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August 17, 2016

Venezuela: From Utopia to Hell on Earth

Three short years ago, leftists were celebrating Chavez’s success.

“Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” —former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Writing in his book “The Life of Reason,” Spanish philosopher George Santayana declared, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

That axiom may be nowhere more true than in the portion of humanity that endlessly embraces authoritarian government despite its inglorious record of failure. The failure, according to the Left, arises not in the flawed philosophy itself, but in the improper application of it. Many of the greatest atrocities in human history occurred in the last century at the hands of leftist, totalitarian regimes around the world, yet like a dog to its vomit, the Left ignores the fetid stench of death and oppression and comes back for more.

Venezuela is just the latest example of this phenomenon.

Three years ago, in the leftist rag Salon, writer David Sirota praised the brilliance and virtues of corrupt Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Sirota effusively extolled the “indisputably positive results” of Chavez’s brand of socialism, while minimizing or dismissing his human rights abuses and strong-armed tactics in the pursuit of power, arguing he was not as bad as his predecessor. He gushed that Chavez, who had stolen private property on a mass scale in the process of nationalizing the nation’s oil industry, had “racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.”

Fast forward three short years to today, and what has become of that “economic miracle”? The picture isn’t pretty.

Like a throw-back to the dark days of Soviet Russia, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has instituted mandatory labor in agricultural fields. In response to Venezuela’s rapidly spiraling economic crisis, the nation’s businesses were informed they must allow the government to reassign their workers to the fields in order to try and grow sufficient food to feed a nation that suffers from dire hunger problems. The situation has become so bad that some have taken to breaking into the zoo to kill animals for meat. Other, less daring citizens resort to crawling through dumpsters to find food.

Just two months after Sirota penned his hagiographic missive on Chavez’s utopia, USA Today ran a story reporting on how the implementation of price controls had led to a shortage of many basic necessities. It was painful enough when shortages of milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal afflicted the people, but in the end (pardon the pun), running out of toilet paper might have been the most intolerable.

Or maybe not. This year things have only gotten worse. The country has run out of bread and sugar, and its desperate citizens have been looting stores for months in search of something to eat. The nation’s hospitals no longer provide relief from suffering, having run out of medicine, gauze, gloves, soap and other critical supplies. Electricity is unreliable, medical machines no longer work, and infants die daily without proper care, and many others die from malnutrition and disease. Chavez’s workers’ paradise has become, for the victims of his legacy, a literal Hell on Earth.

Inevitably, social systems and infrastructure break down under the heavy hand of authoritarian government. Stripped of the incentive to work, devoid of the profit motive, society begins to crumble with no motivation to sustain it. In turn, the ruling faction creates enemies as the scapegoats for failure and the focal point of fury. Dissidents are rounded up, jailed, and killed. Those who speak out are considered enemies of the state, and treated as such.

America was once a beacon of Liberty, a symbol of hope for the oppressed peoples of the world, a defender of freedom against the evils of totalitarianism. Ronald Reagan, who called us a “shining city on a hill,” famously declared the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall.” The current squatter in the Oval Office, on the other hand, has shown nothing but sympathy toward tyrannical regimes. He stood by silently as the Iranian Green Revolution, which called for democratic reforms and more freedom, was snuffed out by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forces, which gunned down peaceful protesters in the streets. He later enabled further tyranny by the Iranian government when he facilitated the nation’s drive for nuclear weapons, handing over $150 billion that he acknowledged would be used in part to fund terrorism against us. His feckless “Russian reset” showed only weakness, which Vladimir Putin took advantage of as he invaded the Crimea, Georgia, and the Ukraine. No friend to freedom he.

Authoritarian regimes disguise their brutality in many candy-coated flavors; Hitler’s National Socialism, Mussolini’s fascism, Soviet communism, China’s Maoist version of Marxism, and even the soft tyranny of European-style democratic socialism, which takes an ever greater portion of the fruits of man’s labor to achieve the purposes of the state to which the people are subjects. Yet whatever the flavor, at the core lays a poison pill that kills individual liberty, prosperity, and the entrepreneurial spirit which has elevated untold millions from abject poverty.

Just ask the people of Venezuela.

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