Why The Left Refuses To Talk About Venezuela

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

During the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders refused to answer questions about Venezuela during an interview with Univision. He claimed to not want to talk about it because he's "focused on my campaign." Many suggested a more plausible reason: Venezuela's present economy is an example of what happens when a state implements Bernie Sanders-style social democracy. 

Similarly, Pope Francis — who has taken the time to denounce pro-market ideologies for allegedly driving millions into poverty — seems uninterested in talking about the untrammeled impoverishment of Venezuela in recent years. Samuel Gregg writes in yesterday's Catholic World Report

Pope Francis isn’t known as someone who holds back in the face of what he regards as gross injustices. On issues like refugees, immigration, poverty and the environment, Francis speaks forcibly and uses vivid language in doing so.


Yet despite the daily violence being inflicted on protestors in Venezuela, a steadily increasing death-toll, an explosion of crime, rampant corruption, galloping inflation, the naked politicization of the judiciary, and the disappearance of basic food and medical supplies, the first Latin American pope’s comments about the crisis tearing apart an overwhelming Catholic Latin American country have been curiously restrained.

This virtual silence comes in spite of the fact that the Catholic bishops who actually live in Venezuela have denounced the regime as yet another illustration of the "utter failure" of "socialism in every country in which this regime has been installed."

Thus, for many Venezuelans, the question is: "Where is Pope Francis?"

As with Sanders, it may very well be that Francis has nothing to say about Venezuela precisely because the Venezuelan regime has pursued exactly the sorts of policies favored by Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis, and the usual opponents of market economics.

It's an economic program marked by price controls, government expropriation of private property, an enormous welfare state, central planning, and endless rhetoric about equality, poverty relief, and fighting the so-called "neoliberals." 

And, as Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has helpfully explained, "There are two models, the neoliberal model which destroys everything, and the Chavista model which is centered around people.”

The Chavista model is simply a mixture of social democracy and environmentalism which is easily recognizable as the Venezuelan version of the hard-left ideology espoused by a great many global political elites both in the United States and Europe. Neoliberalism, on the other hand — as I've noted before — is a vague term that most of the time really just means a system of relatively free markets and moderate laissez-faire. 

Indeed, no other regimes in the world, save Cuba and North Korea, have been as explicit in fighting the alleged menace that is neoliberalism. 

For this reason, as Venezuela descends into chaos, we are hearing a deafening silence from most of the left, as even some principled leftists have noticed. 

In an article at Counterpunch, for example, Pedro Lange-Churion points out: 

Venezuela was news while it was good news and while Chávez could be used as a banner for the left and his antics provided comic relief. But as soon as the country began to spiral towards ruination and Chavismo began to resemble another Latin American authoritarian regime, better to turn a blind eye.

Nevertheless, as a dedicated leftist, Lange-Chrion unfortunately still mistakenly thinks that the Venezuelan problem is political and not economic. For him, it's merely an unfortunate coincidence that the implementation of the Chavismo economic agenda just happened to coincide with the destruction of the nation's political and economic institutions. 

But here's the thing: it's not a coincidence. 

In fact, it's a textbook case of a country electing a leftwing populist who undoes years of pro-market reforms, and ends up destroying the economy. 

This has been going on for decades in Latin America where, as explained by Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastián Edwards, the cycle repeats itself again and again. 

It's happened in Argentina and in Brazil most recently, and it goes something like this: first, a relatively neoliberal regime comes to power, moderately reduces government spending, somewhat restrains government power, and ushers in a period of growth. But, even with growth, middle-income countries like those of Latin America remain poor compared to the rich countries of the world, and large inequalities remain. Then, populist social democrats convince the voters that if only the regime would redistribute more wealth, punish greedy capitalists, and regulate markets to make them more "humane," then everyone would get richer even faster. And even better, the evil capitalists would be punished for exploiting the poor. Eventually, the economy collapses under the weight of the new social democratic regime, and a neoliberal regime is again elected to clean up the mess. 

Venezuela is in the midst of this cycle right now. After decades of relatively restrained government intervention, Venezuela became one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America. During the most recent twenty years, though, the Chavistas were able to take that wealth and redistristribute it, regulate it, and expropriate it for the sake of "equality" and undermining capitalist evil. But, you can only redistribute, tax, regulate, and expropriate so much before the productive classes give up and the wealth runs out. 

To the leftwing mind, the explosion of poverty that results can't possibly be the result of bad economic policy. After all, the Chavismo regime got everything it wanted. It redistributed wealth at will. It "guaranteed" a living wage, health care, and plentiful food to everyone. "Equality" was imposed by fiat over the cries of the "neoliberal" opposition. 

The only possible answer, the left assumes, must be sabotage by capitalists or — as the Pope reminds us — too much "individualism." 

The problem the global left has in this case, though, is that this narrative simply isn't plausible. Does Colombia have fewer capitalists and individualists than Venezeuala? It almost certainly has more. So why do Venezuelans wait hours in line to cross the Colombian border to buy basic food items not available in the social-democratic paradise of Venezuela? Has Chile renounced neoliberal-style trade and markets? Obviously not. So why has Chile's economy grown by 150 percent over the past 25 years while Venezuela's economy has gotten smaller

The response consists largely of silence. 

This isn't to say that what the left calls call "neoliberal" is without its faults. Some aspects of neoliberalism — such as free trade and relatively free markets — are the reason that global poverty and child mortality are falling, while literacy and sanitation are rising.

Other aspects of neoliberalism are odious, particularly in the areas of central banking and crony capitalism. But the free-market answer to this was already long-ago voiced by Ludwig von Mises, who, in his own fight against the neoliberals, advocated for consistent laissez-faire, sound money, and far greater freedom in international trade. 

For an illustration of the left's answer to neo-liberalism, however, we need look no further than Venezuela where people are literally starving and will wait hours in line to buy a roll of toilet paper. 

And if this is what the the left's victory against neoliberalism looks like, it's not surprising the left seems to have little to say.

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Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture


Looney's picture


Berniezuela…  ;-)


Manthong's picture


Which Bernie... Sanders or Madoff?


But the left are all just humble about their great success there.


HowdyDoody's picture

Venezuela has oil. It has nationalized production. US corporations are not looting the country's resources. That is why the US is running a standard color-coded regime change operation.

Heck, the CIA's carefully vetted moderate rebels have even started throwing molotov cocktails just like those at the Maidan in Ukraine.

Stuck on Zero's picture

You can depend upon the media to slowly spin Maduro as a "right-winger" as his corrupt dictatorship fails. When he's finally deposed by the people they press will proclaim that another right-wing dictatorship has succumbed to the socialists.

Endgame Napoleon's picture

You can likewise count on the MSM painting the socialist Pope as a champion of the little people--urging the filthy-rich USA, with its disintegrating middle class--to save the Venezuelans. The Pope will neglect to mention the wall to keep out the poor in his own country and the failure of the mega rich in neighboring countries, like Columbia, to help their fellow Latin Americans in distress. Columbia is booming; it is the new destination for American businesspeople to outsource and nearshore jobs. They are contributing to the hollowing out of the U.S. middle class, but claim it is due to a shortage of labor.




I do not really know first-hand. I have never worked in this industry. But Forbes has a graph with the countries containing the most engineering grads. The USA is right up there at the top of the list, making me think that the cheapness of the labor is, yet again, the big motivator. While helping to destroy the U.S. middle class, the progressives, the neoliberal Dems and GOPe alike will still be pressuring for the "rich country" -- the USA -- to fund foreign aid projects in the Third World. Is that to help preserve the cheap labor source? After the Globalist Uniparty saves them with taxpayer $$$$$, will Venezuela be the new outsourcing/nearshoring Mecca that Elites rave about?


Itinerant's picture

Only a [Mises] idealogue could write a complete analysis of what has happened in Venezuela without mentioning the price of oil.

Venezuela hitched itself and its future to the price of oil, and when the price went down, was stuck in an untenable situation. It was an extreme case of what economists call the Dutch disease [oil/gas wealth stunts the economy instead of stimulating it, and the new wealth increases the gap between rich and poor]. Obviously Venezuela made some unwise decisions, but the attraction of the socialists had everything to do with the period pre-dating it.

The idea that Venezuela proves the Austrian case is a little short on evidence and logic. The ancient Egyptians had free markets (selling tomatoes and leeks), but had a redestributive economy, which lasted thousands of years. There were no capitalists back then, nor were there socialists. Even communist China and Vietnam have plenty of markets and market forces. The idea that you can achieve an optimal result by having no policies but allowing only chaotic market forces defies reason and history; Austrians simply serve as shills to legitimate the interest of the wealthy owner's class. In reality the USA became the world's largest economy by implementing protective tariffs in the nineteenth century and paying workers relatively high wages; China or Japan have not done badly for themselves either, using mercantile policies heavily dictated by policy. If you want to see an economy free of almost all government interference, go to rural Mozambique. Reality and history are a little more complex than the abbreviated schema of either allowing or fighting free markets.

Endgame Napoleon's picture

This sounds sort of like Ha Joon Chang's argument. But the crucial ingredient of a developed country -- the USA -- offshoring its production abroad is left out. That helped China tremendously, while helping to destroy the U.S. middle class. When the American middle class arose after WWII, it did not do so by absorbing all of Europe and Japan's industry.

Quite the contrary, we did not even punish the companies in Germany that helped the Hitler war machine, but instead helped the Europeans rebuild their businesses and countries via the Marshall Plan. But back in that day, our politicians did not undermine American workers and Main Street business owners by working in the interests of American Economic Elites, Foreign Economic Elites and workers in other countries more than in the interests of most American voters. It was probably just a practical barrier of logistics; you could not offshore whole factories so easily in those times.

Over the last 3 or 4 decades, the neoliberal, globalist trade policy hurt small, brick-and-mortar businesses, like the one I used to own, every bit as much as factory workers due to the need to compete with big-box retailers, getting volume discounts on goods made overseas by people whose wages were 20 times less than American wages. We could not buy one component of the item we made without paying more than big-box stores pay for an entire, finished item.

I do see your point about the need to diversifiy an economy. Oil is not enough to build a vibrant economy. It sure does finance some massive, architectural structures in Saudi Arabia, however.

Itinerant's picture

There are a lot of aspects to the economy of a given society over which people can have a variety of interpretations.

My point is that it mind-boggling, disingenuous, and simply not truth-seeking to analyze the situation in Venezuela as a perfect refutation of socialism or vindication of so-called "market economies" without even mentioning oil or the price of oil. Like analyzing Rome without mentioning conquest or slaves. Or analyzing Canada without mentioning cars, timber, mining or oil.

Macavity's picture

Agree, mostly. This story is shite. It doesn't prove socialism doesn't work, it demonstrates that rampant corruption coupled with not-getting-in-line-with-US-world-order makes a poor but oil-rich country so much worse.

rex-lacrymarum's picture

You are right, oil needs to be mentioned. The absurdly high oil prices that reigned from 2003 to 2014 were just about the only reason why Venezuela's socialist economy didn't collapse a long time ago. Without the sudden surge in oil prices, Chavez and his bizarre authoritarian Marxist regime would have been but a footnote in the country's history. Admittedly, it was already getting worse and worse before Chavez,  Maduro and their clique decided to give it the coup de grace and make the collapse a particularly profound one. Government intervention in the economy had been rising for decades, but no pre-Chavez government went as massively retard with nationalizations, price controls and money printing as Chavez and his successor did. They literally killed one industry after another. Oil mentioned, next. 

Heavy's picture

Rich died for Sanders, not a smart choice, would still be nice to see HRC executed for murdering him.  (she could finally be in the executive possition?)

Gazooks's picture

John Perkins success variety

Erek's picture


Check out this official (and mystifying) photo of Trump and the Saudis.


What are they conjuring up?

Nice Try Lao Che's picture

They're wondering why Pippen/Gandalf/ & Aragorn are looking at them on the other side.

Manthong's picture


Everybody caressing one of Mohammed’s testicles?

 I would expect that from Obama, but not Trump.

HowdyDoody's picture

They are inaugurating the Saudi center to combat extremism (aka anyone who objects to Whabbism or criticizes the Saudi Monarchy)



Give Me Some Truth's picture

Always look at the names of legislation (or "centers") to know what they will really do, which is of course the opposite. The Center to Combat Extremism will Assist and Support Extremism. One of a thousand examples - The "Patriot Act' outlawed real patriots, or identified real patriots as traitors. Or: Just protected the growth of the Police/Surveillance State, which all true 'patriots" of course support. Sigh.

dtwn's picture

The problem with criticizing any failed or failing socialist state is that the left will always claim that "real" socialism hasn't been tried yet.  

HowdyDoody's picture

'The problem with criticizing any failed or failing capitalist state is that the right will always claim that "real" capitalism hasn't been tried yet.'

This is a good game.

post turtle saver's picture

if anyone plays the "No True Scotsman" fallacy for failed implementations, it's the Left when it comes to socialism... you never see these type of arguments attempted for capitalism because capitalism ACTUALLY WORKS... 

Give Me Some Truth's picture

I think it was tried for a 100 years or so in America - about the time span America became the marvel of the world. The experiment was nipped in the bud beginning in 1913 with the institution of the federal income tax and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Funding "global wars" also became a necessity around this time with WWI. Closing the "gold window" completely in 1971 completed the exercise. Since then the "capitalist" system has been all about protecting corporate "cronies," and creating as much fiat money as the system required. What we have now is not true capitalism. That would require free markets and about a million fewer "regulations" and "mandates" than we have now. 

Give Me Some Truth's picture

I'd argue that in "real capitalism" a person could, say, cut someone's hair and accept payment without buying a government license and complying with numerous other mandates (you MUST do this; You CAN'T do this ...) Same with cutting your neighbor's grass. Same with competing with some giant "crony" corporation that really loves extra layers of red tape and expenses because this keeps any start-ups from taking market share from them.

The "rule of law" and "markets" benefit the established "player" who is cronies with the law/regulation writers. Yes, I would say that "real capitalism" has not been tried ... Maybe in the first century of this nation something close to it was tried. Back then, if you wanted to start a business you started a business. Government didn't really enter the equation. "Money" was also gold and silver or paper money could be redeemed for "real money." America today isn't anywhere close to this. (I know, absent OSHA employers would be killing employees left and right. Absent Medicaid, no doctor would deliver a baby, or put a cast on a broken ankle, etc.)

Nunyadambizness's picture

I think it's been tried and done, but one must remember that the Communist/LEFTISTs have been working for something like 130 years in this country to destroy it from the inside.  Those are the ones that believe the gubmint owns everything, and has the power to regulate EVERYTHING even though the Founders tried to limit the power and scope of the federal government.  Regardless, in my experience it's the leftists that want to regulate everything from haircuts to the local lemonade stand--one hears stories about how some child needs a friggin' permit to operate a lemonade stand nowadays--and I can guarantee it's not a person who believes in LIBERTY that is doing that.  Or, fail to pay your property tax?  "Mine" says the government--which means they OWN it and you're really just renting it from them, a central tenet of Communism.  


Give Me Some Truth's picture

... I'd add that the level of control required of "central planners" has increased steadily since 1913. More central control is required. I think we are finally seeing the "end game" play out in our times. Efforts to ban cash, denigrate the monetary metals and create even more central governments (the EU) are just three indicaitons of this. The growth of the Police/Surveillance State and various other "emergency measures"  to "protect" people are now necessary to keep the masses from rising up. I think Orwell, Rand, Ben Franklin ("a republic ... if you can keep it") and, yes, Ron Paul are being proven to have been prescient. Interesting times. 

Endgame Napoleon's picture

Tell me about it. After I got divorced, closing my storefront business, I added four insurance licenses to a useless bachelor's degree. I just paid the state to renew those stupid things once again, taking more "legally required" tests.

There are some exceptions. But most of the salaried jobs are dominated by gangs of frequently absentee crony moms. Even in many of the jobs requiring sales, most employees are not licensed.

In the back offices and in many sales-related jobs, the vast majority of workers are often paid between $9 and $11/hour, with the crony-mom employees enjoying the perk of leaving work a TON for kids as a consolation for the low wages, in addition to a lot of things like workday contests where you bring a photo of yourself and your baby and vote on which mom looks the most like her baby, etc., etc., ad infinitum. The same atmosphere, payscale, mom-dominated workforce and crony-absenteeism
policies prevail in other financial services jobs, like credit processing.

They hire a couple of licensed "signers" in many buildings, paying them $1/hr more, but they, too, need to fit in the babyvacationing cliques of mommas more than meeting quotas, coming to work everyday and staying all day to convenience the paying customers.

The ability to accept low wages due to unearned income from spouses, ex spouses or welfare/taxfare is the most important thing in these low-wage jobs and even in many (not all) of the the little agency jobs, where they often do hire licensed staff, but do not provide benefits.

Or, you can go the straight-commission route. Again, there are no benefits, and you must buy leads and incur other expenses. Some companies make you buy into these pyramid schemes, paying the big parent company between $10,000 and $50,000 for a franchise-like deal. Or, you can be an IA, paying for appointments with multiple companies, with about 10 agents below you in the pyramid, taking a cut in each straight-commission sale.

This is what you get for jumping through all those expensive and time-consuming licensing hoops. Whereas, if you just copulate and reproduce while single, you have a far, far better prospect of fitting in the backscratching momma cliques in most of the salaried jobs. No need for licenses. They laugh at licensing, actually, among other fun, catty, jeering, chanting, sadistic put downs, juxtaposed with a lot of syrupy sweet, cooing talk about their babies. If you are licensed, but lack birth-canal exits, just be prepared with responses to interview questions that revolve around how "YOU don't know what it is like to raise 2 boys," or "we have 17 women in here and HAVE to have someone who fits in." Also, be prepared for managers who leave in the middle of afternoon interviews to prepare for a "busy moms night out."

No, f******* no, you do not need to waste your money on licensing, which is a biannual expense. As a momma interviewer for a big life insurance conpany around here told me, "it hurts you in most of our corporate office jobs," not that she was telling me anything I did not know at that point. Once you put the money and time into it, you feel obligated to keep renewing the licenses in case you ever use them. I have never failed to meet a sales quota in a job, but thus far, I have seen nearly zero jobs that pay even a basic living to those with high sales numbers and everyday, all-day attendance. Even in busy, bigger stores with enough sales volume for owners to justify regular commission checks, the pay is very low. Cutting labor costs is more important than individual sales production to most owners. Womb productivity is far more important than licensing in most corporate office jobs. The field should not require licenses. They bypass it in most cases, anyway.

Anteater's picture


Corporate:State Socialism Uber Alles!!

RagaMuffin's picture

Anybody vaguely familiar with the Catholic Church knew that the selection of Pope Francis, a Jesuit, was an act of desperation.

Nice Try Lao Che's picture



aka: circling the wagons ~ What's even more telling about that is how they hustled Benedict XVI outta there

Anteater's picture
"Anybody vaguely familiar with the Catholic Church knew that the selection of Donald Trump, a Jesuit, was an act of desperation." 'Take it to the limit one more time' used to be the mantra of gamblers and dopers, buncha losers. Now it's become the White House operating slogan, and we are all losers in the process.
Full Court Lugenpresse's picture

False dichotomy: there are more options possible than Venezualan totalitarian communism and American neoliberal oligarchy.

hedgeless_horseman's picture


Most socialism usually starts with just the tip, but it always ends in the same way.

44magnum's picture

I wont come in your mouth , I promise.

geeves's picture

True, but any variant that involves centralized collectivism ultimately ends in eating zoo animals; it's just a question of how quickly.

Francis Marx's picture

The socialist, whether be here in the DNC, or any other country will not stop till all is destroyed. Liberal thinking is based on arrogance.

post turtle saver's picture

why the Left refuses to talk about...

- Venezuela

- Cambodia

- the USSR

- basically, any state that has tried to implement socialism / communism / similar and given us the results of gulags, killing fields, torture, repression, and poverty inflicted on millions if not billions of people

the only reply we ever receive from Left when these facts are called out is a smoke screen of logical fallacies and misdirection... never addressing the plain fact that socialism is an utterly failed form of government that free men should avoid at all costs...

Erek's picture

“Communism is Socialism in a hurry.” V. I. Lenin 

Mimir's picture

Never seen "gulags, killing fields, torture, repression, and poverty inflicted on millions" in countries which since the beginning of last century organised themselves according to socialist ideals of solidarity and social justice such like Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany after the Second World War as well as Portugal after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 - red carnations, red like socialism. The social welfare state is their historical achievement which now is threathened by neoliberalism throughtout the continent since the seventies, if the left or the centre/left does not manage to prevent it.

RedBaron616's picture

That's okay, the aging of Europe will take care of it. Eventually there will be very little money coming in for social programs but lots of money going back out. It is just like Social Security, a Ponzi Scheme. As long as more workers join the workforce, life is good. But when more retire than start work, the difficulties arise. The problem, of course, is that those funds are never invested but rather spent as quickly as they come in for other purposes. The writing is on the wall and it won't be pretty.

Anteater's picture

why the Right refuses to talk about...

- 1999

- 2008

- the USA, now the most deadbeat broke nation in all of the history of humanity.

Singelguy's picture

The question is, WHY is the USA the most deadbeat broke nation in all of history? It seems you want to blame the right or capitalism. Who created the $20 trillion in national debt that continues to grow daily? Where does 2/3 of the annual budget go? Social programs. Who created those social programs? Mostly democrat governments with heavy socialist leanings. It has now degenerated into a corrupt swamp where politicians on both sides want more government control and higher taxes to further enrich themselves. What they fail to realize is that socialism is great until you run out of other people's money.

rex-lacrymarum's picture

These dates marked the peaks of unhealthy boom periods which were driven by money supply and credit expansion ex nihilo aided and abetted by the loose montary policies of a central bank - i.e.,  a socialist central planning institution alien to a free market economy. 

rex-lacrymarum's picture

Socialism is literally "impossible" due to the socialist calculation problem - which incidentally also bedevils all central banks.