The tragedy of Venezuela's modern day experiment in socialism has progressed beyond parody.
Take, for example, the second paragraph of this story from the Miami Herald, which describes how Venezuelan authorities arrested four bakers in response to a national bread shortage. It could easily be mistaken for a few lines from a piece of dystopian fiction, except for the fact that it is all incredibly, terrifyingly real:
"In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad "economic war" aimed at destabilizing the country."
Where to begin?
The perfectly Orwellian "National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights" has to arrest those bakers, I suppose, in order to protect the "socioeconomic rights" (whatever those are) of the people of Venezuela, who apparently are being deprived of their basic right to bread made by those bakers. At that point, I'd be inclined to ask about the "socioeconomic rights" of the bakers, which presumably would include the right to earn a living from their work or, at the bare minimum, not to be arrested by agents of the state? But, yeah, I'm not sure logic works here.
The "economic war" destabilizing in Venezuela and causing long lines for bread was not caused by the bakers. It's very much a product of the national government, as the government's own statement about the arrests actually explains.
The government said the bakers were "using price-regulated flour to illegally make specialty items, like sweet rolls and croissants." Under state rules in Venezuela, the Miami Herald reported, bakeries are only allowed to produce French bread and white loaves with government-imported flour and 90 percent of the contents of baked goods must be subject to government price controls.
Price controls create shortages, of course, and that's exactly what Venezuela has been dealing with for months. Despite having some of the world's largest oil reserves, the country has to import pretty much everything else that its people need. The government dramatically reduced imports and imposed price controls in an attempt to stop hyperinflation, but that's led to a predictable scarcity of food and resulted in store shelves being empty, food trucks being hijacked, babies dying of malnutrition, and hungry people rioting in the streets.
A black market for food, partially based on Bitcoin, has helped to keep some Venezuelans fed, as Jim Epstein reported for Reason last year. Thanks to online marketplaces like Amazon's Prime Pantry and Walmart.com, some Venezuelans are doing what the government will not: importing food to feed their families.
Now, President Nicolás Maduro is doubling down on the economic insanity, and the four bakers arrested last week might soon have company in the nation's jails.
According to the Miami Herald, Maduro launched "Plan 700" against what he called a "bread war," ordering officials to do spot checks of bakeries nationwide. As part of the plan to stop long bread lines, the government says it will prohibit people from—get this—standing in line for bread.
Sure, that will work. As surely as socialism ever does.