The Venezuelan Problem: Socialism

Brandon Prichard, Contributor

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For the first time in U.S. history, the President of the United States invited a serving, democratically elected, foreign president to attend the annual State of the Union Address. Juan Guaidó, the acting president of Venezuela, accepted the offer from the White House to make his presence known at President Trump’s fourth State of the Union Address. Guaidó’s attendance, though historic, brings little change to a nation swamped in corruption and malpractice by its politicians. The political unrest of the region raises important questions about the future of the Venezuelan people, their economy, and political welfare. The importance of these questions is intensified when Nicolás Maduro, the corrupt authoritarian socialist dictator of Venezuela, has all but declared himself king of the struggling nation. Venezuela needs an economic miracle to return to their pre-socialism prosperity. Luckily, Juan Guaidó is the correct leader who can change the trajectory of Venezuela.

It’s important to first view the reality of Venezuela before analyzing why problems exist in the nation. According to the Washington Post in February of 2020, “On the poorer outskirts of the city [Caracas], residents continue to struggle with water shortages and malnutrition. And in the countryside beyond, Venezuela is falling apart, with residents lacking even the most basic services, like electricity and the police.”

On the poorer outskirts of the city [Caracas], residents continue to struggle with water shortages and malnutrition. And in the countryside beyond, Venezuela is falling apart, with residents lacking even the most basic services, like electricity and the police.”

— Washington Post

In many places, shortages have led to ‘food insolvency’ and starvation. Additional research from the World Bank shows declines in birth rates and fertility because of a lack in food and healthcare. The infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate are significantly higher than other South American countries. Moreover, Times Magazine found that since 2017, the average Venezuelan adult has lost 11 kilograms (or 24 pounds). Times Magazine continues, “New lows in Venezuela’s economic collapse [has resulted in] 9 out of 10 people unable to afford food, […] resulting in a ‘Venezuelan Diet.’” Needless to say, Venezuelans are being crippled by the economic downturn which has existed for almost two decades in the nation.

But the vital question is why the Venezuelan economy is being destroyed. The obvious answer is the socialist economy which fosters corruption and authoritarianism. According to Robert Rapier of Forbes in 2019, “Venezuela has the largest proved oil reserves in the world [… but] there are two related causes that have resulted in the steep decline of Venezuela’s oil production. First is the removal of expertise required to develop the country’s heavy oil. Second, the Chávez government failed to appreciate the level of capital expenditures required to continue developing the country’s oil.” Venezuela is one of the world’s richest nations in terms of natural resource abundance. But even with massive oil reserves, metals, and tropical production (like the fruit industry) socialism and government control has rendered an otherwise first world nation as poverty-stricken. Additionally, Bret Stephens for the New York Times wrote in 2019, “Government overspending created catastrophic deficits when oil prices plummeted. Worker co-ops wound up in the hands of incompetent and corrupt political cronies. The government responded to its budgetary problems by printing money, leading to inflation. Inflation led to price controls, leading to shortages. Shortages led to protests, leading to repression and the destruction of democracy. This led to widespread starvation, critical medical shortages, an explosion in violent crime, and a refugee crisis which rivals Syria’s crisis.” It stands true that governments fail to promote economic and political prosperity like free markets. Governments do not rely on the same profit seeking mechanisms as competitive markets. Therefore, policy will not reflect the values which make a country’s population wealthy. Instead, it has been an inverse effect. The politicians like Nicolás Maduro have profited off the abundance of natural resources in Venezuela. This points out an additional downfall of government control and socialism: corruption is inevitable. When the government is allotted more power than the citizenry, freedom capsizes. The United Nations as well as Freedom House has consistently rated Venezuela in the lowest freedom quartile both economically and politically. Freedom House, out of a 100-point freedom scale, listed Venezuela under 20 points. This score stands as one of the lowest in South America. Civil rights, healthcare, upward mobility, among other economic and political issues have taken the back seat. Maduro has also used his power to sway democratic elections. In 2018, Maduro rigged the election between his administration and Juan Guaidó. This continues to prove the point that socialism is the cause of corruption in the nation. This corruption has been used to further destroy the already frail socialist economy through political coercion.

Luckily for Venezuela, Juan Guaidó has received power from the international community. Guaidó, a centralist politician who supports capitalism and democracy, has been recognized as the official President of Venezuela by the United States, Canada, and most of Europe and South America. BBC in 2019 shows that only a few countries recognize Maduro as the official President of Venezuela. Of these countries are the problematic forces of Russia, China, Iran, and Syria. Yet, despite the political uncertainty of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó has continued to accumulate political and economic power. Guaidó certainly has a majority of the public on his side, but exact numbers are uncertain because of Maduro’s corruption. Guaidó has also been working with numerous military leaders who intend to take down Maduro. It is uncertain what the future of Venezuela will entail, but with support of dozens of countries, Guaidó has the best chance at changing the course of Venezuelan politics.

Yet the fact still stands that socialism has brought immense suffering to Venezuela. It is not feasible for a society to be successfully controlled by governmental powers. Free markets, capitalism, and human innovation have been the main reason for the advancement of civilization. Meanwhile, socialism fundamentally ignores human rights, business productivity, and inevitably, democracy. As shown in Venezuela, democratic means to socialism only work until the government gains enough influence to manipulate voter rights. Despite Juan Guaidó’s promising rise to power, political corruption and civilian casualties are a fact of socialism. Therefore, let’s take a lesson from Venezuela and never turn to socialism or government control as the answer to our issues.