April 28, 2016

Millennials, Socialism and Venezuela

The infatuation with redistribution could be cured with this example.

The Millennial Generation is infatuated with socialism. So much so, a Gallup poll reveals a whopping 69% of them are willing to vote for a “socialist” candidate for president. The word “infatuation” is key because this is the latest generation of Americans indoctrinated to believe emotion is more important than logic and reason. Add a conspicuous lack of both economic and historical knowledge to the mix, and nothing resonates quite like the idea of “spreading the wealth around.” Too bad. An informed generation would be disabused of this pernicious nonsense with one word: Venezuela.

“Fridges zapped off in kitchens across Venezuela as the government turned off the electricity supply to help ease a power shortage that is worsening the country’s economic crisis,” reports Agence France-Presse. It is an economic crisis of monstrous proportions for a nation that only 40 years ago was the fourth richest, per capita, in the entire world. Unfortunately, for the last 20 years, Venezuelans embraced the socialist siren song of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, and their “Socialism of the 21st Century” slogan. Now as former Barack Obama mentor “Reverend” Jeremiah Wright is fond of saying, “the chickens have come home to roost.”

According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s economy contracted by 10% in 2015. Inflation hit a staggering 275%, expected to rise to an unbelievable 720% this year. Their currency, the bolivar, is worth less than a penny. Due to the decline in oil prices, Venezuelan exports that totaled $75 billion as little as two years ago, may struggle to hit $27 billion this year. The country is experiencing chronic food and medicine shortages, with citizens waiting in line for hours just to obtain basics like milk and rice — when they aren’t engaged in looting, food smuggling and rioting in a nation where 30% were eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of 2015, up from 20% in the first quarter. A lack of raw materials is forcing shops to close completely or to cut their hours. And the poverty rate, which stood at 55% when Chavez took power in 1999, is now 76%.

Chavez and Maduro, much like Bernie Sanders wants to do, enchanted their people by supplanting the laws of supply and demand. In 2014, Maduro instituted an 80% off mandate, covering consumer goods and appliances. The price of Barbie dolls was reduced to $5 and all laptops to $75. Even now, the state-mandated price of gasoline is below a penny per gallon, despite the reality the nation is on the verge of a total financial default.

That laptops cost more than $75 to make? Two years later, consumer goods are scarce, supermarket shelves bare, and surgeons are complaining of people dying on operating tables due to lack of medicines and equipment in a nation where 70% of the 150 medications labeled “essential” by the World Health Organization are no longer available.

Government can mandate many things. A complete suspension of economic reality isn’t one of them.

How Venezuela went from a success to a basket case would be the ultimate cautionary tale if Millennials paid attention to it. Chavez established a kleptocracy buoyed by high oil prices. That gave him the resources to fund a massively expensive and corrupt welfare state, buying the people’s loyalty in the process. Maduro kept the charade going — until he couldn’t.

And in another refrain that should sound quite familiar to Millennials, Maduro has no shortage of “enemies” to blame for his nation’s demise. They included Saudi Arabia for refusing to cut oil production, “reckless” oil production by America, Wall Street “rumors” regarding Venezuela’s debt, the nation’s “parasitic bourgeoisie” and product hoarding by ordinary Venezuelans. He has also blamed “capitalism” for one of the world’s highest murder rates. That both Chavez and Maduro spent lavish sums of money, embraced excessive regulation, and replaced experienced workers at state-owned oil company PDVSA with “revolutionaries” loyal to the socialist cause — all of which contributed to driving the nation’s inflation rate to possibly the highest in the world — was apparently irrelevant.

Such realities are apparently irrelevant to Millennials as well. A Harvard survey found that 51% of those ages 18 through 29 do not support capitalism, compared to 42% who do. And while only 27% believe government should have a large role in economic regulation, 48% insisted “basic health insurance is a right for all people,” and 47% believe basic necessities like food and shelter, “are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them.”

Government? “If you agree that there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy and that Congress does not have any resources of its very own, the only way for Congress to give one American something is to first take it from some other American,” explains economist Walter Williams. As for rights, “If one person has a right to something he did not earn, it requires another person’s not having a right to something he did earn.”

Apparently Millennials eventually grasp the latter half of Williams’ argument. As Reason reveals, “millennials’ support for redistribution and social welfare spending decline as they age, make more money (pay more in taxes), and take on more responsibilities.” Moreover, when their parents are paying for their health care, Millennials favor the idea of paying more to subsidize coverage for uninsured Americans by a 57-42% margin. When they’re footing the bill for their own health insurance? Only 39% favor increased costs, while 59% oppose them.

The reason for such flip-flopping is inescapable. For decades the American Left has promoted an “us against them” mentality, as in the idea that “us” Americans have a right to require “them” Americans to surrender increasing amounts of wealth to achieve “social justice.” Yet when a member of the former group becomes a member of the latter group, they apparently discover an age-old truism about the American Left: No one is more generous — with other peoples’ money.

Soon Maduro will shift the Venezuela’s time zone forward by 30 minutes, because an extra half an hour of daylight will save power. He is also asking women to refrain from using hairdryers. This in a country with the largest oil reserves in the entire world.

Take a good, long look, Millennials. You might learn why capitalism is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst economic system in the world — except for all the others.

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