Photo: Ramon Espinosa / ModoGráfico

To Venezuelans, December 6th, 1998 is like 9-11 or the Kennedy Assassination to Americans. If you’re old enough, you remember where you were that night, when Hugo Chávez addressed the nation having just been elected president. For my part, I was in London, in a miniscule student flat in Battersea, resting before a night of coursework at the London School of Economics.

It was the days before streaming this or Twitter that, so I didn’t get to see the speech live. But I did field a string of calls from friends and family members trying to make sense of it. “Quico, all I know is a big change is coming here,” my sister Ana said. “It’s not going to be normal.”

Ana knew what was coming was different. But she didn’t foresee a plague.

The next morning I headed off to my Social Policy Planning lecture. I’d set off for graduate school in England reasoning that, ultimately, Venezuela’s problems were serious but manageable. It was a rich country, and the problems of structural adjustment were tough but not insurmountable. Eventually, I thought, people would get it that what Venezuela needed was a minimally functioning social protection system — just the rudiments of a working welfare state to bolster the democratic regime’s legitimacy.

Plagues, it turns out, always catch you unaware.

So I spent months knee-deep on actuarial tables on social insurance schemes, reading up on pensions policy design, unemployment insurance systems, figuring out how you built a social safety net that could shield people from the risks inherent in capitalism without bankrupting the state. I’d convinced myself those were the skills Venezuela would be most in need of in the next twenty years, the area where I could really make my mark.

I’ve often revisited that choice and smirked at my own naïveté. I might have studied Venutian geology and not wound up with a less relevant set of skills. If I’d followed Susana Raffalli and studied humanitarian intervention strategies instead, I’d have been left with something substantive to offer.  

But at the time, the notion that the kinds of strategies it takes to prevent children in war-torn African countries from starving would be of relevance to Venezuela within my lifetime would’ve seemed morbid and absurd.

Thinking Venezuela would turn into a normal developing country just a few technical reforms away from breaking through to mass middle class prosperity was optimistic, for sure, but well within the range of the conventionally expectable. Plagues, it turns out, always catch you unaware.

And that’s been the other, dismal outcome of these last twenty years: the unyielding regularity with which yesterday’s worst-case-scenario has become today’s reality, the way yesteryear’s paranoid ramblings have unfailingly become the new-normal.

No vale, yo no creo.

Or: it can’t last. It’s too stupid.

The phrase comes to me from Albert Camus, by way of Ibsen Martínez, who wrote one of the most devastating columns of the Chávez era about it, all the way back in 2002. Camus’s insights are worth quoting at length:

Plagues are, in fact, quite common, but it’s hard to believe in them when they are about to strike. There have been in the world as many plagues as wars, and yet, plagues and wars always catch people by surprise.

When a war starts, people say ‘this can’t last, it’s too stupid.’ And, without a doubt, war is obviously too stupid, but that doesn’t keep it from lasting.

Stupidity always insists; you would realize that if you weren’t always thinking like yourself. Our countrymen, in this respect, were like everyone else. They were human. They didn’t believe in plagues.

The plague is not made on a human scale, and so men always say that the plague is unreal, a bad dream that must pass.

But it doesn’t always pass, and from one bad dream to the next, it’s the men who pass, and the humanists first of all, because they fail to take precautions.

Our countrymen were no more guilty than others; they forgot their humility, that’s all.

They thought everything was possible for them, which meant, as a matter of course, that all plagues were impossible.

And how could they have thought of the plague, which suppresses the future, their movements and their discussions?

They thought themselves free and no one could be free so long as there were plagues.

Twenty years ago, I thought myself free. And no one could be free so long as there’s a plague.

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84 COMMENTS

  1. A Plague, a Pox on both houses.

    For me, it was the day Chavez left Yare. 1996. That’s when I knew.

    What I could never expect was it lasting as long as it has.

    • First comment I read. Not meaning to target you, but, really, you didn’t realize until 1996? Heck, I realized was back in 1976 – twenty years earlier – that the socialists could not permit the emerging middle class to persist, to spread, to learn, to expand and gain ground! The writing was all over the wall, back then. Graffiti legislation. A middle class opening up channels from the lower class would do away with the need for dictators. It would do away with the need for socialism. Dictators, socialism, socialism, dictators; it’s all centralized command. That couldn’t be allowed. I don’t know how they did it, nor who was behind it all, but it was a complete and total failure of what was relied upon to be the intellectual leadership elite of the country.

      Fancy verbiage – I almost make myself sick, when we can all see what happened. It probably got started or had its roots prior to 1976, and I didn’t see it, but by 1976 it was all in motion in a hurry. By 1980 people were talking about inflation and the economy. If it had not been Chavez, it would have been someone else, probably selected and anointed to be the figurehead. He turned out to be perfect. “Charisma” my donkey! That’s not “charisma”, it’s scam.

      • Well, back in 1976 I was more worried with how many marbles I could win from my friends, or where the best vereda could be found to build a kite.

        So, sorry for not being hugely political at age 13. Kudos to you, I guess……

        • Sorry you missed out on a lot of the fun! I thought maybe you were younger, but some teenagers are pretty sharp. I’m just trying to keep the history of it all straight. The history of socialism goes back the the 1800’s. To think that Venezuela’s fall to socialism is all about Hugo Chavez …?

          • @Gringo: Correct. Bolivar was inspired for the recent events of the Revolution Française. Actually, Bolivar tried to precisely print money without any support and what history calls ”1ra Republica” failed miserably. Then Venezuela incepted an idea into Venezuelan that debt didn’t have to be paid back. What is happening now, seems to be cyclical, except this part of the cycle is to stay here for a very long time, forever might be?

  2. While we have become better at both prediction and control, events, both natural and human, continue to elude our powers. Youth and Socialism is a particularly toxic combination in this regard because it lacks humility, the common sense realization that much is beyond our control and therefore you cannot plan all outcomes.

  3. A copy, of a copy, of a copy.
    Francisco Toro copies Ibsen Martinez.
    It turned out that the article from Ibsen Martinez borrows heavily from Albert Camus and Julian Marias. Camus talking about Nazi occupation, Marias talking about the Spanish Civil War, Ibsen talking about chavismo in 2002 and Toro talking about post-chavismo.
    WTF

  4. Chavez was a product of a plague. A plague of ignorance, poor education,aliemation and corruption already brewing.

    People talk about Chavismo as if it was a foreign curse on inocent people. No. Chavez was Venezuela. The logical result. The 20 years that followed was just more of the same: under-educated, corrupt indians pilfering the nation. Nothing surprising about that plague: you could see it coming miles away.

    • Well said. It was an it is a self inflicted plague, one of our own creation. Toro can’t help himself and he continues to insist in revisionism and mitigation of the then ruling class responsibility on the making of this mess.

      “Thinking Venezuela would turn into a normal developing country just a few technical reforms away from breaking through to mass middle class prosperity was optimistic, for sure, but well within the range of the conventionally expectable. Plagues, it turns out, always catch you unaware.”

      You did not see it coming after a major civil unrest 1989, a military coup 1992, a second military coup 1992, a presidential removal 1993, the bank crisis of 1994, the release of Chavez in 1996 and the melt down of the Punto Fijo pact thanks to AD (once more!) in 1998. The scandal after scandal after scandal, unfulfilled promises and a parody of malfeasance that cornered the population onto believing on a false messiah.

      You didn’t see it coming because you were a naïve upper class Venezuelan enjoying the life of one percenters which were completely blind, oblivious and protected of the corruption, the social struggles and the hate that people developed for AD/Copei. Whether or not directly involved in the corruption, most of you were products of that rottenness, enjoying a life style that was way beyond the reach of the common population and with owned or inherited riches difficult to reconcile under the lenses of integrity.

      Same insensitivity shown here with an article that talks more about you going to school in London than the realities of then and now. Jeeeezzzz

      • The way I see it, Colombia was way worse off than Venezuela in 1997 — much poorer, more divided, in the middle of a multi-decade low-intensity civil war, with younger, weaker democratic institutions…and all the stuff I studied in London that year would’ve served me beautifully if I was Colombian. Much of the political debate in Colombia this year is about the IPS-based health care system, about pensions, about the kind of shit I went to England to learn.

        I wasn’t crazy to think it’d be relevant. Just unlucky.

        • Look, from time to time I dream that US will do what they did in Vietnam, in Chile and even in Irak. Sometimes I dream that they do as they did in Colombia or in Grenade. Perhaps in El Salvador.

          I dream about that because it is extremely hard to fathom that these mother f-rs are still in power after 20 years sustained by Chinese and drug money.

          Now I think that the US likes that way, the Russians like that way, the Cubans and of course the Chinese.

          Venezuela, as it is, seem to work for everyone except, well Venezuelans. Having Maduro there removes 2 Mbbls/day from the market, works as cautionary tale for countries wanting to go left, books million of bbls of oil futures for the Chinese while making the Chinese sink billons of dollars and a desperate government for money gets into the very worst deals (e.g. the mine arc) thus quite an opportunity for the capital vultures. Venezuela is a cheap bargain chip for geo-political strategy whereas the Russians and Chinese manage the Venezuelan case within the balance of the middle east and the pacific. And guess what, the Venezuelan revolution is not longer an exportable product thus it is now isolated on its own failure.

          So, I do not know if I can equip Colombia being worst than Venezuela 20 years ago with some sort of matching circumstance where Venezuela can recover as Colombia did. First Colombia with its guerrilla and drugs never got too far from the US influence. Second, Colombia used the drug war as a catalyst for US to be a lot more engaged into fighting the guerrilla and last but not least, Colombia seem to have had better luck (because luck also helps) on getting effective leadership (e.g. Uribe). I think Colombia had to work a lot more for what they have while Venezuelan got the easy route of the oil income. They did not suffer the effect of the “devil’s excrement” hence their institutions and the “State” was a lot more resilient and organized than Venezuela. Last but not least, Colombia was in Bush’s and then Obama’s agenda but Venezuela wasn’t, Obama allowed Chavez to consolidate and did little to restrain the development of the dictatorship even though he knew it was going that way. Venezuela and Libya became all victims of Obama’s Pax Americana.

          So, I do not share your point of view but I wish we can say that if Colombia did it we can also do it. In either case, like in Colombia, we are going to need external help overt or covert and a new deal with the Americans which likely or not they are the only ones that can provide realistic prospects of change. Other than that is a misplaced hope that civil unrest supported by the army will be the mechanism of change. An army educated for 20 years that did not care (before and after Chavez) to shoot the very own people they suppose to protect.

    • PS. By The way Bolichico, albeit I share the core of your message I certainly take a BIG EXCEPTION to your comment “under-educated, corrupt indians pilfering the nation”.

      They were not “Indians” and you are a racist moron that get to say couple of good things (like a trained monkey) but can’t see beyond your own bigotry.

      • I think that by Indians he meant the bulk of the mixed population (itself a product of a heterogenous mix of Indians, Whites and/or Blacks) who were corrupt to the core in many cases, envious of anyone who had “two pesos” more than him, who were willing to take advantage of anyone no matter how weak he was, unable/unwilling to recognize his defects and make the effort to correct and/or strengthen his virtues.

        Without “el pueblo”, the masses, neither the oligarchs who ruled before Chavez would have succeeded, nor Chavez been elected. “El pueblo” and the Oligarchs are two sides of the same coin.

    • What about the whitney white “blanco limpio insuperable” elite, the (Looooord) Boultons, the Cisneros, the Oteros among many other good señoritos de mundo, educated in the best unversities of Europe and the US, who bombarded democracy and even supported Chavez to fulfill their wet dream of a nationalist, protectionist, charismatic demagogue who could keep ‘those negroes’ calmed while they got their preferential dollars, soft loans, subsidies to production, entry barriers and bans on imports, etc? Or you really think Chavez led a campaing giving speeches from square and park steps while his friends and family delivered fliers in street corners?

  5. The existentialist perspective: “Shit happens, life sucks, and what is the point in trying to improve the Human Condition, because, still, we all eventually die.”

    This philosophy has morphed into a kind of lazy, arrogant smugness that infects some self-styled “intellectuals” to this day, who sneer at applied science, engineering and medicine, and are quick to condemn any proposed solution to any problem.

    Thankfully, it peaked in the USA during the one-term presidency of Jimmy “Malaise Forever” Carter.

    • Imagine risking your life day in and day out by joining an underground French resistance cell and publishing an anti-Nazi newspaper under occupation just to be called lazy, arrogant and smug…

      • Well excuse me but I fail to see the connection. He was an active anti-Nazi. So was Joe Stalin. Does that mean they are above criticism? Besides I said his philosophy “morphed into…….” meaning that it was modified.

        • Larry, I think you have Albert Camus confused with Jean Paul Sartre. The author of The Plague was famously anti-Stalinist.

          Camus and Sartre were vastly different people in just about every conceivable way. They both spoke French. Camus spoke the intelligible version.

  6. That plague wasn’t Chavez, the plague was, is and always will be socialism for it is evil. Socialism was designed to enslave people, to keep the masses dumb and to make the happy few very rich. Socialism has never and will never work. But to the uneducated and lazy, which Venezuela has millions and millions of, socialism is THE answer. Doing very little or nothing whilst still be able to drink their polar lite and have their arepa every day was, is and always will be what matters to them. That’s why el bravo pueblo isn’t protesting, the want the good old days back and couldn’t give less of a fuck who steals, kills or pillage in Venezuela.

    400-500 BILLION DOLLARS AND COUNTING. Chavismo isn’t going anywhere, they have more than enough cash to keep this shitshow going for at least another 20 years.
    Gotta take your hat off to them, they have shown the world that there are no limits obtaining wealth under a socialist regime. Not one regime in the history of mankind comes even close to what these socialists have “earned”. Socialism is an incurable cancer. … it will kill you in the end!!

    • Pepe, I really do enjoy your more recent posts, but “do my grocery store” would normally mean a hold-up. Also, someone else may be “THE ONLY ONE GETTING IT RIGHT”–Bolichico in N.Y.’s twin brother, Poeta Criollo.

      • @NET. Then is mutual.

        I don’t understand the holdup thing, I’m a US citizen, live from a well earned retirement from my pension plan, 401k, and Social Security. So you can be certain I purchase my groceries not like many others including those expecting it to be for free or at a favorable ROE, or using Crypto whatever.

        So, you are not getting it right my co-blogger.

        • Pepe, no offense. It’s just that in Gringo lingo “to do someone” is to take advantage of him/her, or “to do a job” frequently can mean a robbery, like “to do my grocery store”–all in god jest. Saludos, NET.

          • When you speak five languages you tend to be very literal. So even in my dirtiest thinking, I would not interpret my lingo as coming from the Sopranos or the Godfather. I do make many mistakes in all of those languages because my brain has a chip with limited memory size. Then age, stress, and haste are my worse enemies, aside anything looking alike Socialism. Thanks.

            PS: I DO HATE THE EULOGY TO CHAVEZ, ETC INCLUDING SOCIALISM. THIS VENEZUELA MESS STARTED WELL BEFORE, IN 1958. OR BETTER OFF, WITH BOLIVAR ITSELF. EVEN POOR FRANCISCO MIRANDA HAD TO ABANDON THIS ”BOCHINCHE”, ETC.

      • I forgot to say where I live: in rich Texas. BTW, dislike cleptozuela or Whateverzuela, the two largest oil and gas terminals are being built in Texas using the riches from this God blessed land. So my sons and their descendants can work and live decently. God bless them. Fortunately for them Chavez negated passports to them right in the year 2001, almost coincidental with worst tragedy of this country

        Chavez and Maduro 20 years are nothing compared.

  7. “…how you built a social safety net that could shield people from the risks inherent in capitalism without bankrupting the state”

    What risks? Capitalism has worked every time its been used. It is the solution, not the problem. Without Capitalism, even “democratic socialism” wouldn’t exist. BECAUSE SOMEBODY HAS TO PAY THE BILLS. And don’t think you aren’t making the same mistakes as the Chavists with your “grand plans” that look great on paper.

    All of these social solutions are parasitic. Yet the acolytes of Marx have no problem whatsoever pointing an accusing finger at vile Capitalism.

    Now the world gets to see what Marx has brought in Venezuela. You would think that the Justice Warriors for Socialism would be more contrite instead of making excuses for the epic fails.

    • In case of eminent an social collapse just use “It is not real socialism anyways”, just remember it is a registered trademark of every smug intellectual ever.

      • I can’t get enough of those who blindly love capitalism…as long as gains are privatized, but losses are socialized. They seem to have learned nothing from the last 100 years.

        • Capitalist Gains mean jobs and stock profits which benefit those who are smart enough and work hard enough to enjoy them.

          A socialist claiming that a capitalist hasn’t learned anything in the last 100 years is not merely a stretch, it’s The Twilight Zone.

          • Ira: I am not a socialist. I am quite happy with capitalism, but I don’t drink the cool aid about all of it. Every political/economic system has virtues and flaws. Blindly adoring capitalism is a bit silly in my view. Again, everyone loves capitalism when it comes to privatizing gains and socializing losses. For recent memory, recall the market collapse of 2008? Recall too big to fail? And earlier, recall the US market collapse of 29? Gee, were it nor for government intervention at the time, one wonders where we’d be today.

          • hgdam,

            IMO, the market collapse of 2008, too big to fail, etc. are a direct result of government intervention, not saved by it. If I am recklessly driving the car in which you are a passenger, and I crash the car by my recklessness, but, I manage to get you out of the car to safety right before it bursts into flames – was my intervention what saved the day for you?

            The US does not have unfettered capitalism. Nor does any other place in the world that I am aware of. The state always, ALWAYS mooches off the system and creates corruption in the form of croney capitalism (USA) or just plain old stealing (Venezuela).

          • Many would argue we would be better off without those government bailouts.

            I myself don’t know. Too complicated. But I tend to believe that drastic events call for drastic measures (like during the U.S. Depression), but on the whole, it’s still Capitalism.

      • Lots of great ideas come out of Germania. Notably the current educational paradigm we embrace all over the “civilized world” called the Prussian Model.

        Turns out that Fred the Great couldn’t get any tangible allegiance out of his subjects, so Fred decided that he needed to “socialize” education (away from the Church) and allegiance to Greater Germany could be assured. Fred needed loyal German automatons who could A. count bullets and B. read a field manual.

        And when our Glorious Electeds saw what awesome, dutiful and patriotic soldiers (err… students) that Fred was pumping out of his state schools, they wanted a piece of that action. Enter Horace Mann… naturally the plan couldn’t be sold as something so militaristic, so the jingoistic American automatons were taught to A. balance a checkbook and B. read a newspaper. All the while saluting the flag and pledging fealty to Uncle. Critical thinking? Not needed. Besides, that is what PRIVATE schools were for.

        Below is the actual speech written by the “Education President”, Woodrow Wilson.

        https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Meaning_of_a_Liberal_Education

        Let us go back and distinguish between the two things that we want to do; for we want to do two things in modern society. We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks. You cannot train them for both in the time that you have at your disposal. They must make a selection, and you must make a selection. I do not mean to say that in the manual training there must not be an element of liberal training; neither am I hostile to the idea that in the liberal education there should be an element of the manual training. But what I am intent upon is that we should not confuse ourselves with regard to what we are trying to make of the pupils under our instruction. We are either trying to make liberally-educated persons out of them, or we are trying to make skillful servants of society along mechanical lines, or else we do not know what we are trying to do.

        Socialism 101. All for the state.

      • Another Gringo: Do pray tell how government intervention led to the 2008 collapse. Last I checked, the mortgage-based securities that private banking invented and which directly led to the market collapse had nothing to do with the government. The banks privatized the gains, but the taxpayers were left to pay for their mess. How is it that the collapse of Chrysler and other large corporations that had to be bailed out was the fault of the government? Scratching my head on this end.

        • The US federal government going back (at least) to Clinton, but also during W, created housing lending rules that encouraged, if not required reckless lending on home mortgages to people that had no chance of affording the payments. The rest was a natural outcome of this interference. Yes, private actors exploited the government rules. This is part of the natural outcome.

          • AG: I beg to strongly disagree. Nothing in the government policies required reckless lending. Rather, mortgage brokers and lenders took a blind eye to poor credit customers because they made commissions on closing loans, not on closing good loans. In turn, bankers such a Lehmann Brothers et al. took advantage of deregulation and packaged these poor loans into complex securities that not even them could understand. Then, the same bankers shorted the market. Everyone lost money except for the bankers who issued these bad loans, and then bet the market would tank. And when the bankers lost money, they had to be bailed out by the taxpayers. Perfect scam of privatizing gains (often irresponsibly) and socializing losses. You can’t be irresponsible and greedy, and then say the government made me do this. That’s childish.

          • hagdam:

            You say nothing in U.S. government policy required reckless lending, but at the same time, you say deregulation caused the reckless lending.

            Isn’t deregulation ALSO government policy!?

            You really have to think this through.

          • hgdam December 3, 2018 at 7:31 pm
            And when the bankers lost money, they had to be bailed out by the taxpayers. Perfect scam of privatizing gains (often irresponsibly) and socializing losses.
            Agreed. However, your comment indicates that you didn’t bother to go to the link I provided in my comment (December 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm) , which points out that Senator Dodd of CT- lots of insurance companies in CT- added a clause in a ~ 1991 bill that enabled investment banks and insurance companies to get federal bailouts.

            Democrat Chris Dodd- friend of the Sandinistas and also friend of lots of government regulations- Dodd Frank act- but also friend of crony capitalism as shown by how he enabled banks and insurance companies to get bailouts.

            As I repeatedly said to Alejandro in that comment thread I linked to, I will repeatedly say to you: Read the book Reckless Endangerment. At the link, several comments down, you will find a Google Books link which will enable you to read the book at no cost.

          • Nothing in the government policies required reckless lending.

            For decades the feds pushed giving mortgages to those who didn’t qualify by standard criteria. The subprime scandal was the result. Read Reckless Endangerment.

          • Boludo Tejano: Read my reply to AG above. You can’t blame the government for issuing bad loans, but you can blame your own greed. You can’t blame the government for shortening the market, but you can blame your own greed. Funny how these bright capitalists take credit for their successes, but must blame the government when they screw up.

          • I suggest you read the link regarding how Senator Chris Dodd enabled investment banks and insurance companies to get federal bailouts- which increased their risk-taking behavior. Also note that for decades the feds pushed granting mortgages to those who were judged to be poor financial risks. The 2008 crash indicated that yes, they were poor financial risks.

            As I told Alejandro, read the book.

          • Dear Boludo Tejano, I agree with everything you say. There is something that needs to be added to the discussion:

            Bailout is equivalent to Nationalization. This by no means money that’s coming from tax payers via the IRS or some funky taxation schemes like they love doing in Europe.

            So, yes bailout is a treasury loan. But the collateral is the good or services of the company being ”helped”. Use the AIG example, the Treasury made I think 4 or more dollars on every dollar they invested in junk stock shares. When AIG was back in their feet. Then the Treasury sold their AIG shares at much higher price.

            I’m sure all will disagree but this is the same the FDR did in his time after the horrible stock market crash of 1929.

            This is why the US Government rules through the SEC along the Federal Reserve is trying to do all the time

            The way the whole discussion is going seems like we taxpayers gave the money to AIG for free.

            Proofs?

            Thanks

          • Boludo: I did look at the link. I have not read the book. One thing is to encourage homeownership, and another is to make bad loans. I’ll grant you that the actions of Fannie led to lending to suboptimal customers. In my view, the main issue is how the banks reacted. The banks were deregulated in the 80s so that they could start doing mortgages, but the deregulation left many loopholes in place. And the banks and mortgage brokers got greedy because they knew that there was always a chance of a federal bailout. Mortgage brokers were in cahoots with bankers to make these stupid sub-par loans. Look, just because my neighbors leave their doors wide open does not give me the excuse to loot them. That seems to be the revisionist excuse made in the link you mentioned. Moreover, No one told the bankers to take these poor loans and sausage them into convoluted securities. Plus, no one told the bankers to short the market either. I can see others (not the bankers) betting on the banks to fail. But it does not make sense that some of the bankers did that. That means they knew they were likely to fail. I think it takes brass balls to blame the federal government for the 2008 market debacle.
            I won’t ask you to read a book, but maybe watch a great docummentary called inside job: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inside_Job_(2010_film)

          • And the banks and mortgage brokers got greedy because they knew that there was always a chance of a federal bailout…. I think it takes brass balls to blame the federal government for the 2008 market debacle.
            It takes brass balls to ignore Chris Dodd’s adding federal bailouts for insurance companies and investment banks back in 1991.

    • ‪Totally right. ‬

      ‪Reminded me of this article I recently saw, originally published in 1953, ‬On Communism. “Let’s Defend Capitalism” by Henry Hazlitt https://mises.org/library/lets-defend-capitalism

      “The true opposite of Communism is Capitalism. The Communists know it, but most of the rest of us don’t.

      This is the real reason for the ideological weakness of the opposition to Communism, and for the ineffectiveness of most of the propaganda against it — particularly the official propaganda, up to now, of the State Department and the Voice of America, and of the Western governments generally. All these set up “Democracy” as the antithesis of Communism, PARTLY BECAUSE THEY ARE CONFUSED ENOUGH TO BELIEVE IT IS, AND PARTLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NEITHER THE WILL NOR THE COURAGE TO DEFEND CAPITALISM.” (My emphasis

      Stop trying to make apologies for Calitalism, and actually start implementing it!

      • The caterwauling from the political Left is epic. “We cannot have unrestrained Capitalism!” when in reality, Capitalism is EXACTLY what has lifted more people out of poverty than any political, religious or economic system ever “devised”.

        Q. In the history of mankind, has socialism EVER created a single job?

        A. Not a single job has been created since the beginning of time by socialism, as Socialism is bureaucratic and parasitic. It cannot exist in a vacuum, and ONLY exists when it can take (by threat of force) wealth from those who created it.

        If the bleeding hearts HONESTLY want to lift everyone out of abject poverty, they would embrace every tenet of Capitalism

        • I fail to understand the fetichism that some here have with accusing Toro and the staff of CC to be socialists. Toro’s point was that capitalism does have some problems, not that Venezuela needs socialism. I would take capitalism over socialism anytime, but it would be silly of me to think that we can leave society in the invisible hands of the market (see my earlier message above to Ira, and its point about privatizing gains and socializing losses). Capitalist states often and vigorously engage in regulating and influencing markets.

          • Your only examples of socializing losses were what? You didn’t provide any, and I have a feeling many here would disagree with your definition of that.

          • Ira: What do you think the 2008 bailout of the banking and auto industry by the US government was? The taxpayers were left to pay the mess from the irresponsibility (particularly in the banking sector) of private companies. That’s precisely my point about privatizing gains and socializing losses.

          • The banking bailouts were necessary. The auto bailouts were KIND of necessary, but those monies were mostly paid back. I don’t know how you put a dollar figure on how the banks “paid it back” in the ensuing years. That’s way damn complicated to measure when you consider the implications of bank failure.

            You also have to remember the timing of all this, towards the tail end of a presidential campaign. In fact, the Republicans and Dems coming together to fix it…with McCain and Obama suspending their campaigns…was a glorious example of Americanism.

            And Capitalism.

            So I wouldn’t call this Socializing losses, but what the fuck do I know? This is just my perspective as far as the semantics go.

          • I must ride the 2008 bandwagon. Allow me to say that you all might be, potentially, wrong.

            Like CAP. The crisis that we didn’t suffer at all in Texas, was not due to regulation or lack thereof.

            It was caused by GREED damned it.

            If those living in America, don’t hold their safety belt now, then you better go back to Whateverzuela.

            Please read this article about subprime in auto-lending https://www.wsj.com/articles/investors-rev-up-the-risk-in-subprime-auto-deals-1543680043?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=3

            If you can’t read it, I’ll be happy to send a private copy.

            Secondly, if you all follow finance news, the Treasury bonds yield curves are dangerously getting closer to each other.

            I mean better be safe than sorry (or is it the other way around)

            This has nothing to do with capitalism or socialism but the opposite.

          • I fail to understand the fetichism that some here have with accusing Toro and the staff of CC to be socialists.

            Then perhaps Francisco Toro shouldn’t make the claim that the economic collapse of Chavezuela doesn’t have anything to do with socialism. Francisco Toro in the WaPo: No, Venezuela doesn’t prove anything about socialism.

            Dictionary definition of socialism: means of production owned by the state. PDVSA, etc. ring a bell? Venezuela was already partly socialist before 1999. El Finado increased government ownership. i.e. the degree of socialism in Venezuela “Expropiese” ring a bell?

            By any standards, the increase in the degree of socialism in Chavismo’s two decades in power has been a disaster. But Toro informs us that the increase in the degree of socialism in the last two decades in Venezuela, and the economic collapse of Venezuela, has nothing to do with socialism.

            Toro’s WaPo article deliberately ignores the failures of Socialism in Latin America that occurred before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Carlos Machado Allison, the go-to guy for Venezuelan agriculture, has pointed out that from 1998 to 2016, per capita crop production in Venezuela has fallen from 780 to 500 Kg/capita- a decline of 36%. (prodavinci)

            This collapse of agricultural production in Chavezuela- with “land reform” and price controls, is very similar to what happened in two Marxist/Socialist countries in Latin America: Allende’s Chile from 1970-73 and Sandinista Nicaragua from 1979-90. Like Chavezuela, both Allende’s Chile and Sandinista Nicaragua had “land reform” and price controls. Both countries also had high inflation- though in Nicaragua the collapse in agricultural production occurred before hyperinflation took effect. From 1970 to 1973, net per capita agricultural production fell 18% in Chile. From 1979 to 1980, net per capita agricultural production fell 39% in Nicaragua. It didn’t fall during the Sandinista insurrection from 1978-79- it fell when Sandinista “land reform” and price controls took effect.

            If Toro doesn’t want to be accused of being a socialist, then perhaps he should write articles pointing out the above.

            http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI
            Net per capita Production Index Number (2004-2006 = 100)

      • The eulogy of socialism is mystifying. Go see how that has worked in France or Spain, or the Soviet Union

        I’m truly scratching my bold head.

      • This is comical.

        So according to @Super, capitalism has never been implemented

        Can you support that incomprehensible statement?

        This site is my great daily amusement park. Some people are brilliant but others, especially the communists or far-lefty socialists make me LOL for the most part.

        Not that I disagree all the time. I learn arguments for my Geopolitics class. People in Texas have no clue about a country as rich as Texas can be so boldly poor and Venezuelan attempt to justify their ”humanitarian” situation asking for donations or free money and free bailouts.

        I will write to both senators Cruz and Cornin to further alert of what’s a country that doesn’t deserve any attention or try to improve anything.

        I keep arguing. It’s funny. Socialists are mediocre and destroy everything they touch. Examples: from Europe to Aftica to LatAm. Too many to name.

  8. “They forgot their humility, that’s all.”

    IMO, that’s the crux of the whole shebang. A wise leadership recognizes that they don’t have all the answers. In fact per a world with so many moving parts, the best approaches need continually updating. The reverse of this is narcissism, believing that there is only one way to skin a cat and you have it, in spades, and as Maduro recently said, “Nothing can stop us.” This is tragically born out with the total incapacity of Chavismo to negotiate or change, applying the same methods no matter the scale of the plague.

    If nothing else can be said about Chavismo, their total lack of humility remains their defining characteristic. All the other woes issue from this one character trait.

  9. “To Venezuelans, December 6th, 1998 is like 9-11 or the Kennedy Assassination to Americans. If you’re old enough, you remember where you were that night, when Hugo Chávez addressed the nation having just been elected president…”

    Oh yeah.

    It’s exactly the same.

    Roll eyes.

  10. Yea, it took us all by surprise, even the ones that were not as surprised.

    I mean, 20 years ago, I voted. I spent a lot of time telling my friends that if Chávez was elected, I was going to leave the country.

    Chávez was elected, and I left the country. First months of 99 and I was in Spain.

    But even then, I didnt think it was going to be this bad. I knew it was going to be bad, because for starters the country had been on a downard trayectory for years, and Chávez wasnt the guy that was going to fix that, and I feared he was going to do stupid things. But at that time both the size of the disaster and the grip they would come to have on the country were something that you only could get in a nightmare.

    That it would be 20 years and the end is not on sight, and the magnitude of the disaster is on par with actual wars…

  11. F.T., don’t self-flagellate over the failures of Chavez–in ’98 many establishment types didn’t see the coming Plague (OS lent his private jet to ferry Ch. around the Country campaigning). Chavez, counseled by old-fox Miquelena, talked the good talk–downsizing Govt. bureaucracy/eliminating Govt. corruption (including free rides on PDVSA jets)/ not harming private business-property/etc. (if this sounds familiar, it’s the same speech given by AMLO this past weekend). There’s nothing worse than an even-budding socialist self-flagellating in public for all to see, although some might give you a pass because of the influence of the LSOE on your still-impressionable brain. Chavez was: grossly un-/under-qualified for the job; full of social resentment for his pata-en-el-suelo origins; inherently/naturally corrupt; and under the influence of his far-more-evil Castro-Communist older brother Adan, typical of many of his Venezuelan brethren, as per Bolichico/Poeta. But you, as an upper-class educated intellectual, are free from all these lower-class constraints, and can freely embrace Capitalism as the Holy Grail solution to Venezuela’s long climb out of Socialist Plague Purgatory.

      • Try putting every dime ever confiscated by SSA from every citizen into a “safe” 403k/401k over a lifetime, and see which account the sheeple prefer. INstead, we get periodic warnings about how Social Security is collapsing and needs to be “shored up”.

        Depending on the calculations, the recipient (of the above theoretical account) receives from 6-9x what Social Security pays out. And who wouldn’t like that? (the county employees of Galveston Texas sure do!)

        https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/us/how-privatized-social-security-works-in-galveston.html

        But… privatizing Social Security means less money for our Glorious Electeds to play with. And playing with OUR WEALTH = THEIR POWER. Can’t have John Q. Public having control over HIS wealth…

      • Social security is usually funded mainly on individual capitalist employer/worker contributions (over min. 20 years in U.S.). Socialist-minded govts. frequently glom on to these contributions for alternative current spending, leaving social security under-funded (as in the U.S.). Now, you might mention the 25% or so of U.S. citizens receiving food stamps–that’s a real socialist boondoggle.

        • What an incoherent post. SS is better in the USA than most SS around the too twenty countries. Either this NET. is a communist or a disgraced ignorant

          Work for any of the top 250 companies in the USA (Please read WSJ today). Or any of the subsequent 250, including my ex-employer, not in the list because is not publicly traded,

          You work hard, make a good income, and you’ll get SS benefitx1.5, Medicare A, B, N. Pension Plan and when you reach 71, you start collecting a bit of your 401k. If you’re in the 30s make sure you save at least 15% per paycheck. Be super aggressive in your investments. By the time you’re 65, you can go live in the Bahamas

          All the BS of the NET. type of guys, please ignore. Again it’s all misinformation with a purpose, tell you Chavez and Maduro had been better off if and if and if.

          • Pepe, you are well-meaning, and even likeable, but you simply don’t understand my post; but, then again, maybe I’m just a disgraced ignorant communist (at heart)….

      • Let each man shovel his own snow corridor to his capitalist office, constructed unconstrained by Municipal Building Codes, and we will have reached Utopia.

  12. Mr. Toro

    Thank you for Caracas Chronicles. I can visualize you in a tiny studio in Battersea – I bet it felt cold and damp in winter! Over fifty years ago I stayed at my grandmother’s slum in nearby Clapham Junction, and I still recall the cold and damp and an atmosphere so thick with coal pollution that at times you could taste it.

    I fully understand and sympathize with your growing disappointments over the last twenty years.

  13. @BernardHood: I guess you are against the Brexit but didn’t vote in the referendum. I’d like to hear your opinion as it may help the greater cause.

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