Beaton column: Are we all Chavistas now?
The Aspen Beat
“We are all Keynesians now.”
— attributed to President Richard Nixon
In the depths of the Great Depression, economist John Maynard Keynes theorized that the government could control business cycles through monetary and fiscal policies.
Keynes was right to some extent. Lower taxes, higher government spending and lower interest rates stimulate the economy, at least for a while. Even Nixon came to believe in it.
The phrase “We are all Keynesians” caught on. Economics is the dismal science after all.
A Newsweek cover story in 2009 took the catchphrase a step further in proclaiming on its cover that “We are all socialists now” as they celebrated President Barack Obama’s promise to fundamentally transform America.
Maybe Newsweek didn’t really think socialism would save the world, but just hoped it would save Newsweek. Within a few years after that story, Newsweek was dead as a print magazine and was sold for one dollar — which was worth less than 7 cents in the 1930s money used by Keynes.
Although socialism came too late for Newsweek, it came too early for Venezuela. Historically, Venezuela has always had an industrious workforce and abundant natural resources, which it has wasted.
To give just one example, Venezuela has the largest petroleum reserves in the world. But it currently imports oil from the United States because it now lacks the know-how and systems to run its oil fields beyond about 40 percent capacity.
How can that be?
Socialism, that’s how. The late socialist Hugo Chavez looted part of the country and ran the rest into the ground in the name of “Chavism.” The price of gasoline in Venezuela is about four cents a gallon, but you have to stand in line for hours and sometimes days.
Inflation in Venezuela in 2019 is projected to be 1 million percent per annum. Seriously.
That’s what happens under socialism. The dogma is “from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.” The outcome, predictably, is a needy population with little ability.
The people running the show tend to have the highest needs and lowest ability of all. Chavez became a billionaire by destroying his country, as did all the others.
So what of America? Well, here are some sobering statistics.
Millennials favor socialism over capitalism by a margin of 51 to 45 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll. At our universities, liberal professors outnumber conservatives by 12 to 1.
A full 18 percent of university professors are full-on, self-described Marxists. These purportedly educated individuals are adherents to the philosophy that killed 100 million people in the 20th century.
Some 40 percent of Americans now think the government should censor so-called hate speech with which they disagree — the First Amendment be damned.
That’s because socialists know that earners don’t surrender their earnings voluntarily. Their earnings must be taken. And dissent must be crushed — by censorship, by political correctness and by name-calling. Now that they’ve worn out the race card, their idea of persuasion is to call you a “mother****er.”
If necessary, and sometimes just for the fun of it, they use violence. Some 19 percent of college students think it’s OK to use violence to stop speakers from speaking.
To disguise their thievery, socialists play word games. The newest incarnation of this ancient practice of taking from others whatever you need for yourself has been rebranded the “Green New Deal.”
“Green” refers to the money the government will confiscate under the proposed 70 percent tax rates (plus state and local taxes).
Whatever the branding, socialism does appeal to the mob. The mob would rather play than work, and would rather take than earn. They especially like to take from earners they envy and therefore hate.
Playing, taking, envying and hating are not the path to happiness that the mob assumes, but that point is for another column. Today’s point is that such shallow self-indulgence is not what saved us from the stultifying stank of socialist slums.
It’s the incentives, creativity, risk-taking and individuality of capitalism that did it. In America over the last century, shorter work hours and labor-saving machines attributable to capitalistic invention and investment produced a bounty of leisure time. Lifespans have increased by 50 percent and child mortality has dropped by over 90 percent. We don’t have just a chicken in every pot; we have two cars in every garage.
Even our poor enjoy more luxury than yesterday’s royalty, with cable television, air conditioning, pickup trucks and smartphones.
Our biggest problems are ones of abundance. No one involuntarily starves to death in America, but many people voluntarily eat themselves to death. We’ve nearly eradicated ancient bigotry based on gender, skin color and religion, but are now promoting it again in the name of identity politics.
We’ve almost earned our way to a real utopia, but we risk sacrificing it on the altar of a cult that promises counterfeit happiness and free stuff in the form of envy and stolen goods.
Give the Chavistas credit for one thing — there’s no problem with illegal immigration into Venezuela. People are instead fleeing that “workers’ paradise” just as they fled all the others.
I wonder how long before there will be nowhere to escape. Are we all Chavistas now?
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