governments “feel” more accountable. This has nothing to do with ideology. It is simply a market driven demand. Think of “government” as a sheep herder or a cattle rancher. In order to be successful, you have to maintain your herds healthy and productive. If the governments revenue comes from taxes, in order to survive, they have assure that the population is productive. This forces them to make pragmatic economic decisions. History has shown that slave economies cannot compete with free ones. Slaves just aren’t productive enough. Free citizens produce more. Which is not to say that ideology will not trump pragmatism for a time, but in the long run, the free economies will out-produce the others. The USSR and China finally discovered this, and moved toward free-market economies, albeit with different political models than the West.

          But, Venezuela is an anomaly. Imagine a cattle rancher who discovers there is oil on his land. In a short time, he is making far more money from oil than he was from raising cattle. So he neglects his herd in favor of spending his time and energy on producing oil. After a while, the cattle aren’t making him any money at all, because he just doesn’t have the time look after them. They have become a liability. So, he slaughters and sells all his remaining livestock, because the cost of maintaining them has become more than they are producing. Maybe he keeps a token small herd so he can say that he is a still a “cattle rancher” to his neighbors.

          Well, arguments by analogy are not perfect. But, I think you will see my point. Petro-states don’t have the same economic incentives to provide sound governance that others do.

    • Venezuela has the oil jackpot. Because of this, Venezuela is addicted to a swath of destructive and wasteful economic practices, many of which were in place before Chavez. The gasoline subsidy, for instance. Also, because of Venezuela’s big cash flow from oil, Venezuela has been able to borrow huge amounts of money on the international markets.

      These other nations didn’t have such a cushion. The man who has had to work for everything will be more cautious about profligate spending and running up debts than the man who is born to lots of easy money. He’ll also be more aware when he’s getting into trouble. The “silver spoon” guy will keep right on splurging until he hits the wall.

  19. I understand how the choice of Podemos to show affection for chavismo is noxious, but ignoring that sore point, it would be good to pick apart the political roadmap layed out by Podemos, in terms of

    (1) viability (can it be done at all?)
    (2) effectiveness (will it work or will it set back Spain?)
    (3) similarity to chavismo

    Here’s for instance a statement of intent of the party:

    Let’s not forget the key number in Spain, the unemployment rate (~25%!!!)
    Let’s not forget that the capitalist juggernaut, the USA, also adopted “populist” policies to escape it’s own Great Depression, namely the New Deal.

  20. A worrying aspect of Podemos rising popularity is it’s untested character. Despair explains the choice of many to join ranks with Podemos, the alternative parties are not doing what they should, they are not addressing the despair. It’s easy to be exploited when you are desperate.

    I sense that Podemos will accomplish little in terms of the more earthshaking items on its to-do list. Podemos message is: we want to rewrite the terms of the EU. We want to be high-tech powerhouses like Germany and France, and less the horticulturists of Europe. It may accomplish something as the salve that Spain needs in the short term, but the redistributive model it proposes may not be what Spain needs in the long run to truly bounce back.

    An important difference between Spain and Venezuela is that Spain has the rest of the EU to assist it (the EU is still a force in wealth redistribution).

    Finally, a turnaround in Greece is now getting headlines. What is that all about? Greece pursued very unpopular belt tightening. The unemployment rate is just as bad. What is happening there?


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