Economy, Regs, & Taxes

The Road to Serfdom Is Paved With Millennials

The comparison between Venezuela and American socialism is educational.

Arnold Ahlert · Jan. 19, 2017

“The causes of the bleak future are easy to understand but difficult for the liberal project to accept. The West has spent its past and borrowed on its future to buy votes in the present. Now the millennials are stuck with the bill. Giant deficits, unfunded welfare systems, crushing student debts have come down on them just like anyone who spends more than he earns. It’s the betrayal that must hurt most. They were told it was OK.” —Richard Fernandez, PJ Media

“Venezuela, which was once Latin America’s richest country, has become an unwilling test site for how much economic and social stress a modern nation can tolerate before it descends into pure anarchy.” —Washington Post editorial board

Many Millennials, especially the Bernie Sanders fanboys and fangirls who might have pulled off the impossible were it not for the Democratic National Committee fix revealed by WikiLeaks, will never see the inexorable link between the above quotes. Long submerged in a progressive marinade of wealth envy, anti-capitalism and social justice, they are incapable of understanding the only real difference between a bleak future and the descent into pure anarchy is the passage of time.

Venezuela, a nation that once promoted itself as the model for “21st Century Socialism” has, as the late, great Margaret Thatcher so aptly noted, “run out of other people’s money.” And as vividly described by the New York Post’s Thor Halvorssen, the results have been catastrophic:

There are shortages of every imaginable foodstuff and basic necessity; diseases once thought eradicated are back with a vengeance; and a crime wave that has given Caracas the highest murder rate in the world.

Loving parents are putting their children up for adoption because they have nothing to feed them; the elderly are starving; patients with treatable conditions are dying in hospitals that lack basic medicine like insulin and oxygen, where vital equipment has been pilfered and emergency rooms operate without electricity. In a gruesome twist, even the morgues can’t handle the number of unclaimed bodies, so they rot in hallways.

In one city just before Christmas, more than 80 percent of supermarkets, bodegas and food stores were looted. The ransacking spread to private homes.

It gets worse. Since 2014, the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet has been forced to import that commodity. Why? Because the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) was used as an ATM to fund the Chavez/Maduro “revolution” and keep the socialists in power. Socialists who justified the looting of their own country using the very same “social justice” rhetoric embraced by the Democrat Party.

Even more catastrophic? A 2016 inflation rate of 290% that has reduced the national currency, the bolivar, to de facto worthlessness. Last month, a 100-bolivar bill was worth … two cents.

So what’s the response from Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro? Pure, unadulterated economic illiteracy. On Jan 9, Maduro announced he will raise the minimum wage and pensions by 50% — to fight inflation. Yet the only way to engender that increase, the fifth one in the last year, is for the nation’s Central Bank to print money, resulting in even higher inflation. Inflation the International Monetary Fund predicts will reach 1,600% in 2017.

If such machinations have a familiar ring, maybe it’s because American social justice warriors also have no problem divorcing wage increases from the production necessary to justify them. Thus leftist politicians, many of whom have never run a business in their entire lives, can simply decree that a $15 “living wage” will be the order of the day. As for government worker pensions promised by those same feckless politicians, the phrase “fiscal time bomb” comes to mind, due to a $1.3 trillion gap between what is owed and what is available.

Nonetheless, the socialist siren song still resonates with many Millennials who actually believe the only difference between national insolvency and economic nirvana comes down to the “rich” paying their “fair share.” Just like the 21st Century Socialism “true believers” in Venezuela, many Millennials are convinced that incentive and coercion are interchangeable terms, and that a nation’s producers will accommodate every demand made by those who believe they are entitled to the fruits of another man’s labor. It seems they are incapable of understanding there is another choice, as in not starting a business at all — which goes a long way toward explaining why a 2015 report revealed more businesses were going under than being created.

There are other consequences as well. “The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States 1995-2015,” a report compiled by economics professors from Harvard and Princeton, reveals a whopping 94% of job growth over the last decade came courtesy of the so-called “gig economy” comprised of freelancers, temps, on-call workers and contractors with no attachment to a certain company.

Last week, Millennials got the proverbial tab attached to their ideological inclinations. “With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles,” the Associated Press reported.

The data paint a dismal picture of a generation with lower rates of home ownership, higher college debt and substantially lower chances of making more money than their parents. The picture is even worse for black and Hispanic Millennials.

And like Venezuela, the deleterious effects of socialism plus the passage of time are equally evident in a European Union where youth unemployment has soared to unconscionable levels, including Greece’s 46.5%, Spain’s 43.6%, Italy’s 36.4%, and France’s 25.8%.

“Youth unemployment turned out to be just deferred unemployment, the can big governments kicked down the road until the road ran out,” Fernandez explains. “If Eastern socialism died with the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the Western version may at last be crumbling before a monumental wall of kicked cans.”

It is a wall Millennials have hit head on. Or perhaps more accurately, a box canyon requiring a retracement to the free-market economic principles that made America the envy of the world.

Whether Millennials can fathom the connection between the rapid deterioration of Venezuela, the less but equally inexorable decline of the EU, and the increasing undercurrent of decay in America, remains to be seen.

Regardless, reality bites. “In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents' home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household,” reveals the Pew Research Center.

Thus, the road to socialism is paved with basement-dwellers. Basement-dwellers who can either reject the burgeoning level of socialism that put them there, or grow used to the permanence of mediocrity — or worse.

How much worse? Learning about an American exceptionalism they themselves will never experience.

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