Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Socialists Rebrand

So, Friday, Vin Scully made some remarks about socialism during the evening broadcast:
 “Socialism failing to work as it always does. This time in Venezuela. You talk about giving everybody something free and all of a sudden there’s no food to eat. And who do you think is the richest person in Venezuela? The daughter of Hugo Chávez. Hello. Anyway, 0 and 2.”
He was, of course, correct, but I wanted to rebut this nonsense by Craig Calcaterra:
Probably worth noting, though, that Scully is wrong about why Venezuela is in such a bad place right now. It’s not socialism. It’s (a) a horrible currency policy that is not unique or required by socialism; (b) rampant speculation on currency which is a pretty capitalist sort of thing; and (c) politicians who fear making hard choices because of electoral consequences which, again, is not unique to socialism.

Also: the people in charge of Venezuela since Chavez are part of the more business-oriented wing of the party and the rampant inflation that has led to shortages was fueled with kerosene in the form of currency subsidies to business in Venezuela, particularly the oil industry. If you want to make a case that propping up big oil is a socialist thing that’s fair, but if you’re doing it to disparage Venezuela and elevate that which we do in the US of A, don’t go looking at how we treat Big Oil here. It might make your argument . . . complicated.

Anyway, here’s a long take on the problems of Venezuela which says all of this way better than I can:
  • (a) is only necessary because the government refuses to let the bolivar float and allow price discovery mechanisms to find the true exchange rate
  • (b) is a consequence of hyperinflation that the government uses to evade its true debts
  • (c) "hard choices" means what, exactly? Not taking over toilet paper factories by force?
I have no idea what he means by "business-oriented wing of the party", but it doesn't seem to have any effect on the operation of the state, which has since seen fit to seize and loot that country's equivalent of Best Buy. Some "business".

But I guess we shouldn't be surprised. When the socialists publicly fail, as they always do, their adherents scurry away, seeking to find others upon which to tag the blame — or better still, to cast out the failures in a kind of long-running game of "no true Scotsman". They've worked for decades to erase the S in NSDAP, distance themselves from North Korea, and so on. Lawrence W. Reed put it well in a recent Foundation for Economic Education essay:
Socialists are so intellectually slippery that they could crawl through a barrel of pretzels without knocking the salt off. It’s socialism until it doesn’t work; then it was never socialism in the first place. It’s socialism until the wrong guys get in charge; then it’s everything but. Under socialism, do you shoot the cow or just milk it 24/7? One thing I know for sure: When the milk runs out, socialists will blame the cow. Maybe the reason why socialists don’t like personal responsibility is that they don’t want to be held personally responsible.
"[S]ocialism", he concludes, "is nothing more than a nebulous fantasy. It’s a giant blackboard in the sky on which you can write anything your heart desires and then just erase it when embarrassing circumstances arise." Just so. The rebranding of Venezuela has already begun.

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