Unfortunately, Kevin Williamson is one of the finest writers and thinkers in the world today.
It’s unfortunate, because Williamson wrote this: Venezuela’s Future — and Ours. It’s an essay in which Williamson predicted what anyone who’s ever studied Socialism knows: the people who embrace Socialism, as America appears to be doing (See, eg.: Sanders, Bernie, Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria, et al.), are embracing horror, bloodshed, poverty, famine… death on a massive scale.
So, if you wish to live in blissful ignorance, then please don’t read anything that Kevin Williamson writes.
Williamson’s is an outstanding essay, telling us all about what went wrong in Venezuela. In Socialist Venezuela, people are eating dirt from their back yards. Why? Because, well, they already ate all the grass. It all boils down to one word: Socialism. And this is why:
Progressives will consider the case of Venezuela or North Korea (the American Left’s longstanding admiration of Castro’s Cuba, and its celebration of Hugo Chàvez only a few years ago, has been memory-holed) and say that the problem with those countries is not socialism but a lack of democracy, political violence and instability, etc. But repression on the Venezuelan model is not extraneous to socialism — it is baked into the socialist cake. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro (and Castro!), Chàvez, Maduro, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Shining Path: No ideology is that unlucky. Violence and oppression is not something that just happens to accompany efforts to impose political regimentation on the economy — which is to say, on private life — but is an inescapable accompaniment to it. [red emphasis added.]
In Venezuela, one of the natural resource-richest countries… in the world, the people have no food or toilet paper. So, to make things better for them, their government guns them down in the streets. Why? Well, the people are quite naturally wondering why, with all the natural resources their country has… they have no toilet paper or food. When they express those concerns in public the government solves their petty complaints by adding a few grams of lead to their diet.
Kevin Williamson adds:
The Venezuelan case is a textbook example of the evolution of socialism.
Yes. Socialism always, always, always, evolves, always “progresses,” toward ever greater violence, ever greater government coercion, ever greater thuggery.
While the Soviets and the Maoists had intricate five-year plans, Venezuela had essentially one big plan: Use the profits from state-run oil companies to fund a massive welfare state, and use the leverage thus gained to fortify support for Hugo Chàvez and his political party until they achieved power sufficient to move Venezuela’s assets and its people around like pawns on a chessboard. The problem is that people are not chessmen. Chàvez et al. turned out to be pretty poor chess players, but even if they had been grandmasters, it would not have been enough. Economies cannot in fact be controlled and managed in the way that socialists imagine, something that is much better understood today (thanks to our deepening appreciation of complexity) than it was when Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek described the limitations of central planning in more qualitative terms.
There’s a reason for which Hugo Chàvez tried so desperately to bribe the Venezuelan people with lots of free stuff: because he thought he could.
He wasn’t too far off the mark; poor people who aren’t all that sure where tomorrow’s meal, or next week’s meal, is coming from, can be bribed with free stuff. No discredit to the poor people, but a whole lot less credit toward the one offering the bribe, and not working toward providing a structure that will lead to an opportunity society for the people.
Read that last well.
There’s one way to set up a structure that will lead to an opportunity society for the people: implement free market capitalism. That means for the government to get mostly out of the way. Not completely, but mostly.
In other words, the “structure” you set up lacks, for the most part… structure.
Capitalism is mostly about allowing systems and structures to develop and grow organically. In other words: free people using free choices to show other free people how much they value, or don’t, their products and services.
Kevin Williamson underscores what we just said with:
Venezuelans are not fools — they noticed that this [Editor’s note: Socialism] wasn’t working as advertised. When the critics began to say so, their newspapers and broadcast facilities were shut down; when they protested individually, they were jailed or assassinated; when they protested en masse, they were massacred. When central planning fails — and it always fails — the result is almost never the relaxation of political regimentation but the redoubling of efforts to impose the plan by increasingly brutal application of force. [Editor’s note: The “evolution” of Socialism. Or: When the government gets it very wrong, their response is always to make it even more wrong.] Sometimes that force takes the form of killings, torture, and beatings. In the old Soviet Union, in North Korea, and in Venezuela, it also has taken the form of politically imposed hunger. The largest share of the 100 million human beings murdered by socialist regimes in the 20th century died of hunger: in the cities, in the countryside, and in the gulags. The Holodomor alone killed between 7 million and 12 million people. Mao’s famine killed between 20 million and 43 million, and many of those deaths happened in places where food production remained at or close to normal rates: Appropriation of economic output for political purposes is always part of the plan. [Editor’s note: emphasis added.]
You can distill down the above quote from Williamson’s essay into one phrase:
“Want people to die by the millions, in excruciatingly, agonizingly, horrific fashion? Easy! Implement Socialism in your country.” [Editor’s Note: Our locution, not Kevin Williamson’s]
Kevin Williamson’s National Review essay continues (we added some red highlights):
No one yet knows how many deaths Venezuelan socialism will inflict on Venezuela. But it is a fact that children are starving to death in what was, not so long ago, South America’s wealthiest country. In the 1950s, Venezuela’s GDP per capita was about the same as West Germany’s. (Some of you younger readers may want to read up on why there was such a thing as West Germany. That’s another chapter in the annals of socialism.) Being rich is no prophylactic against tyranny or anarchy.
That’s because being rich is temporary. Countries, like families, can go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves — and it need not take three generations. As the Scots say: “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.” A nation that is not building is on its way to begging. Venezuela is already there.
And: “A nation that is not building is on its way to begging.” And, of course, “Being rich is no prophylactic against tyranny or anarchy.”
To bring things full circle, Williamson concludes (with our added emphases):
In a 2006 poll conducted by the University of Chicago, Venezuelans led the world in national pride. One wonders what they would say now, if they weren’t too terrorized to speak. It is difficult to be proud when you are scared, hungry, and miserable.
Funny thing: The second-proudest nation in that poll was the United States.
The depredations of Socialism are beyond the capacity of words to express. Grotesque, horrific, unbelievably disgusting, incredibly, inconceivably unimaginable… and more. Here’s the list of (some of the) words I found at powerthesaurus.org:
abominable, unpleasant, awful, terrible, dreadful, atrocious, terrible, dull, hideous, appalling, endured, repulsive, dull, frightful, unpleasant, appalling, terrible, shocking, horrendous, appalling, disgusting, loathsome, foul, repulsive, atrocious, afraid, shocking, nasty, vile, terrible, revolting, offensive, gruesome, odious, terrible, shocking, grisly, ghastly, horrifying, frightening, monstrous, unnatural, awful, abhorrent, nauseating, wicked, scary, atrocious, dreadful, dire, heinous, terrible, repugnant, offensive, sickening, offensive, disagreeable, obnoxious, repellent, execrable, pain, ugly, frightening, menacing, unspeakable, bad, dreadful, beastly, mean, horrific, terrible, ghastly, macabre, atrocious, wretched, awful, afraid, evil, offensive, vicious, rotten, ugliness, horrid, terrifying, frightening, horrifying, ugly, dirty, cruel, terrible, vicious, fearful, appalling, shocking, grim, frightful, shocking, harrowing…
All that, and more, is Socialism. It’s what a bunch of Socialst thugs have transformed Venezuela into. They left out the word, “bloodthirsty.” Probably because my lookup term — “horrible” — is much more generic. “Bloodthirsty” is a bit more specific.
It’s worth reading the entire piece by the great Kevin Williamson.