There’s one bit of my debate on Philly NPR with George Ciccariello-Maher a few weeks ago that sort of stayed with me. Right at the start, the host asks me how such an oil-rich country could struggle to feed itself. I stress that the economy is garishly mismanaged, and that the government’s policies  —printing money to cover budget shortfalls, imposing ass-a-nine price and currency controls, etc— are the kinds of policy gaffes you learn to avoid in chapter 1 or 2 of any intro economics textbook.

Ciccarielo-Maher takes my response and runs with it, arguing that having studied economics, he knows very well that “what you learn in economics lessons is actually free market dogma, and this is something the Venezuelan government has resisted and sought to create alternatives to.”

His response stayed with me because, in its own twisted way, it’s honest. If we could look inside Nicolas Maduro’s or Alfredo Serrano’s corazoncito, I think what we’d find is something like this: a heartfelt certainty that any reform that acknowledges the existence of market forces is a capitulation to free market dogma. Ni pensarlo.

But what is dogma?

A belief is dogma when it’s accepted without question on the basis of authority, rather than empirical evidence. At a basic level, dogma is not about the kind of reality you can perceive with your senses.

Take a Catholic faced with the Eucharist. It looks like a wafer, it smells like a wafer, it tastes like a wafer, and it came from a bag of wafers. All his senses tell him it’s just a wafer. But the Bible and the Holy Mother Church say the wafer is the body of Christ. And for him, that’s all that matters. Having an argument about the essence of the eucharist with a Catholic believer based on his sensory experience of communion is a spectacular bit of point-missing. What his senses perceive has no bearing on the question.

That’s dogma!

Standard economics, at the very basic level we’re discussing here, isn’t like that. It posits a series of cause and effect relationships, and makes falsifiable predictions on the basis of those relationships.

Basic economics predicts that if you set an arbitrary price ceiling that’s below the market-clearing price, the result is shortages. It predicts that if the market won’t finance your fiscal deficits and you try to get around that by printing money to cover the difference, the result is high inflation, tending to hyperinflation as the money-printing gets out of hand.

Whether you think these claims are true or not, it’s hard for me to make sense of them as dogmatic. The claims are about cause and effect, and open to falsification on the basis of data. Empiricism is as empiricism does, right?

What grinds, of course, is Ciccariello-Maher’s habit of casually slinging the “D” word at this kind of claim. Because, trust me, in Venezuela we know a thing or two about what dogmatism in economic policy-making looks like. It ain’t pretty.

Say you have a theory about the way the economy works. Say your theory is that making it illegal to raise prices above a certain level is a sustainable way to ease poor people’s access to essential goods. Say you test it in the real world, and you begin to see that your policy does something different than what you thought it would do. Say you react by imposing heavier and heavier penalties on people who skirt the controls and you find that the new penalties, alas, instead of easing people’s access to essential goods, are doing the opposite.

How do you react?

Bueno, an empiricist —of the left, right or center— reacts by sort of scratching his chin and asking himself “hmmmm, might it be that the theory I started out with is flawed?” An empiricist would, at a minimum, try some alternative avenues, experiment, test, evaluate, and let what he learns inform his policy response.

To a dogmatic socialist, by contrast, lengthening lines and deepening shortages are just as irrelevant to the question of the efficacy of price controls as the taste and smell of the communion wafer are to a catholic. To a dogmatic socialist, the rightness of policy is rooted not in its real-world effects but in its congruence with an esoteric belief system.

To be a dogmatic socialist is to privilege the integrity of the economic system of belief over the grubby minutiae about whether people have enough to eat or not.

Which is all a rather long-winded way of saying yeah, George, I think you’re right. Economic dogmatism is very much at the heart of Venezuela’s problems these days.

50 COMMENTS

  1. Estmado Quico,

    Well said. I think you are right … it is a sort of dogmatic belief system that drove Chavez and present chavista leaders.

    They are not sophisticated on these matters.

    I recall a long talk with a person close to Chavez complaining, for example, about how they thought the Cuban advisers were cheating them, giving dishonest advice to avoid certain business/economic deals and in reality stealing Venezuelan business for Cuba, and such.

    But, then “Why does Chavez keep them around?” I asked, and the answer was, well “the Venezuelans are not very well formed” (i.e., not well educated) and we need them, especially in international business and diplomatic matters. The person added “The Cubans were trained by the Russians” and were more competent.

    Meanwhile, then followed a discussion about how chavista leadership felt it was important to start relying more on the Chinese for ‘education’ of people in leading chavista positions and the bureaucracy.

    This was all tather self-effacingly honest, and a bit pathetic, no?

    But, persons at the education level (and education trajectory/location even it they wen to a university) really have no idea whatsoever of the basics of economics or of international relations. They rely on what those with some training in these matters see as dogma.

    Saludos, Tom

  2. Great article.

    Socialists act as a freaking sect sometimes.

    Argue with a socialists of these that support what’s happening in Venezuela is like arguing with an evangélico, all points of discusions ends for them in “but the bible says”. As if the bible was the incontrovertible end of any argue.

  3. There are a lot of “free market dogma” around posturing as economics, yes.

    Those guys live in the same universe, but different polarity, from the “there is no market” dogma of this guy and friends.

    The market is not the solution to every single problem in the world and is not the one supreme value of civilization, thats right. It is also not a demonic trap that has to be rejected to save your socialist soul.

    ITS A DAMN TOOL.

    One that actually works even if not 100% perfect or as desired, one that has tons of years of knowledge and studies to help you figure it out, once that is incredibly well suited for a lot of uses, and not so much for others.

    But for some kind of messianic “iluminao” the idea that the path forward consist on small, piece by piece reform of actually working mechanisms to see what works to make them better is anathema, and just blindly forging ahead to the land of repeating the same experiments that never worked before because this time its for real is the whole point.

    • I’m pretty uninterested in grand abstractions about capital-T capital-M “The Market”, and if you read this blog carefully you’ll notice I almost never write about The Market.

      I try to be careful to be more precise than that. I’m talking about price controls. I’m talking about deficit monetization. Those are policies whose impacts we understand, where there’s much less room for imprecision.

      Price controls cause shortages.
      Deficit monetization causes inflation.

      These aren’t grand abstractions. Fuck grand abstractions. These are propositions you can test.

    • Exactly.

      I think I already told this before here, but I read a very nice article from a left-leaning but real economist about how price controls do not work (nothing new, but well presented, well argued and with examples and all that), and how direct subsidies were a much better tool for redistribution and helping the poor.

      Answers included gems like “Money is a capitalis lie and you are a sellout!”

  4. Price controls, exchange rate controls, and printing fake money are not just Dogma, or “socialist ideologies”. They are preconceived tools to steal and to mess up the country.

    With the 3 idiotic exchange controls, many enchufados are able to steal millions, easily. With absurd price controls, Chavismo subdues and dominates people, impoverishing them (another Castrista strategy) and forcing them to spend hours in endless lines, feeling sorry for themselves. Over the years, this forces thousands of opposition people to leave the country. 1.5 Million of educated professionals left. You, me, and most readers of these blogs are gone. Chavismo does not want dangerous, opposition people. They forced out out, never to return. Much like Cuba did with their brightest.

    Then you are left with a bunch of clueless, obedient sheep, which you can control through repression, la guardia, prison threats, etc. El que patalea mucho va preso. Y si no le gusta el “socialismo” que se vaya a gringolandia..

    Printing money gives the illusion of having lots of money in your pocket. Innocent pueblo-people love to feel lots of bolivar bills in their hands. Inflation keeps them poor, the middle class disappears, which is also a Castrista objective.

    The “Dogma” or “socialist ideology” is fake to begin with. Chavistas are the biggers Capitalists you can find. They love luxury, wealth, properties and money. That’s why they steal so much every year. They say “ser rico es malo” but they live like burguesitos, look at Chavez’s daughters, Cabello, Aristobulo, Delcy, etc. Millionaires. They know it’s all BS, but they talk about “socilialist” chavista crap, because that’s how they can stay in power, and continue stealing.

    • “Chavistas are the biggers Capitalists you can find. They love luxury, wealth, properties and money.”

      That you like money doesn’t make you a capitalist, that’s the first lie that must be cast aside to speak about capitalism.

  5. What is going on in Ciccariello-Maher’s brain and in that of other chavistas is related to discussions Trotsky and Lenin and Stalin and others had…almost one century ago, but now they do not discuss it as openly as they did back then.

    It is about whether the models they propose can have a chance of success if they or some of them are implemented in one or two countries and not in the whole world.

    Stalin decided it was possible to focus on one’s region. The man he had murdered in Mexico thought that was not possible.

    All extreme leftists deeply believe in the need for an international revolution. Without one, even they concurr they will never be able to have anything but a set of contradictions.

    In reality the Soviet Union only survived initially by the sheer amount of commodities the Russian Empire bequeathed and then the dictatorships the Soviet developed in other countries. Even if the shortage economy would exist in a completely socialist world – a very big utopia-, shortages will become clearer in an environment where the so-called socialist countries have to interact with more or less free markets.

    You have to corner people like Ciccariello-Maher to admit that in his wee dogma, Chavismo will succeed if only the whole world gets a Chavista regime. He has to say that unless he wants to be expelled from his dogmatic club but he knows if he openly says so, the vast majority of people are going to laugh him off.

  6. My impression is that it was more of an authoritative stand and envy / desire to harm market players (which are from opposition) that created this mess. Coupled with a fear of making unpopular decisions.

    I don’t see these spineless and uneducated bastards following any dogmas. In Venezuela there are elections every few months and they always wanted to be con el pueblo. Now they are screwed, because making unpopular decisions is anathema.

  7. All of it have been written above converges to a very well known nonsense phrase,” oil-rich country”, something that we can say with respect to the USA as oil producer and consumer as being an oil rich country (as it is today) since oil belongs to people, Venezuela it is not an “oil reach country”, the oil as resource belongs to the State and the “oil” as rent is captured by the government. So, In a plane cost-benefit analysis, it is not difficult to conclude that convert that “rich oil” resource into a commodity is not something that could be found in any librito de economia, but what economy needs to proceed to make a rich a country are some common sense laws, prices should be free otherwise property is predated, Following A Smith’s words in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (a book which should be read even before his RIqueza de las Naciones (Smith alone said then) ” State does not create wealth, only men create it, on the contrary, Estate destroys it” Venezuela is the one. W did several times during 126 years producing oil, from Pulido family concession in 1889 to Chavez (2002), At the very beginning, oil was private stuff, after more that 100 tears it is not private; that makes the difference when we compare to Texas. Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn, et Norway, I could explain later on……, .

  8. Thanks Quico. I think the very same, our rulers are trapped in their own built trap. They know what to do, every single expert in Venezuela knows what to do (with different approaches, of course) but they simply can’t get out of the trap they have built for themselves on this past 19 years.

  9. BTW, I would love to see what is the explanation that guy would have for how the “free marked dogma” that is so harmful and needs the Venezuelan government to search for “alternatives” manages to actually serve the needs of people in Cúcuta … and about 150000 more from Venezuela because the alternatives are barebone shelves.

  10. I understand all too well the ways in which dogma is used to silence unbelievers.

    Disclosure: I am not Catholic and I don’t make a point of attending church services just to eat a wafer to sip some wine/juice. If thats all someone sees, they have a warped view.

    There are social programs that help and those that hurt. The biggest failures are ones where they justify it with “for the children” or “for the good of all”. Lowering everyones standard of living is not making people equal, just more uncomfortable.

    The Market, as some call it, requires transparency and agreed upon contracts that are enforced based on currency and/or methods of commerce. As soon as any of those are no longer in play, its down hill from there.

    Chavistas proceed at their own peril, but also that of their fellow countryman. There is no longer a rule of law to follow but “the law is what I say it is”.

  11. As an analogy, imagine the economy as a car. The free market is the motor. The institutions of the state are the chassis. The correct role of the state in the economy is to act as the springs and shock absorbers to smooth out the ride. If you eliminate the springs and shock absorbers of the economy, you will experience a very bumpy and dangerous ride. But, eliminate the motor, and the car just won’t go at all.

  12. “They know what to do, every single expert in Venezuela knows what to do (with different approaches, of course) but they simply can’t get out of the trap they have built for themselves on this past 19 years.”

    Right. And that’s for several reasons:

    1/ If they applied the obvious corrective measures, they wouldn’t be able to steal as much as they do.

    2/ These are tough austerity measures (free market, no price controls, raise gas prices, TAX people for a change, stop printing money, raise gas prices, no more freebies, viviendas or electricity or water or transportation, etc, Getting a massive loan from the IMF, (which demands more austerity measures) No more millions of bogus jobs in 35 bogus “Ministries”

    “El pueblo” would initially be very upset, and would probably revolt. Ramos Allup said so himself, that when the MUD grabs the power (Capriles, Henry, Maria Corina or Leopoldo), they will have a very tough time fixing Venezuela’s disasters, and they will have to take very unpopular tough measures. (Which of course they won’t take all of them, and corruption will continue – That’s why the only unfortunate solution would be a right wing dictatorship that does take the tough measures, and steals less, and educates people, and sends crooks to jail.

    • You are saying that Venezuela is doomed to repeat the experience of Chile with Pinochet. You may be right. I would like to hope that we can find a better path. But, even if it were to take a Pinochet to restore order and root out the corruption, it would probably be worth it, in the long run.

      • Yes, unfortunately it’s the only way for Vzla. The MUD won’t be able to fix anything, maybe a little less crime.. But oil won’t be more expensive, and Venezuelans won’t start producing anything by miracle.

        Corruption exists everywhere, but to a much lesser extent. Perez Jimenez stole a few millions, but look at all he built in just 5 years, and how Vzla’s economy was, best ever. Almost no crime.. Pinochet killed about 3000 people, and had many political prisionners in 17 years. But how many has Chavismo killed in 17 years? 200,000? Chile is the best country in L.America now, Vzla the worst. I just do the math.

        Other countries like Colombia or even Bolivia also have corruption and crime and drug problems. But much less than Vzla. A more democratic solution still can work for them. No MUD solution will work for Vzla. They’d better pray for another Perez Jimenez, a tough military dictator that fixes the mess, as bad as that is.

    • “El pueblo” would initially be very upset, and would probably revolt.

      What does “El Pueblo” mean in this context? I’ve seen that mentioned more than once on this post. Does that mean “the common people”?

      I think you are correct. The scars of the riots in 1989 (Caracazo?) have instilled a fear of reform in the government. They think the medicine will be worse than the disease, and this fear has paralyzed them from taking action.

      But they are running out of options. They are sitting on volcano of problems that just builds up more and more pressure every day. If they don’t do something, then it is going to be a serious mess when it blows.

      • I use the term “el pueblo” because politicians and the media use it all the time, and no one really knows what it really means.

        “El Pueblo” should really include every one.

        https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pueblo

        But to be honest, do you consider yourself “pueblo”? Sadly, the advertised notion of human equality is false. Not all human beings are created equal. And some are luckier than others at birth. Some are smarter. Some are just too busy surviving to spend time on blogs.. Some of us were very lucky to get good educations, speak various languages, and get good jobs. Many others were not that lucky, and really, have very limited access to information. Thus, more than half of “el pueblo” in Venezuela still adores Chavez, and think Cuba is a Caribbean paradise, and have no idea about history, geography, economy, or when they are lied to by Chavista or MUD politicians.

        Chavismo talks crap to “el pueblo” because millions of humble people have very limited education, and some will even buy their lies…

  13. And of course we had to go there and start with the “I wish for my own Pinochet” idiocy. And then we wonder why every single time you try to reach out somebody says “but all of you in the opposition are far-right coup supporters”.

    • makes me wallow in despair
      it is so condescending and dangerous because they really believe such an ignorant notion – no more dictatorships, especially not military ones!

  14. Venezuela is analyized on the far left according to dogma, but it’s not run according to dogma I don’t think. This is one of the many strange disconnects between chavismo and it’s apologists in academia. Your counterpart talks about Venezuela like is is some grand experiment. An experiment has some sort of plan. The regime is running the country into the ground with an infinite series of off the cuff improvisations usually adopted as cover for basic theft, corruption and ineptitude. Very very few within chavismo have even a passing acquaintance with the basic texts much less the dogma. So what we have is this absurd side show of people like the professor interpreting the slow disintegration of a state as socialist revolution.

    • exacto
      it is improvisation and corruption
      calling it socialism or dogmatic is amarillismo used by both sides!

      on the right, calling this socialism and pretending it has any form of ideology actually expressed through their actions serves to equate their own model as the one and only, the righteous logical ideology #death2commies #HailAynRand – some of these comments lauding the right frankly sound pretty dogmatic to me…

      on the left, calling this mess socialist clearly gives it an air of legitimacy, that it does not deserve in any shape or form – of being the right path to take (any bells ringing yet? hint: dogma) – whilst giving rise to ‘academics’ defending this crazy crap just because it is said to be aligned w/ their views – as you say many really have no such dogma, not even a basic understanding of most ideological texts

      this blog claims to uphold empiricism but some posts really lack it –> death2amarillismo!

  15. Ciccarielo-Maher takes my response and runs with it, arguing that having studied economics, he knows very well that “what you learn in economics lessons is actually free market dogma, and this is something the Venezuelan government has resisted and sought to create alternatives to.”
    ———

    The thought distortion here is that base-level capitalism (supply and demand, etc.) is merely a belief, as opposed to a system that exploits our basic human impulse to strive after personal gain. Personal gain is the carrot that makes people work hard and systematically toward accomplishing a goal. Seeking to create alternatives to human nature is a strategy doomed to fail per economic systems, which is one reason why staunch socialism never works. It’s subverts the work ethic needed to keep a country afloat. The alternative is a failed state. The failure of Chavismo is the outcome of removing the carrot just mentioned, or branding it as vile and undignified. With no pay off or reward for working hard, or at all, the human impulse for personal gain goes sideways into corruption, smuggling, hording, and conversely, sloth and paralysis.

    Misuse of the word “dogma” can cause all kinds of suffering. There might be alternatives to capitalism, but not to human nature.

  16. I checked out this character’s personal site.

    He describes himself as “radical”. I realise this word has been used on its own in the last few years by some lefties who want to recycle themselves as “the true ones”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_radicalism
    Obviously, the adjective radical was used for political stuff for centuries now, but on its own it is just the latest way these commies have to sell themselves.

    Basically this bloke earns his life by claiming to be “radical” and repeating the usual plattitudes of traditional extreme lefties. Just to think lots of people doing actual useful work might earn a fraction of what he gets by “teaching” US students who didn’t want to do maths or physics;

  17. “what you learn in economics lessons is actually free market dogma, and this is something the Venezuelan government has resisted and sought to create alternatives to.”

    So I guess by now we can say with confidence that the Venezuelan goverment has failed in yet another attempt of refuting Adam Smith, aka, “Father of Economics”.

    Caracas Chronicles should start selling funny t-shirts, one of them would picture Adam Smith with a defiant face on the front with a sentence below: “Winning since 1776! Keep ’em coming!” And the terrorized faces of Ciccarielo-Maher, Hanz Dieterich, Eva Golinger, etc on the back. It would sell thousands!

  18. The problem is that, in theory, planning works better. The market produces goods for those who have money to enter the market; others go without. That’s really sad! Instead, why not plan who gets what? After all, we are rational creatures, so our inputs can only make things better.

    Somebody like George C lives entirely in the world of theory; hence showing him that IN PRACTICE, markets work far better, makes no impression. He will only conclude that the execution of the plan was a failure, not that the idea of planned economy has failed.

    You have to explain why in theory also, markets are better. And that is really quite hard to do.

    Luckily, the true believers are usually such a tiny minority in comparison with those for whom facts matter.

  19. Way to go Quico. I find your post deeply offensive to Catholic beliefs. Can’t you find another allegory to prove your point? Ugh …

    Somebody who says “a belief is dogma when it’s accepted without question on the basis of authority, rather than empirical evidence” hasn’t the slightest idea of what Catholicism is about. You really shouldn’t be making this comparison if you don’t know what you’re talking about. And as for comparing Catholicism to chavismo … la tuya por si acaso.

    • Point proven?

      I’m just playin’

      I think the larger point is about damn atheists looking to find religious feeling in politics. I’m not even kidding.

    • A Venezuelan writing about dogma thinks of catholicism first. That’s normal.

      The question is this: is your faith in the Eucharist informed by the sensory experience of communion?

      Of course it isn’t. You believe in it on the authority of the bible and the church, not your senses. If your senses tell you the eucharist is the body of Christ, you got bigger problems than some guy writing in a blog.

      And that’s a-ok. Dogma is a perfectly valid basis for religious faith. It’s a horrendous basis for economic policy.

    • Being a militant Catholic myself, I was not offended but a little uncomfortable with it.

      “You believe in it on the authority of the bible and the church, not your senses.”

      This is true but incomplete.

      I believe in God because philosophically it is more likely that God exist than not. Check out the philosophical proofs for God existence say, at ReasonableFaith.org

      I believe that Jesus was God incarnate (C. S. Lewis presents a trilemma on this matter, either a lunatic, a liar or take him at his word, he is God).

      Jesus founded the Church.

      Historically the Church has been unflinching in the Eucharist teaching and this is shared with all the Orthodox churches from the east too. The Church also gave us the bible.

      Ergo, I believe that a properly ordained priest can consecrate wafers to the body, blood and divinity of the resurrected Jesus. And I do see and taste that the ‘accidents’ are still bread and wine but faith informs me that the ‘nature’ is changed.

      Catholics believe that reason does not contradict faith, but certain things, like the Eucharist are impossible to understand with our intellect and are thus revealed by God himself.

    • One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.

      While I feel badly that you were offended, Quico’s example was apt. We cannot allow every individual’s idea of what is sacred to be imposed upon everyone else. It would be impossible to open one’s mouth for fear of offending someone, somewhere.

      Religion is a deeply personal thing, and should remain so.

      • Hi Roy,

        Religion will guide the believer and he will interact in the world accordingly. So religion certainly has a place in the public square in virtue of the believer participating in it.

        Now the interaction in the public square should always be mediated with reason. I will argue a point from the basis of reason and not of dogma to the unbeliever.

        For example, what should you do with your Sunday morning? Should you go to Church? Unless you share some Christian belief it is going to be hard to make a compelling case. However it is reasonable to make Sunday a holiday. It is a good for people to rest. Should it be on Sunday? Well I would cite that there are still enough Christians in the western world to make it practical.

        • “Now the interaction in the public square should always be mediated with reason.”

          100% agreement! Look, I am an atheist, but I am not militant about it. I only get my back up about when I sense that my public space to opine is infringed upon by persons who would to claim that their right to not be offended supersedes my rights.

          FYI: I am perfectly happy with Sundays and Christmas. A day of rest and reflection is good for everyone and does not need a religious excuse. It is a cultural norm, and I exist within the same same cultural matrix. Likewise, an annual season to re-affirm our humanity and our desires for peace and brotherhood is a good thing, regardless of how we express it.

  20. 4 challenges lie ahead”\:
    1. getting the bastards out (first things first)
    2. putting in place a plan and team capable of rescuing our economy (will imply some hard times before finding a way out of the hole , and even then the result wont be perfect)
    3. holding on to power while the plan is carried out against the ferocious attacks of a Chavista opposition.
    4. Once the plan achieves the core of its goals , rooting the new order in place thru reformed institutions….. that stick….

    Its like a hurdle race ……you dont win until you jump over the fourth obstacle…..!!

  21. Yeah, exactly. That printing money like crazy causes inflation is a “free market dogma” as much as natural selection is a “Darwinist dogma”.

    And this Ciccariello-Maher guy calls himself a scientist? Alrighty then.

    Maybe we should hand over the country to the technocrats, after all.

  22. In the so called discussion Don Ciccariello doesn’t even bother to discuss your central arguments, which are:
    – price controls generate shortages
    – moneziation of debt create inflation.

    All Don Ciccariello is interested in, is to sell his own rhetorics
    – Venezuela is something different from “textbook economics”
    – the commune narrative

    He never bothered about conflicting interpretations about events inside the history of the chavistic movement, like the Nicmer Evans saga. From my point of view this gentleman just takes some anecdotes, that seems to support his own theories. And those theories aren’t even his, but copied from some “anarchistic” left wing theorists of the Western European welfare states + Yugoslavia from last centuries 80ties. In Don Ciccarriello writings I recognize a lot of topics, ideas and lines of argumentation, that I’ve allready read elsewhere. It probably has nothing to do with the real Venezuela, but all this worker self organization + workers as organic part of their local community kind of simply sells for his target group.

    There are a lot of people who are more interested in day-dreaming then to make actually things work. From the viewpoint of his customers, arguing about the sad actual empiric state of Venezuela after 17 years of chavism, just spoils the good vibrations. If your target group is into “revolutionary” day-dreaming, you better create an own discourse, doesn’t matter if it has much to do with empirical facts.

    Now its time to introduce Don Azzelini. In the german speaking countries there is another guy with italian roots, who helds some sociology assistence profesorship in an austrian university (http://www.jku.at/soz/content/e94922/e98471/index_html?team_view=section&emp=e98471/employee_groups_wiss98805/employees98816). The fun thing is, that both now are finishing books, which seems to treat the same topic:
    http://www.azzellini.net/node/2948
    https://www.amazon.de/Building-Commune-Radical-Democracy-Venezuela/dp/1784782238/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469131536&sr=8-1&keywords=ciccariello+Maher

  23. I’m deeply disturbed by the Pro-Pinochet comments, y’all…

    Why not have both austerity measures for a while, but also reinvigorated institutions so we can have some goddamn continuity instead of depending on strong men? Caudillo-adoration is what got us here.

    Also, I agree things cannot be “freebies”, but having a social safety net within the institutions does have benefits, just not missions where people leave with a bozal de arepa, afraid that if papá Chávez/Padrino knows they don’t like them, then no more arepa

  24. I’ve always wondered why the field of economics lends itself to this type of phenomena as opposed to, let’s say, physics. The ideas championed by the likes of Ciccariello-Serrano seem to negate completely the tons of ink (digital or not) spilled proving, through empirical and scientific ways, the underlying principals and policies that make economies work.

    Their efforts to try to build an alternative and credible narrative to what has been proven time and time again at this point in time is like trying to disprove Classical Mechanics (the type Newton wrote about) in physics. In a sense, I’m ultimately more forgiving of people like the Lenin’s (even Stalins and Maos) of their time because one could argue that there was still some kind of debate ongoing as to what worked or not. But, cono, todavia? As in, siglo XXI?

    So, this leads me to another question: what does this say about this type of people? Honest to God, I have no idea how to answer that question; hell, this keeps me up at night as I take my daily dose of poison from VTV before I go to bed.

    • You have a ton of people that behave in exactly the same way, but for opposite values, and are portraited by some as “serious economists” The whole “expansionary austerity” business, for example. “Trickle-down” economics. All that fun stuff.

      Basically, as economy is so deeply tied with politics, the number of people willing to reduce their economic thought to ideology is too high, because for them it was never about understanding a reality, but projecting a justification for a political bias. You start with “capital is the devil/the market is god” and then you work down from it, and if reality contradicts you then you just keep at it because of course, reality is wrong.

      • That’s absolutely correct. I work with people who think like that and it’s a pain to try to have a debate with them about the merits of what they believe in when you bring up evidence to the discussion and they bring their absolute “There’s no way I’m wrong”-liberal beliefs.

        Even though I do think they make a more valid point then Serrano does, it pisses me off how they’re not willing up to acknowledge the ideology blinders they’ve put up while they defend their position.

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