High Inflation, Toilet Paper Shortages Are a Small Price for an Oil-Rich Venezuela to Pay for Socialism and Screwing the 'Wealthy'

Some Western leftists still defend Venezuela


every step you take
Stella Kramer

While the Western media may be squarely focused on the crisis in Ukraine, especially now that there's a recognizable "villain" in Russia, protests in Venezuela continue even as the government holds on to power. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez spent 14 years as president, building his idea of a "Bolivarian" socialist revolution. During that time, he became something of a darling to some Western leftists. Then he died and was replaced by Nicolas Maduro, his successor, who barely won the presidential election last year despite mobilizing even the defense ministry for his campaign. Venezuela is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world, but you might not be able to tell by its economic condition, especially since Maduro took power. The country has experienced shortages and price controls on everything from toilet paper to used cars.

As usual, even with a bounty of natural resources, socialism, a system that rejects economic realities and laws, was bound to fail. And as the veneer of chavismo is chipped away by the ham-handed Maduro, Venezuela's government is finding less allies in the West ready to defend it. Enter Mark Weisbrot, a Westerner who will likely never have to live under the nightmare that is full-throttled socialism, writing for the Guardian with a vapid defense of Venezuela's government. Forget the price controls, forget the state violence (it was provoked, according to Weisbrot), forget the arrest of a prominent opposition leader (the Venezuelan government is only being "portrayed" as repressive), Venezuela is not Ukraine, writes Weisbrot, because the conflict in Venezuela is about rich vs. poor, left vs. right. You can read the whole cringe-worthy thing here, but I'm only going to subject you to the closing:

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles tried to bridge this divide with a makeover, morphing from his prior right-wing incarnation into Venezuela's Lula in his presidential campaigns, praising Chávez's social programs and promising to expand them. But he has gone back and forth on respect for elections and democracy, and – outflanked by the extreme right (Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado), last week refused offers of dialogue by the president. At the end of the day, they are all far too rich, elitist, and right wing (think of Mitt Romney and his contempt for the 47%) for a country that has repeatedly voted for candidates running on a platform of socialism.

Back in 2003, because it did not control the oil industry, the government had not yet delivered much on its promises. A decade later, poverty and unemployment have been reduced by more than half, extreme poverty by more than 70%, and millions have pensions that they did not have before. Most Venezuelans are not about to throw all this away because they have had a year and a half of high inflation and increasing shortages. In 2012, according to the World Bank, poverty fell by 20% – the largest decline in the Americas. The recent problems have not gone on long enough for most people to give up on a government that has raised their living standards more than any other government in decades.

"Most Venezuelans," writes Weisbrot. It's the kind of intellectual dishonesty you can expect from the leftist apologists. Remember, Maduro defeated Capriles by a razor-thin margin, something successors of popular leaders are usually able to avoid. But who cares when class warfare can be waged? The "47 percent" might as well be treated like the "1 percent." Weisbrot conveniently whitewashes the sorry state of affairs in Venezuela, because he gets to live in a first world country where the every-day worries of Venezuelans are largely unimaginable. It's not just high inflation and shortages, for example. Venezuela has among the weakest rule of law in the world, according to the World Justice Report, with more than half of government officials involved in corruption and three-quarters of Venezuelans feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods at night. Crime soared under Hugo Chavez, and Venezuela is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world; there were nearly 28,000 murders in 2013.

The ongoing protests in Venezuela, while largely ignored in the Western media, do in fact have something in common with the protests that happened in Ukraine: they were both sparked, at least in part, by a government that was out of touch with people. In that way, Weisbrot provides a useful lesson in how blind adherence to ideological dogmas leads to government leaders, policy analysts, and other political operators to be so out of touch with the people their politics and policies hurt. The quest for socialism is only democratic insofar as a razor-thin majority can impose its will on a minority not much smaller than it, in the name of class warfare or envy or some twisted misappropriation of social justice.

NEXT: The Neon Jungle Favors a Museum over an Arcade

Venezuela Socialism Inflation Crime Ukraine

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

103 responses to “High Inflation, Toilet Paper Shortages Are a Small Price for an Oil-Rich Venezuela to Pay for Socialism and Screwing the 'Wealthy'

  1. Newsweek’s rambling non-retraction retraction?

    Ms. Goodman’s research was conducted under the same high editorial and ethical standards that have guided Newsweek for more than 80 years. Newsweek stands strongly behind Ms. Goodman and her article. Ms. Goodman’s reporting was motivated by a search for the truth surrounding a major business story, absent any other agenda. The facts as reported point toward Mr. Nakamoto’s role in the founding of Bitcoin.

    1. I hope this guy, if he’s just an innocent bystander, sues them our of existence. Newsweek really, really stuck its neck out when it published that story.

      1. Didn’t he claim he was the guy she was looking for? Or did she just do a piece on him and he was non-commital the whole time?

        1. That part is a he said she said. He’s now denying it, and all of a sudden his english is bad.

          1. You know who else had bad English?

            1. me

        2. He’s issued a couple of public denials. That doesn’t mean he’s not lying, but it’s a very risky move for Newsweek to proceed at this point.

          1. I don’t read Newsweek, to protect my brain, so it was an honest question. Also, do they have any assets to risk? Were they the one that got sold for $1?

            1. I dunno – I don’t read it either. But they’re obviously still publishing shit and paying people, so they must have something in the bank.

        3. I guess others might have taken on his name as pseudonym.

      2. Yup, and all based on a completely stupid quote. “I’m not involved in “it” anymore”

        Up to the reader to assume what “it” is. Build 4500 words around it, and never back down.

        1. Perhaps his involvement to.lending in exchange.for something.

  2. So, weisbrot’s applying for the Walter Duranty prize?


  3. Venezuela’s socialism is a distribution of all the candy to the well-connected rich and the vote-possessing poor.

    And all of this is beingdone, with the Western Left’s suport, without any attention given to fixing the massive problems afflicting the candy factory or a thought to what happens when the sugar cane fields no longer produce.

    Because they want it now, daddy!

    1. As much as the left continually likes to imagine capitalists as inheritance-having Veruca Salts, the reality is quite the opposite. The unearned trust fund kids are often the most virulent lefties while the self-made man who makes himself a modest fortune selling toilet seats is the man of the right.

      “But toilet seats are so much less cultured than a kid scribbling “art” in a loft paid for by daddy.” /SWPL

      1. Thank you sudden!

  4. So Venezuela is Muri Buri Land?

    1. Defeating yuppie culture!

  5. …socialism, a system that rejects economic realities and laws, was bound to fail.

    It, like so many other failing endeavors, ignores human nature.

    1. more than ignore, it runs counter to, and tries to change human nature.

      1. This. The central progressive philosophy is to build a better society by building better people.

        Your body your choice? Yeah no, this ain’t the 60s anymore…

        1. “Your body your choice” only applied to orifices below the neck.

  6. Hey, did everyone know today is International Women’s Day?

    That’s cool.

    Does anyone know when International Men’s Day is?

    1. March 14. Steak and blowjob day.

    2. Yeah, it’s called “Steak & Blowjob Day”.

      And even though it’s some sort of women’s day, I have no prospect of getting laid. WTF kind of women’s day is that?!?!?

      1. Are the bars closed in your part of the DC sprawl? Because it seems like a good pickup line to use about 11pm.

        1. I’m monogamous. The squeeze is in Puerto Rico. Humbug.

          1. Oh, right. Everybody’s partnered up now. Sorry. After the baby, I assume that everyone who doesn’t have one is single or might as well be.

          2. Well you could have mentioned this before I took the time to post below!


          3. The squeeze is in Puerto Rico

            You are a lucky woman to be with such a caring man. He clearly understands the plight of women so well that he celebrates International Women’s Day by hanging out with international women.

            1. Well, technically not since it’s Puerto Rico. Regardless I would never blame a (single) straight guy for going to Puerto Rico to meet women

              1. Nor I. My ethnic weaknesses where women are concerned are middle eastern and latina. Needless to say, it forces me to have a ridiculously high tolerance to drama and crazy. But I guess that applies fairly equally to women in general*

                *this is why there are no female libertarians

            2. The squeeze does love the Latin ladies. I’m sure he’s having a helluva boobalicious time.

              1. boobalicious time.

                Really? It’s the lower half that catches my interest.

                *this is why there are no female libertarians

                1. I know one Puerto Rican girl personally, and while her boobs are nice, she has no-kidding the nicest backside I’ve ever seen on a girl

                  (And she’s also a really cool and nice human being)

      2. Speaking of getting laid, I never heard about your ski adventure.

        1. HA! Definitely no laying in Park City (for me). It was awesome. I really liked Utah and Park City in particular. The people are all super-friendly and I didn’t see an ugly person the entire time (they’re all scrubbed up and rosy-cheeked and wholesome-looking).

          Here’s a video screen capture of me hittin’ it hard on the beginner slope 🙂

          1. I’m semi-seriously considering a move to Park City. Haven’t been there in quite a while.

            It looks like you have some decent speed there. What run is that, Claimjumper?

            Also, I should get a helmet.

            1. Really? I finally meet the other libertarians in SoCal and now they’re all gonna abandon me to suffer the slings and arrows of Jerry’s World alone?

              1. Not for at least 2 years. It would be nice to take the training wheels off of my guns, though.

            2. It was Claimjumper – damn you’re good!

              We skiied Bonanza most of the time – Homerun, Claimumper, Broadway, etc.

          2. I assume you borrowed those pants from SugarFree’s fall wardrobe.

            1. NutraSweet doesn’t wear pants.

              1. That’s why he hasn’t noticed.

          3. The people are all super-friendly and I didn’t see an ugly person the entire time (they’re all scrubbed up and rosy-cheeked and wholesome-looking).

            That’s one reason I love snowboarding, all the women just seem so… beautiful

            1. Also, racist. Snow sports are a dog whistle.

              1. rosy-cheeked and wholesome-looking

                Hey, don’t look at me, Nikki was the one who used the “W” word.

                1. I mean Kristen. Sorry. Now I’ll be accused of saying they all look alike.

      3. I hear Deuce Bigalow is available, Kristen.

      4. Kristen…look…it’s a bit of an imposition but tell me where you are, I’ll drop by and tend to all your International Womens Day needs.

        House calls…just another service the private sector provides!

        1. If it’s anything like Mother’s Day this will mean you’ll be doing the laundry, feeding and taxiing the spawn around, and getting yelled at for doing it wrong.

          1. The complaint above referred specifically to Kristens assumed inability to…ahem…get laid… on that holiest of days.

            If she wants to add options or upgrades I’m sure something can be arranged!

        2. I’m reporting your whorish ways to the FBI! HUMAN TRAFFICKING OVER HERE! FISH NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED!

    3. Apparently, women need a special day to feel equal to men.

      Unequal treatment…leads to equal treatment?

    4. That joke was stale as dried shit when you were using it about mother’s day back in the 4th grade.

    5. It’s tomorrow. It’s a pretty big deal across the pond

    6. Every day is International Men’s Day, Restoras.

  7. and millions have pensions that they did not have before.

    What could be worth more than an IOU from a kleptocratic caudillo?

    1. What could be worth more than an IOU from a kleptocratic caudillo?

      Free healthcare in the US…….Duh!

    2. “The new pensions are here! The new pensions are here! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this pension report every day! This is the kind of spontaneous benefit – your name in a pension list – that makes people. I’m in the money! Things are going to start happening to me now.”

      1. “I am not a bum. I’m a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends, and… my thermos.”

        1. What about the lampshade? and the ashtray?

  8. I just love the fact that they fell for it again! Political pattern recognition….how do it work?

  9. What is Venezuelan socialism but an accelerated form of central-government planning that is practiced in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.?

    1. cw|3.7.14 @ 1:04PM|#
      “What is Venezuelan socialism but an accelerated form of central-government planning that is practiced in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.?”

      How many timed do the dofusses watch the experiment, see the same damn result and still claim “you hate the poor!”?

      1. The problem is always that the wrong TOP. MEN. were in charge, Sevo. Always.

  10. If Chavez hadn’t been assassinated by the CIA, Venezuela would still be on the path to social justice!

    1. Seriously, although only the most paranoid will be declaiming the CIA assassination, the story will be that Chavez’s death & successor ruined everything. Maduro will be the Stalin to Chavez’s Lenin?although Maduro was popularly elected and actually stood for the office.

      1. Although it’s more likely he was poisoned or otherwise done away with in Cuba. And Maduro spent many years in Cuba, he was hand picked to be Chavez’ successor.

        I hate conspiracy theories, but that doesn’t mean conspiracies don’t exist. Probably Chavez did die of cancer and the Cubans did their best to save him. But I’d find a Cuban conspiracy much more believable than a CIA plot.

  11. So, I am looking at getting an MLB.TV subscription this year instead of the Extra Innings pacakge from my internet/tv/telco provider.

    I ran across this restriction that has me scratching my head:

    ?All live San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics games will be blacked out in the U.S. territory of Guam

    WTH? Are the inhabitants of Guam equally divided into opposing armed and violent camps that support the Giants and As?

    1. Maybe it’s like the Reds, Whites, Greens and Blues in ol’ Byzantium.

    2. Usually does that with live home feeds within the home market. Maybe the Guamoles all just watch bay team games?

      1. The rational behind that is that they want people to buy tickets and attend games. Are there incredibly cheap flights from Guam to SFO or something?

        1. The Gigantes have no trouble selling out every game at AT&T.

          I imagine that the rationale is more of a content delivery agreement with cable providers. Can’t have people opting out of the other 900 channels when all they want is baseball.

          1. Yes, but you can’t get the Bay Area cable TV sports channel in Guam.

            The state of Iowa, home to ZERO MLB teams, has SIX MLB teams blacked out.

            1. Hopefully including the home broadcasts of the White Sox. Hawk is. the. worst.

    3. So as a Doyers fan, I’m now bound to hate residents of Guam?

    4. It just means the Guam is assigned as territory for the Giants and A’s. It really sucks if you are in Iowa. I think there are like 4 teams that you may be blacked out from because they are claimed as being home territory.

  12. Define “poverty” (and “extreme poverty”). I’m having a hard time seeing how people who can’t even get basic goods like toilet paper have had a significant increase in their standard of living.

    1. They have “pensions”! They can buy all the toilet paper they’d ever want… someday!

      1. Depends on the rate of inflation.

        1. Good point. Their pensions will someday be used for toilet paper.

    2. How poor were they before? A move from say, no indoor plumbing to indoor plumbing but no TP is definitely an improvement.

      1. That’s a fair point, and Venezuela was certainly no economic paradise before Chavez (nor was it an example of free market capitalism as leftists seem to think, and I’m pretty sure most Venezuelans at least had access to toilet paper 15-20 years ago), but there’s clearly been major economic mismanagement and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

      2. In a warm place like that, I’d take it outside before I gave up paper. But that’s just me?I go thru a lot of toilet paper for a man; you don’t want to know about my duties.

        1. If you can believe propaganda like the protesters are just a few students or oligarchs wanting to destabilize the government, you can probably also believe the propaganda that most Venezuelans are better off now.

          My daughter married a Venezuelan and went to live there with him in 2000. They were able to leave in 2011. I saw many changes when I would visit her, none of them positive. She, of course, could observe many many more.

          There is literally not one single social indicator in Venezuela today that is positive or even improving. HUNDREDS of people line up to buy the few goods available. Price controls imposed by Maduro made goods scarce, OF COURSE. Basic free market principle, but under Maduro’s socialism, it’s oligarchy greed that causes the shortages.

          Murder rate is one of the world’s highest. Inflation is 57%. Grocery store shelves are empty. Hospitals lack medicine, anesthesia, gloves and sanitary supplies. The streets are all potholed, lack signs, (I saw exactly 3 light signals the last time I was there..two of them worked.) A layer of grime covers Caracas.

  13. They just didn’t do it right.
    Next time … with Top Men.
    Next time it will work.

    1. That really will be the story there. They’ll say Maduro was incompetent or led a gang of crooks, and that had Chavez lived he’d’ve straightened everything out. Or they’ll blame some trivial wrong decisions, like the toilet paper should’ve been delivered to the warehouse on the other side of the street instead of that side.

  14. High Inflation, Toilet Paper Shortages Are a Small Price for an Oil-Rich Venezuela to Pay for Socialism and Screwing the ‘Wealthy’

    Venezuela doesn’t pay the price. The regular guy in Venezuela pays the price. The rich are still rich. Those that skimmed the rich now joined the rich.

    Corruption is Corruption regardless of political and economic system.

    1. And yet, it seems to be the case that almost any government built on socialist economic principles experiences economic stagnation, extreme corruption, or both. In contrast, economically free systems tend to open up even the most politically and socially repressive regimes over time (see Chile). Why do you think that might be?

    2. Venezuela doesn’t pay the price. The regular guy in Venezuela pays the price.

      I think that’s what the author meant.

    3. The regular Venezuelan is a class socialists despise more than even the affluent. So long as the poor line up at the trough and the rich are properly connected, the average shmoes can fall under the jackboots and tank treads.

    4. Alice, you really have to shut up. You know nothing of Venezuela. Stop lecturing people as though you have some original thought.

      Chavez publicly stated “Ser rico es malo.” To be rich is evil. At least the old rich created some wealth, the socialists just steal it.

  15. Enter Mark Weisbrot, a Westerner who will likely never have to live under the nightmare that is full-throttled socialism

    I don’t know about that… does he live in the UK?

    Dude sounds totally white-bread to me, by the way.

    1. What you did there, I see it.

      1. Danke.

    2. WIESBROT?

      Is this not Whole Wheat-Bread? THE HEALTHY, NON KAPITALIST KIND?

  16. Mark Weisbrot, the scumbag who brought you…

    “Venezuela = This government is not going to run out of dollars”…

    How interesting.

    Three months later, the Economist observes……

    “Venezuela is running out of dollars to pay its bills.”


    “…Venezuelans are not about to throw all this away because they have had a year and a half of high inflation and increasing shortages”


  17. Ha! Wrong again, capitalist stooges! The fact that all the eggs are broken means the omelettes will soon be served.

  18. A decade later, poverty and unemployment have been reduced by more than half, extreme poverty by more than 70%

    Is there anything to these numbers? Are these numbers better or even as good as Venezuela’s neighbours? Chile and Peru are eradicating poverty with free(ish) markets.

    1. Thing is, extreme poverty can often be reduced by gov’t-sponsored infrastructure improvements which, while socialistic, aren’t considered very socialistic in today’s world: roadz, skoolz, electricitiez, foanz, pipez, klinikz. Even most radical libertarians would look at such stuff most of the time without blinking, because we’re used to it as the background, while we’re fighting bigger fish.

    2. I am starting to believe those numbers are simply made up. I defy anyone who had been to Venezuela before Chavez to go back to Venezuela and tell me that absolute poverty has been reduced by 70%.

      Over the course of the dozen years when I visited my daughter, every freaking year the mountains had more and more slum housing covering the hills outside Caracas.

Comments are closed.