June 7, 2018

Who Is ‘Juan’ Galt?

Venezuela currently epitomizes the inexorability of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged logic.

“Ayn Rand was not a fortune teller, not a Nostradamus. She was a logician.” —columnist Marina Medvin

Ms. Medvin is referring to Rand’s epochal novel, Atlas Shrugged. It is the story of a nation overwhelmed by an oppressive socialist government determined to shackle the most productive members of society in service to the “greater good.” As the oppression intensifies, the so-called best and brightest reject their enslavement and begin disappearing, inspired by the question “Who is John Galt?” Unable to function without them, the government collapses.

Venezuela currently epitomizes the inexorability of Rand’s logic.

According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of Venezuelans leaving the nation between 2015 and 2017 increased 900%, from 89,000 to 900,000 people. The UN describes the outflow as the “largest ever” migration from the Americas. Yet just like in Rand’s novel, it’s not just the fact that people per se are leaving Venezuela but who in particular is leaving that matters most.

The nation has lost a shocking one-third of its 66,000 doctors overall, and nearly half of those who worked in public hospitals. That particular disaster is precipitated by the collapse of the health care system to the point where there are shortages of more than 85% of basic medicines, and some patients need to bring their own scalpels to surgery. Moreover, the almost unimaginable 454% increase in prices in the first three months of this year “has condemned medical personnel to a miserable salary that is erased by inflation,” reveals Venezuelan Medical Federation President Douglas Leon Natera. “For doctors in public hospitals, the salaries stand at about $4 or $5 per month. That’s for specialists.”

The doctors are not the sole victims of this ongoing economic catastrophe. According to Se Educa, an educational nonprofit group, 48,000 teachers, representing 12% of all elementary and high school staff in the country, have quit their jobs, and the vast majority of them have joined the exodus out of Venezuela. As a result, some grades have gone without classes for months, and other classes are staffed by unpaid volunteers.

Doctors and educators have been joined by engineers, bus drivers and electricians. Last year in Caracas, 2,226 subway employees, representing more than 20% of the entire workforce, also walked off their jobs.

And as bad as the proverbial brain drain has been between 2015 and 2017, this year it’s verging on catastrophic. According to the Central University of Venezuela, approximately 400,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the first five months of the year. Yet even those numbers may be a low-ball estimate. Aid workers from bordering nations claim an average of 4,600 Venezuelans are leaving their nation behind each day, putting the total outflow closer to 700,000 since January.

The military has also been decimated, and high desertion rates have forced Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro to rely on retirees and militia to replace them. Soldiers have been joined by a stampede of 25,000 oil workers who resigned from the state-run oil firm, PDVSA, between the beginning of January 2017 and the end of January 2018, according to union leader and government critic Ivan Freites, who cited internal company data as his evidence.

Even more ominous, the trend is likely to be exacerbated by the “reelection” of Maduro. That election was deemed illegitimate by his opponents, the United States, the European Union and several Latin American nations, and at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires on May 21, a joint statement was issued by representatives from Argentina, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Chile, and the United States. It said they were “considering possible political, diplomatic and financial sanctions against the authoritarian regime of Maduro.”

The same day, President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting Americans from buying Venezuelan debt obligations Venezuela has been seeking to raise critically needed cash.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to suspend Venezuela’s membership. He needn’t have bothered. Maduro announced his nation was withdrawing from the OAS, a process that takes two years.

In remarks delivered at a White House reception for the OAS the same day, Vice President Mike Pence stated the glaringly obvious. “The regime of Nicolas Maduro has turned a free and prosperous nation into one of the most poorest and most despotic in our hemisphere,” he said. “The once-great Venezuelan economy and government is now nothing more than a failed state.”

In a better nation, the collapse of Venezuela’s so-called “21st Century Socialism” would be an object lesson taught in every American high school and college. In this one, the siren song of socialism has taken root with younger generations of Americans, indoctrinated by an increasingly progressive public school system and the socialist/Marxist “finishing schools” known as colleges and universities. As a result of this contemptuous cultivation, more Millennials prefer socialism to capitalism.

Moreover, and much like an increasingly progressive Democrat Party, they remain firmly convinced that the nation is only one massive, government-enforced “make the rich pay their fair share” redistribution scheme away from socialist utopia. Never mind the fact that after the Trump tax cuts the top 20% of American earners will pay an even higher share of income taxes — as in 87%, up from approximately 84% in 2017. Or that there are now more jobs than people to fill them for the first time in 18 years, a reality that will undoubtedly give American workers leverage to demand more record wage increases.

“For months, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and party leaders have been touting their overall plan, called ‘A Better Deal,’ as a response to the ‘raw deal’ that they say President Trump and GOP-controlled Congress has pursued on Capitol Hill,” The Washington Times reports.

Just like in Venezuela, that so-called Better Deal is nothing more than Marxist socialism repackaged. The same kind of better deal the Obama administration pursued for eight years — eight years in which his administration became the only one in history never to achieve a single year of 3% GDP growth, which progressive “experts” insisted would be the “new normal” of American economics.

None of it matters to Democrats because their socialist fantasies are borne of pure hubris. They look at the wreckage in places like Venezuela and come to a singular conclusion:

The wrong people were in charge.

In short, the American Left wants a nation where talent, innovation and risk-taking is conflated with laziness, envy and confiscation. A nation where incentive and coercion are interchangeable terms. Even worse, they frame their agenda as “social justice,” and they couldn’t care less that it ultimately produces the kind of increasing misery Venezuelans are enduring on a daily basis — provided every American is equally miserable.

Venezuela is collapsing and its best and brightest are fleeing. Americans would be wise to remember the essential difference between us and them: They have somewhere else to go.

They don’t call the United States the “last best hope of mankind” for no reason.

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