This weekend Venezuela’s socialist regime revealed its true colors and left no doubt: not even the facade of democracy remains in this oil-rich South American state…once the economic marvel of Latin America. Sadly, the mainstream American media has paid scant attention to the story. That is likely to change as Venezuela descends into anarchy, its people oppressed by a state that is now not merely authoritarian, but totalitarian in nature.
This is a regime that has imprisoned political opponents on the most flimsy of trumped up charges. It has allowed massive drug trafficking to flourish, aided and abetted by the highest levels of government and the military. It has refused to hold regional elections, afraid of losing power at the state level. It has expropriated businesses and private property, distributing it as it sees fit to those who support the regime. It has siphoned off tens of billions of dollars from state revenues for its own corrupt purposes while its people suffer from malnourishment. It has eviscerated democratic institutions, attempting to dissolve the democratically-elected legislative branch, and firing anyone who does not support the regime.
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Nicolas Maduro retains power for now, thanks only to the support of the Venezuelan military. How long they will continue to back him remains to be seen. He has earned the well-deserved condemnation of all but the few remaining hard-line Communist regimes in the region: Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Cuba.
If one good thing can emerge from this terrible and tragic situation it is this: Venezuela should serve as an eternal example of the utter depravity of socialism in all its forms. Socialism, after all, is the political and economic philosophy that has ruined half of the world, killing an estimated 100 million innocent victims over the course of the 20th century.
Yet, by most accounts, socialism, expounded upon by its main American cheerleader Bernie Sanders, has never been more popular with Americans today. A recent poll found that 43% of Democratic primary voters view socialism favorably, compared to only 30% who view it unfavorably. Among the 45 and under crowd, that figure grew to 46% favorable, with only 19% viewing it unfavorably. How can that be?
The answer is complicated, but this sad contemporary reality should be supremely alarming to those who have studied history.
Bernie Sanders, and his supporters, would argue that making a comparison between him and the totalitarian regimes of Cuba or Venezuela or Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China is patently unfair. They may have a point. Although only Bernie Sanders knows what is in his heart and mind, it appears unlikely that a President Sanders would try to call a new Constitutional Assembly, curtail freedom of speech and the press, or jail political opponents. He probably is sane enough to realize, as well, that nationalizing industry and confiscating private property would be counter-productive.
If Bernie Sanders were to sit down with the PanAm Post, he would happily tell us that the Venezuelan comparison in nonsense. No, no, no. Bernie is a fan of the so-called democratic socialism of Iceland and Denmark and Norway…which has nothing to do with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela or Fidel Castro’s Cuba or Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua.
Except that Bernie Sanders and his Latin American socialist populist counterparts are equally erroneous when it comes to economic policy. Bernie Sanders may hype Western Europe as his model, yet he seems blissfully ignorant of the wake of destruction that socialist governments have left across the world over the past 150 years. Has an actual socialist economy ever actually worked? Is it not true that actual human beings who have lived in such economies have routinely risked their lives to flee the highly inefficient, unproductive, and inhumane economies that socialism has engendered from East Germany and Czechoslovakia to Vietnam and Cambodia to North Korea to Cuba and now Venezuela? Is it not true that 100 million innocent victims have been killed by socialism in the 20th century alone?
Regarding so-called “Scandinavian socialism”, proponents of capitalism have a clear and concise argument at their disposal. The economies in Scandinavia, are actually vibrant and robust capitalist free-market economies, that provide a reasonable social safety net to their high-income, well-educated populations. Their achievements are due to capitalism, and they are routinely ranked among the world’s freest economies by the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. In fact, every single one of the supposedly “socialist” countries frequently lauded by Sanders is ranked in the top 25. The reality is that the Netherlands and Sweden and Norway and Denmark abandoned any vestiges of centrally-planned, state-controlled command economies long ago. They are bastions of capitalism…not socialism.
While Bernie may not be Hugo Chavez or Daniel Ortega or Fidel Castro, his rhetoric and ideology often bear a striking resemblance to these Latin American Communist icons. Bernie represents a new trend in the American Left today: where socialism and populism meet. Furthermore, it should come as no shock to discover that Nicolas Maduro endorsed Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary.
In the minds of Bernie Sanders and Nicolas Maduro, there is a simple answer to the world’s economic problems: blame it on the 1%. If only Bernie and his big government pals in Washington had more money and power, could tax the greedy capitalists more, then they could settle the economic score once and for all. If only Nicolas Maduro and Hugo Chavez could sock it to the greedy oligarchs raping and pillaging Venezuela, then they could justly redistribute the plunder as they saw fit, ushering in a new era of socialist paradise.
This has been a recurring theme in the global Communist movement. While Hugo Chavez railed against the oligarchy and Fidel Castro against the landowners and Evo Morales against the multinational oil and gas companies, Bernie and allies blame wealthy Americans. It is demogoguery pure and simple. Thus the foundation of Bernie’s message: a bigger government, higher taxes, more regulations, a state-controlled economy, and…above all else…massive redistribution of wealth so that those rotten capitalists and industrialists can’t keep screwing over the proletariat as they are so wont to do.
Bernie’s economic message has long been discredited. Even in the world of today’s left-wing academia, it would be difficult to find many economists who would seriously support his far-left agenda, which sounds more like something out of the pages of a 1960s guerrilla group than the polished public policy proposals of a presidential candidate. Indeed, one need only listen to revolutionary groups like America’s Black Panther Party, Colombia’s FARC, Peru’s Shining Path, or Nicaragua’s Sandinistas to hear familiar echoes from the Bernie 2016 campaign.
To Bernie banks and financial institutions, entrepreneurs and industrialists, and greedy capitalists and oligarchs have ruined America. It’s up to him and his band of upstart millennials to challenge the Democratic Party status quo so they can write all the wrongs of the American economic experience through massive state intervention in the economy.
Bernie Sanders and Nicolas Maduro are fundamentally wrong on capitalism and “oligarchy.” America is great precisely because of its banking system, Wall Street, entrepreneurs, industrialists, and capitalists. Wherever capitalism has gone, prosperity has followed. Wherever socialism has gone, massive human misery has followed.
Sanders excelled at bringing socialism back into the mainstream in the 2016 election cycle, making fashionable again the rhetoric of class warfare…making it fashionable to hate capitalism and capitalists. That is a scary phenomenon.
If governments could usher in prosperity by taking on the “1%”…the greedy oligarchs and ruthless industrialists…then Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Bolivia would be the world’s most prosperous, stable, and successful countries. Instead these four nations consistently rank as the poorest in Latin America, with the lowest levels of human development. That should not be a surprise to all but Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders may not share the ruthlessness or disregard for human rights of Latin American Communist dictators, but their shared economic vision would lead to utter disaster…setting America on the path to economic ruin, as we’ve seen time and time again in socialist command economies from Latin America to Eastern Europe to Asia.