What model?

At the core of a somewhat dull discussion on Venezuela’s financial sustainability the failure of the opposition narrative appears. The panel counts, of course, with Francisco Rodriguez, on a secondary role Jaime Reusche (Vice President and Senior Analyst, Sovereign Risk Group, Moody’s Investors Services) and with a surprise appearance we get Alejandro Velasco, (Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies, New York University)

Just to give you some context on what’s happening here. F-Rod goes on saying that the picture is not that dire. That the government has been “rationing” its dollars substantially. Basically the same thing we have been reading. Nothing new. The debate flows into oil prices. Nothing substantive. Rodriguez goes down an slippery slope by arguing that only if oil goes to zero then Venezuela would default. I don’t want to dwell in how weak that argument is but I just want to emphasize that I found it appalling.

Then it all shifts to the Hausmann conundrum on the ethics of the debt service and arguments of why and why not Venezuela would default. Again, nothing new. When I am about to just say “screw these guys” Alejandro Velasco performs a hat trick and asks:

I am actually do curious about what the ‘model’ is? […] Venezuela is a petro-state. (47:00)

Socialismo with an "I" made out of oil barrels

Socialismo with an “I” made out of oil barrels

And then here it collapses all that poorly constructed narrative on how we need to change the model. Pretty much every oppo spokesperson from Borges, to Torrealba, to Muchacho to Guevara, to Machado have argued that, implying that it is socialism which has failed. I am not here to argue whether there is truth on that. What I am here to say is that Venezuela is not, it has never been a Socialist country. It has been a petro-state. Plain and simple. Look it up in the dictionary and I bet Venezuela is given as an example.

Chavismo has lot more in common with AD’s governments than anything else. Same bad policies. Same fear and that bragging on how they knew “el pueblo” better.

And here is my beef with oppo spokesperson. When you construct a narrative in something so evidently wrong, it is built on a house of cards. A more powerful narrative is to say that Chavismo is nothing more than a really bad sequel of the last 60 years of policy making in this country and we would like to build something new. Something fresh. Something that leads to a salsa style tropical modernity.

A state of justice with more dancing and tastier food. Sort of.

157 thoughts on “What model?

  1. I disagree. Venezuela IS Socialism. Sure it does not have the cultural revolution of China or the collectivization of the Soviet Union, or the continuously firing squads of Cuba, or the killing fields of Cambodia. But China did not have the collectivization of the Soviet Union, neither China had the continuously firing squads of Cuba. Those are horrible ornaments of the Halloween of governments engaged in a permanent “trick or trick” (no treat here) with its people. Socialism is not an economic theory nor a cultural proposal. It is a government of thugs that abuse the force of the state to engage in a perpetual with hunt finding enemies everywhere and creating them (he new “magnicidio” every other week) when they cannot find them.

    Aponte Aponte talked about the Friday morning meeting when the high echelons met to decide who was going to be persecuted the following week. That is socialism, that’s all you need in a truly socialist government.

    Scientists look for empirical regularities in the chosen field of study to find laws. What is common in Enver Hoxha’s Albania, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, Polt Pot’s Cambodia, Honecker’s East Germany, Ortega’s Nicaragua, Kim il–etc.–etc’s North Korea, Ceausescu’s Romania, Stalin’s USSR was the brutality of the government suffocating their people. That is an empirical regularity. And that is what we have in Venezuela today.

    I wonder whether people who claim that Venezuela is not a socialist country, have a romantic vision of socialism. There is not such a thing. Whenever you have a government convinced that the commissar knows better than you what is good for you and your family, you will have a government dedicated to bring misery upon its people.

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    • The idealists’ vision of Socialism does not, and never has, existed… anywhere. Nor could it ever. Their ideal requires that human beings be transformed into some sort of collective hive organism such as bees or ants, which just isn’t going to happen. We are not made like that.

      Whenever this “ideal” has been attempted, it has allowed the worst thugs of the society to be elevated to positions of power. Those same thugs have then gone on to ruthlessly subjugate the population and destroy the productive capacities of the country through their own avarice and venal incompetence.

      Yet when confronted with this dismal record, the best you will get from the “idealists” is perhaps a sheepish admission that “mistakes were made”. They will NEVER admit that their cherished theories are fatally flawed.

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      • Any ideal vision of society is bound to confront problems, when applied to reality.

        The ideal America proposed by the Tea Party is as unreal and the worker’s paradise. Also unreal are the Caliphate, the Great Israel and the pure Europe that populists love to imagine.

        However, I would argue that Scandinavian countries have come as close as it is possible to establish a socialist polity. And what they have done is not bad, actually it works quite well, much better than, say, America. Of course, as any society, is a work in progress, with problems and tensions, but not bad at all.

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        • I tend to agree with you on this point. Though, for my personal tastes, I find the Scandinavian countries to be dull and lacking in vibrancy — the sort of place one goes to retire, not to seek one’s fame and fortune.

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            • Quizá las visitó, quizá no, pero si hay algo que tienes que tomar en cuenta es que DE GUSTIBUS NON EST DISPUTANDUM!

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            • Alf, No offense to the Scandinavian countries…they are well thought of, and they seem to think well of themselves too….there is so precious little self -criticism by them on any venue , which is a testimony to their tendency to conform ; something some people love, others hate….it’s about taste.

              I myself wouldn’t last long there, but I am sure it ‘s great for many.

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              • Good, don’t come then, stay where you are, no one is inviting you.

                Tendency to conform… ignorance is extroverted.

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              • Google translate says: “This here is just crazy ! I have to guess that you aging visited Norway , Sweden rather ! Denmark, maybe!”

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              • Evidently there was an error, now the right version: “This here is just crazy ! I have to guess that you never have visited Norway , Sweden rather ! Denmark, maybe!”

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            • Herr Gjestvang,

              I have been to Stockholm (beautiful city), though most of my opinion is formed from the news and the many Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians I have known over the years. Please note that I did say it was a matter of personal taste. The Scandinavian countries are very well organized and responsible nations. Their citizens are mature, pleasant and friendly, if somewhat introverted by my standards. Their companies are generally honest and transparent and produce quality goods and services.

              What is wrong with that? Nothing at all. I just have a personal preference more chaos in my life. I even find the U.S. boring and lacking in challenge, which is why I live in Latin America. If I had lived in the U.S. a hundred and fifty years ago, I probably would have lived out west on the frontiers, instead of the comfortable settled areas of the East.

              So, please forgive me and call off the bomber strike on my position. Thank you.

              Skoal,

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            • aldrig Alf, inte aldring xD. Dock, jag håller med att någon som vill inte bo här, kanske har aldrig komma hit.

              I totally understand that people wouldn’t want to live here but the point was if it was or is a successful socialist model. I tend to say that the original socialist welfare state that existed, at least here in Sweden, does not exist anymore. It is of course a very generous state, it has a big safety net, and a huge marginal tax rate. But socialist? At least not in the economy side of the issue. It’s driven by quite free competitive market policies, it has a quite flexible job market, even with the power of the unions and it compensates this with a strong unemployment insurance scheme. This is a mixed system and it has adapted to the obstacles that it has encountered and there are still some issues to be solved.

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        • “actually it works quite well, much better than, say, America”

          one kind of cognitive bias Alejandro: “The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself”

          What works should be recognized as subjective,otherwise we fall into the above trap.

          Honesty would require us to say ” I like this, or I don’t like the other, unless 2 people have the same goal and this goal is measurable.

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  2. Poor English.

    Very hard to understand and follow your story here. Even harder to understand is your point of view. Can’t a “petro-state” be socialist? why not?

    Can an oil-producing country be something else than a petro-state? Even oil-producing regions (not countries), such as North Dakota and Alberta find it hard to avoid the distortions produced by the oil industry.

    The Norwegians establish policy with the goal of not becoming a petro-state (for example, by avoiding overvaluing the Norwegian Krone). Yet, it sometimes seems like Norway is fighting a losing battle against its oil. It is becoming harder for them to produce competitively anything unrelated to oil products. Norwegian society would like to stop producing oil yet, it realises that is now impossible.

    So how can Venezuela, old Venezuela, “change model”? I don’t think that is possible.

    Concerning narrative, Venezuela’s opposition lost control over words and language long ago, in 1998. What it has to do, I would argue, is to steal the flags of chavismo (equality, social justice, public housing, schooling and healthcare) and build a narrative about how they would achieve all of those.

    Sadly however, the opposition has no programme, no goals, no organisation.

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  3. It’s just not so simple. When you have a regime that excludes its opposition, institutes policies that are disastrous and does not learn better, but instead blames the opposition… that is not socialism! It is a political cult of the sort that can become very destructive. Even more destructive than now. A cult is not rational, it does not learn from facts or listen to reason. A cult attacks the non-followers!

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  4. Venezuela is implementing Cuban style communism (Castrism) and is headed down the same path to economic devastation and a police state run by rich gangsters and thieves. Socialism, petrostate, call it whatever you want, it’s the same outdated crap that has failed miserably elsewhere and is failing again before our eyes. Other countries in the region, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, etc., all seem ready to dive off of the same revolutionary cliff, so hopefully the Venezuelan example of what not to do will prompt them to rethink the path they are on.

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  5. Salsa style tropical modernity.

    That is one of the reasons I left, this propensity to tropicalness. Better brave bad weather that tolerate bad taste.

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  6. The Model that has failed can be said to have included the following practices or policies :

    1. Confiscation / govt take over of productive private businesses .
    2. punitive / economicaly irrational price and rent controls.
    3, The creation and maintenance of huge Irrational subsidies (including that of gasoline prices)
    4. Supply of Oil to preferred countries on heavily discounted terms
    5. Printing of inorganic money .
    6. Paying exhorbitant prices for largely uneeded services or supplies from preferred foreign businesses or regimes .
    7. Imposition of corrupt and inefficient foreign exchange controls .
    8. Neglecting the maintenance and improvement of public services and infrastructure (having regard to future needs) .
    9. Corrupt , disordered and wasteful use of public resources in all kind of public ans social programs and projects including the assumption of very nerous ofinancial burdens in excess of what a well ordered administration would require .
    10. The imposition of work rules that allow for an unproductive and abusive work force .

    I dare suggest that if these practices had been avoided , any other model even if imperfect would have worked much better for the welfare of all Venezuelans.

    .

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      • Roy , the list is just an opener ( although it should include the most obnoxious features of the failed ‘Model’) , feel free to add any of your own choice !!

        Actually Im not sure the regime has followed a thought out conceptually organized model , instead they ve followed a sort of visceral approach going for things which seem brash bold and revolutionary to them and which serve their inmmediate political goals

        Rethorically they will play with glittering ideological labels but thats just an excuse of the lazy brained to persuade themselves that their thoughtlesness represents an actual doctrinal program .!! ,

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        • I was being humorous, or trying to…

          But, you are right that the model was never a coherent set of principles that could be defined as any particular “ism”. Many years ago, on Daniel Duquenel’s blog, we had a debate that convinced me that the “ism” that most closely matches Chavismo is Fascism, which is ironic, seeing as how it is one of their favorite epithets to hurl at anyone who disagrees with them. The term “fascism” is hard to define since the style is a reflection of whichever charismatic leader implemented it. In some discussions of the phenomenon it is only defined as a political/economic model having a preponderance of a list of characteristics associated with fascism.

          See the following link for a list of 14 such characteristics: http://rense.com/general37/char.htm

          I counted 10 out of 14 definite matches, one probable, and one possible. If it looks like a duck…

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          • Excellent assessment… the term fascism is somewhat amorphous, defined more by the properties of those who were member nations that adopted the term than by a truly coherent ideology. Authoritarian nationalistic crony capitalism, you might call it. Chavismo, that is.

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            • Its a cocktail of different ‘ideas’, it includes a strong element of messianic fascism , tropicalized clientelar populism , a big dollop of raw utopian proto communism and certain non ideological popular cultural elements which give it a peculiar rethorical taste ( including for example a defiant petulant belligerent stance of anti americanism ) .!! .

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    • But, but, but how do you expect the big fat chivos to pay for their humble armed nannies, their exhuberant properties in Miami, or their children’s singing careers? D:

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  7. Rodrigo,

    I am 100% with you here. What I have said a thousand times is this: Venezuela never had capitalism or socialism. Venezuela has been a feudal country since the XVI century.
    It went from rural feudal to petro-feudal but that is everything. The vast majority of those who portrayed themselves as “revolutionaries” were at best feudal lords or compradores who pretended to have some modernity.

    I translated Humboldt’s words about Fernando Penalver here:
    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Pe%C3%B1alver

    Most of our “progressives” today are not more advanced than Penalver.

    Whether we talk about a honcho from the PSUV like Miguel Rodríguez Torre or the Chávez clan or one of the politicos from PJ or UNT, we are referring to people who are not interested in a real land reform, one like those carried out in Western and Central Europe between the end of the Middle Ages and the Napoleon times. The caudillo principle is what we have. Parties are only a platform for “el hombre, carajoooo”.

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    • Kepler,

      With respect for your other useful comments and insights here, decrying the wretchedness of the Venezuelan people and culture just isn’t productive. Furthermore, coming from an expat Venezuelan, it is just kind of embarrassing to hear.

      In my experience, all the world is filled with a mixture of “makers, takers, and fakers”. In Venezuela, as in all the rest of the world, the “makers” are the vast majority of the population. However, the petro-state situation of the country has permitted the “takers and fakers” to dominate the political and cultural landscape. Better, we talk about how to change that. If your claim were true, there would be no hope at all, and no point to be writing on this blog.

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      • I am not talking so much about the Venezuelan people as about elite, be it left or right, but also about what the country as a whole ended up being – because of the whole historical framework it has. No, it is not in our genes, no, it is not irreversible, but we have to be frank.

        Before there was oil Venezuela was a feudal country.
        Feudalism is not necessarily about “servants can’t leave the land”. It is about
        1) absolutely no land distribution (this matters even in such a highly urban country as Venezuela)
        2) no commitment to any societal treaty, just to your clan and to your leader
        3) no real parties, no programmes, just platforms for leaders
        4) a glorified caste of guerreros

        Venezuela can definitely change and I have often written about how this can be done even if I am aware there is no magic trick and it will be very difficult.

        The absolutely first step we need to take to get out of the feudal mentality is to realise we are there.
        The first step to get out of ignorance is to realise what shortcomings our education has.

        Because I believe in a better future I am absolutely convinced we firstly need to be courageous and admit where we are.

        Venezuela is a poor country that needs enlightenment. Enlightenment doesn’t come from some leader but from a general movement to transform society, among other things by bringing about real debate, accountability and real education – education as actionable knowledge, not as measured by pieces of paper.

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        • Kepler , with all respect Im trying to follow where your reference to feudalism comes from and dont understand the land reform bit ,could you please elaborate !!

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          • Ownership of land, even on small scale, is necessary for some stability, as an investment, as a backup. Even in the very crowded cities we have we can see the majority of the population lives in places for which they have no land property. For most Venezuelans – and even people in half of Caracas and in the centre, North of Valencia or San Diego are NOT the average, there is no clear land property. They live in land of the state, of the military, of some landowners.
            Land property for a larger proportion of people is one of the things that distinguished, say, Latvia or Lithuania or Estonia, from Russia or Ukraine…or that distinguished Bohemia and Moravia from Romania.

            It was precisely the particularities of land property in Norway that make the country almost skill feudalism.

            The USA didn’t even have to deal with this: as soon as the imperialistic advances firstly of the British and other settlers from Europe managed to secure land, this was neatly registered and land property organised in a rather clear way…and there was access to a lot of land for a large part of the population.

            Think about property rights in viviendas sociales in Guanare or Guacara, Charallave, Punto Fijo or Boconó have (those are the cities where most Venezuelans live)

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            • I would generalize to say that a strong rule of civil law, which includes property law, is a key component of the foundation for the progress of the USA, Britain etc.

              The LatAm term I am familiar with is latifundismo, which I guess could be considered a “feudal system” or such. Your ideas are in line with Hernando de Soto that properly registered land ownership is the basis for mortgaging and so for the possibility of poorer people to gain access to regular bank loans, thereby encouraging investment and spurring economic growth.

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        • Kepler,

          When I think of “feudal”, I think of a hereditary aristocracy. I just don’t see that applying to Venezuela. I do see a politically immature electorate, but I see that in many places in the world that are in much better condition politically than Venezuela. Really, I don’t see anything that one generation of sound and mature governance wouldn’t cure.

          I understand the need for land titles to be established and registered properly. You are correct that when uncertainty over property ownership is eliminated, that segment of the population will not be as beholden to the State, and can have greater power over their lives. But, I don’t think this currently affects the majority of the population and I see this as only one of many problems that need to be addressed, not the principle one. Furthermore, much of this is a function of local government and not federal government. Panama, has been working their way through this one for years.

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      • Roy,

        Wrong…the vast majority are takers…self centered behavior is the most common behavior in the world…EVERYWHERE .The reason the takers have dominated Venezuela is complex I think …one of which is Kepler’s reasoning on the Feudal System…the other is a weak middle class and a large and submissive working class…made this way from the beaucoup years of classism and authoritarianism.

        Education and a way out is not so much about formal education bu the kind of education that comes with awareness.

        In Venezuela a poor land owner could easily have his land stolen by someone with contacts…someone from a higher class …. and if he were to complain, they might even throw him in jail.

        There is always hope, but it is dim, and getting dimmer…..at some point if people tire of populism and freebies, and are willing to work hard to be free, they can get rid of these criminals.

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  8. Bolivarianism is not socialism, and I only wish the usual idiots posing as the latter-day vanguard would get that right.

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    • Of course it is not Socialism….we have far more Socialism here in the US…Medicaid , welfare, food stamps etc.There are plenty of people here who live off the government.In Venezuela you are left on your own.What a farce.

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      • A ver, te lo pongo en español para que comprendas mejor, porque en inglés no estás muy allá.

        En Estados Unidos los que “viven del gobierno” no son los pobres, ni los que necesitan Medicaid y ayuda alimentaria.

        Los que viven del gobierno son las grandes corporaciones financieras que fueron rescatadas con fondos federales.

        Las que viven del gobierno son las aseguradoras privadas, que garantizan un gasto sanitario que supera el 19% del PIB, aun cuando en otros países desarrollados no es más del 10% y eso dejando fuera a millones de ciudadanos.

        Los que viven del gobierno son las corporaciones agrícolas que gastan millones para mantener políticas que los permiten subsidios gubernamentales que se cuentan en milagros de dólares.

        Si tuvieses un poquito de inteligencia (un poquito nada más) sacarías la siguiente cuenta: el bienestar social, Medicaid y la ayuda alimentaria son gastos que se revierten en la economía, porque aquellos que los reciben los invierten en comprar comida, ropa, etc, en consumir lo que otros americanos fabrican.

        En el caso de Medicaid, la certeza de cobertura médica libera fondos que de otra manera tendrían que estar inmovilizados en un banco.

        Así, por ejemplo, las “food stamps” representan al final una ganancia para la economía que supera su gasto (ahí vas al sitio de la USDA y ves que por cada dólar invertido en una persona, se generan 1.84 dólares para el resto de la economía).

        Y en todo caso, esa red de protección social es mucho más barata, mucho más pequeña, que las que hay en Europa occidental.

        Lo que tú dices, de “socialismo” y “gente viviendo del gobierno” no es verdad. Es solo tu visión pequeña, egoísta, de la sociedad en que vives. Una visión que terminará por convertir a los Estados Unidos en Pakistán (no me crees, coge el carro y date una vuelta por el gueto local, a ver que te parece)… Ya a fuerza de recortar el gasto en educación pública las escuelas son peores que en Polonia.

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        • Hay una tendencia en mucha gente a melodramatizar un tanto sus dudas y recelos hacia el Estado lo que los lleva a asumir posiciones mas extremas y reduccionistas que veraces o precisas , en EEUU hay mucha gente que recela del uso que el Estado hace de los recursos publicos cuando se gastan en ayudar gente necesitada y usan el remoquete de ‘socialista’ para referirse peyorativamente a las politicas traves de las cuales se usan de fondos publicos para ayudar a esos necesitados . Posiblemente hay un relente de puritanismo en esta postura , de antiguo en los EEUU se han canonizado el self reliance y la procelosa dignidad del hombre pobre que sin embargo se basta a si mismo para defenderse y no recurre al auxilio publico. Es un mito sentimental como tantos otros.pero muy arraigado.

          El puritanismo ve todo hombre como moralmente obligado a ser productivo y si no lo es se asume que es por una falla de caracter y no por que hay circumstancias ajenas a su control que se lo impiden , de alli quizas la antipatia hacia esas politicas por las cuales el Estado ayuda al necesitado improductivo . Tildar de socialistas a esas politicas tiene el proposito evidente de denigrar de ellas .

          El otro extremo estan quienes suponen que el hombre improductivo que vive de la asistencia publica es siempre un santo varon victimizado de las circunstancias y que debemos ( con gran auto complacencia en nuestra tierna y compasiva moralidad y haciendo gala de un hinchado snobismo moral ) propiciar que reciba del Estado todo lo que necesita . Por supuesto ni calvo ni con dos pelucas.!!

          El problema esta es que el Estado ha asumido mas cargas de las que puede asumir dados los recursos de los que dispone para enfrentar sus hipertroficas proteicas y salvificas tareas. Esto impone la necesidad de prioritizar rigurosamente el uso de los recursos y ademas de aumentar los impuestos a quienes mejor pueden pagarlos lo que nunca resulta muy simpatico para quienes tienen que pagarlos.

          Hay muchas veces en que los recursos publicos en EEUU se usan para favorecer a corporaciones y negocios , por que existe la consciencia que si los negocios no marchan bien el sistema no puede sostenerse , a veces sin embargo se les pasa la mano y exageran en la distribucion de recursos publicos a corporaciones que solo los usan para maximizar sus beneficios con minimo beneficio para a comunidad en general . Esto tampoco esta bien y precisa de la aplicacion de un baremo mas severo para determinar cuando tales auxilios o ayudas se justifican .

          La generosidad o justicia en la ayuda del necesitado estan muy bien pero pueden ser contraproducentes si llevan al Estado a gastar mas rercursos de los que sanamente dispone , sospecho por otro lado que por mas beneficios que produsca la asistencia publica a los necesitados mayor es el beneficio que produce a una economia la existencia de gente productiva que no necesita del Estado para mantenerse y que quitar a los segundos para dar a los primeros puede resultat antipatico y lo que es peor anti politico para quienes aprueban de tales ‘despojos’ .

          De alli la practica de los politicos de tratar de estar bien con todos y asumir la ayuda del necesitado ( a veces de modo imprudente) pero sin tocar las rentas de los productivos usando del masivo endeudamiento publico para cubrir la diferencia. ESto ultimo si que puede ser peligroso. !!

          Todo lo anterior plantea unos problemas que no literamente no tienen una solucion aceptable de todos y que hacen necesario dejar a alguno descontento . El uso de vistosas etiquetas ideologicas para expresar nuestros descontentos no ayuda mucho a la calidad de la discucion que estos problemas conllevan.

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          • Bill B
            Good analysis in general, however the assumption that our work ethic is puritanical is incorrect.I have a very strong work ethic, and have no belief in God whatsoever….For me, and for many others like me, independence is a useful quality and not a defect.It gives endows freedom,generosity, self respect, creativity, maturity, and flexibility.The inner evolution of man depends on this independence.While is it comfortable to depend, it is deeply wounding in the end.

            I have no problem with other people wanting to depend on the government…but I don’t want it for the majority of my people.I realize some people need to depend and that is fine….but there are so many people who are stealing our government funds at other’s expenses it is not funny….I know this from vast personal experience.

            I live on a small retirement income and receive nothing from the government, even though I could qualify…I would rather save those funds for people who need it more than I do….

            Many people who are far from getting this use the word ‘puritanical’…..but that is a word that refers to Puritans, who were the ancestors of many people in New England culture, and who are at this point in time largely finger wagging progressives ….truly independent people are far less political.

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            • Gomadevi1 : Sometimes an ethos outgrows its religious origins and becomes part of a cultural feature , for example people are called stoic who have never read a word of stoic philosophy , it has to do with a set of mind more than with any religious beliefs . The Puritan ethos is alive today among many americans who are dutiful, hard working , dedicated and price self reliance even they have no particular religious beliefs . Whats more modern secular culture incorporates many elements from Christianity which did not exist before christianity but which now form part of the modern cultural mindset whatever the religious or non religious beliefs of modern day individuals . There is a puritan strain in US Culture and at the same time a hedonistic strain of frivolity , a love of entertainment ,fun , spectacles sports and games (Vegas, Hollywood , Dysneyland ) that runs counter to it creating cultural tensions that add a special vibrancy to US life .

              This is a much studied phenomena and one which today most anthropologist recognize as valid.

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              • Or these descriptions can be thought of as light -hearted vs serious, rather than Puritanical vs frivolous depending on whether you see the good or the bad side to them.

                There is a tendency among humans that when we don’t share a certain value , we devalue .Understanding requires empathy.

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            • Yes it is so incredibly snob to aspire to a higher- level functioning than what our natural self- centered tendencies incline to.
              Reverse snobbery anyone?

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              • A snob is someone who takes conceited delight in feeling superior to others because of his histrionicaly professed and rigurous devotion to some socially prestigious fad or belief , there is an essay by Ortega which explains this very well , it describes the common enough conceit of the uncultured in making show of how much they admire Culture by going to art shows or attending concerts or reading books they neither enjoy nor understand , he referred to this human tendency as Beateria : ‘holier than thou’ , the thing about the snob is that what he enjoys most about his beliefs is how it allows him to scorn others while being self congratolatory about the superiority of his own personal identity.

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              • Sorry you didn’t get the meaning, goma, of one of BB’s written gems.

                There’s absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring “to a higher-level functioning”. What is transparent, however, are those who are less concerned with aspiring to that level and more in need of displaying a self-centered bias in their flippant comparatives, emitted with little reflection or detail, for these would reveal ignorance and point to some fabrication, tendencies to the snob with his/her inflated sense of morality will always try to cover.

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              • Syd,

                I see the flippant, arrogant, comparison you just made here with little detail or reflection.

                “What is transparent, however, are those who are less concerned with aspiring to that level and more in need of displaying a self-centered bias in their flippant comparatives, emitted with little reflection or detail, for these would reveal ignorance and point to some fabrication, tendencies to the snob with his/her inflated sense of morality will always try to cover.”

                If people do not have aspiration to be all that they can be, there is a tendency to denigrate those who do.
                Reverse snobbism, at it’s finest.

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              • BB’s mastery of the written word and examples from Ortega say it all. But if I may point out in clumsier prose, the snob is not interested in engaging in dialogue-type of communications. Oh no. Rather, the snob has a visceral need to display his/her superiority over another. And because that psychological play is fundamentally dishonest, the snob covers up by delivering short, vague, or fabricated comments, in the hopes that no one in the room of potential admirers will poke into his/her flim-flam screen.

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              • “gomadevil”: you obviously don’t want to get what BB and I have tried to convey, BB displaying a mastery of the subject. Please direct your consternations to him. Your need to deflect in order to maintain a not-so bizarre cover is transparent.

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          • Este es el tipo de respuesta que suena bien y en realidad no dice nada.

            En el caso específico de EEUU la ayuda social es precaria, suficiente apenas para sobrevivir ¿Quién exactamente desea vivir en esas condiciones? Estadísticamente, casi nadie. Quién requiere y está legalmente autorizado a recibir la ayuda tiene una necesidad real, en muchos casos creada por una recesión económica que a su vez fue provocada por el sector privado.

            Les invito a que busquen que porcentaje del PIB americano se usa en estas ayudas, que porcentaje se usa para subsidiar aseguradoras privadas, que porcentaje para subsidiar bancos y que porcentaje a subsidiar corporaciones agrícolas.

            Les invito también a que revisen el PIB per cápita (lo que una persona produce en promedio por año) de Alemania, Dinamarca, Francia y EEUU. Los tres primeros tienen un sistema de bienestar social extenso, el cuarto no. ¿Creen que los estados de bienestar disminuyen la productividad de sus ciudadanos?

            Los estados de bienestar no están hechos para mantener vagos, sino para crear condiciones de igualdad de oportunidades. En Dinamarca el hijo del plomero tiene más posibilidades de ser médico que en EEUU (eso también lo pueden buscar).

            Eso no es esnobismo moral, eso es poner condiciones para aprovechar al máximo las capacidades de una población. Lo otro, el famoso “self-reliance” americano es solo una excusa barata para no pagar impuestos.

            Pero bueno, es lo que les digo, si no quieren pagar impuestos váyanse a vivir a Pakistan, o a Compton, que es más o menos lo mismo.

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            • Alejandro,

              1.
              This is a blog in English.

              2
              Try to understand that not everyone sees things in the terms you describe, and that each of us has the right, and perhaps even the obligation to know ourselves and what we want or do not want.I don’t want more government in my life

              3. I don’t thing having it easy is a bonus.All of my strengths have come from struggle, though sometimes I think we don’t struggle enough here in the US.

              4.
              Nothing horrifies me more than encroaching burocracy, but you are quite welcome to it.

              5.
              the beauty of the world is that each country can struggle to create it own system according to its own values

              The lack of seeing the subjectivity in one’s opinion is a cognitive bias

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              • Darling, I can write in Chinese, if it fits me. But if you insist in fighting a losing battle against the English language, I will oblige.

                There are a number of places where there is no government to dampen your freedom or grab your money: Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan. I suggest you move there, see how you like it.

                Having it easy? Your strengths come from “struggle”? What exactly are your strengths, dear? If you don´t think you struggle enough, why don’t you try being poor in the US? Do you honestly think that poor American children have equal opportunities, that they are free to choose their own lives according to the American way?

                One thing that horrifies me is vain people who take themselves as a standard. You had a bit of luck, could find a place for yourself somewhere, and lost perspective of what society gives you. The day you fall sick, for example, and are in need of medical treatment, all the investment made by governments around the world will come to serve you and try to cure you. Even if you pay your insurance, that is only an infinitesimal part of what the public sector has put in so you can have drugs, technology and infrastructure at your service.

                The safe life you live now is not the result of having a gun at home, but of public policies and a judicial system (i.e bureaucracy). Places where safety comes from individual prevention includes Venezuela (you can go home and see how that works for you).

                Ayn Rand is that kind of author you have to growth out of. To help you grow as a person I will tell you an anecdote: the day Rand was eligible for welfare, she applied for it… and got it. “Encroaching bureaucracy” actually helped her have a decent old age.

                Funny huh?

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              • Two things Alejandro. There is nothing wrong with pursuing to change the political system, where ever that may be. If it were to be wrong then this website or any other similar to it is pointless. And I know you don’t think is wrong because otherwise you wouldn’t be here commenting. The idea that you can ‘shop’ for countries based on your preferences is silly because they may have a political system that suits your needs, but no economic prospects or cultural affinity.
                Two, your command of english (or spanish) is nothing to brag about and is a fallacy to use that as to weaken others arguments. Not only that, you use that fallacy so pervasively that is plainly annoying.

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            • Gracias por tus observaciones, Alejandro, donde se permite sin barreras del propietario (quien es el que manda y no otro), comentarios en ingles, castellano, o ambos machucados, hasta en lengua nórdicab (con bombitas) y links a los antiguos escritos de Humboldt, en alemán !!

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              • Alejandro, while you detail your reasons for your negative comparisons with the US I find none of them applicable to me.You seem to find it hard to get down to the essence of your bias: subjectivity.

                Where did I say I wanted no government? I referred to encroaching burocracy.

                ” you don´t think you struggle enough, why don’t you try being poor in the US?”

                This is a straw man argument.You assume you know me.You do not.Actually I have and have had ample experience with poverty both here and in the US. Never found it difficult.What I DO find difficult is living among too much conformism.

                You really have trouble with understanding that we are not all made from the same clay.

                In the same vane I would say that Venezuela has to find it’s own way.Scandinavia will never be a model for a culture whose values are so vastly different.That doesn’t mean good, and that doesn’t mean bad.It just means different.

                People have to know who they are and where they are going before a workable plan can be set up

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              • Mr Linares,

                There is nothing wrong pursuing a change of the political system. What is wrong is to try to substitute for something worse than you already have.

                An Ayn Rand-type of society is as nightmarish as a socialist one. I think I have the right to point that out.

                Moreover, Mr Linares I do try to use examples to illustrate why is it wrong to believe Government is the enemy (or God, depending). You on the other hand, do not.

                According to you, do I have the right to tell people they are wrong (in my opinion)?

                Concerning language: command of any language has an intrinsic value. It is because the opposition lost control over the language of politics in Venezuela that it has been so difficult to revert the regime.

                It is because liberals in the US took over the words “freedom” and “individual liberty” from religious conservatives that gay marriage (for example) could ultimately become possible. When conservatives saw themselves, they were on the opposite side of freedom. In the US they were doomed.

                The same could be said about Martin Luther King, his English and the victory of the civil rights movement.

                It isn’t about bragging. It is about being able to convey a meaningful message.

                You know what is indeed annoying? people who can’t bloody speak a language and try to lecture others on it.

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              • firepigette,

                You did say you didn’t want more government in your life. I totally understand that and put forward a series of societies where there is a little government as is humanly possible today. Now, if you don’t want “encroaching” government, why don’t you define “encroaching”?

                Let me have a shot at a definition of “not encroaching”: that is the government that takes little taxes from you, but gives you all the things you get with taxes. Am I wrong?

                We are not all made the same but I do think all of us have the right to certain things: free healthcare (or at least a single-payer system) , free education, free personal safety, equality of opportunity. All of those things can only be guaranteed by a strong government and progressive taxation.

                People who argue against those, and especially using the arguments of the American right, strike me as selfish and a bit deluded since the American right usually loves to dispose of public money.

                Venezuela FOUND its own way. May I remind you, from 1925 to 1983 Venezuela had ever improving healthcare and education. We even had a domestic industry that produced much of what we bought.

                That path was disrupted by incompetent, venal politicians and the people who believed in them BUT ALSO by an elite that thought pretty much like you do (e.g Arturo Uslar Pietri -whom I admire- attacked the democracy with fury and helped in its fall, probably out of spite).

                So I do believe your points of view ARE NOT the way for Venezuela or any other country, really.

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            • Alejandro,

              Your emphasis on ” free” is amusing to me because there is always a price for everything.

              Self centered? Again straw man…you don’t know me.

              Instead of trying to force your values on others, I would recommend that you learn to think.There are many sites on the internet that explain logical fallacies.

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              • Let me elaborate on “free” healthcare. A concept you find amusing.

                Modern medicine is the result of vast investments made by governments all over the world over a long period of time. I mean so vast only a handful of individuals could actually “pay” for healthcare (the basic research underlying a finding, the development of a drug exploiting that finding to treat a disease, the building of infrastructure so a hospital can be possible, the actual hospital, etc).

                So people who pay for their health insurance, like in the US, only cover an infinitesimal part of the actual healthcare they get.

                Now, you could argue, if everyone paid something, then there would be less government, less taxes to be paid.

                Actually, in the real world, that is not true.

                The US healthcare system is more expensive and less comprehensive than those of (for example) France, Spain, Italy, Denmark or Japan, countries where care is actually free for the patient or heavily subsidised (Japan). In America healthcare accounts for 18% of GDP, in the other countries the expense hovers around 10%.

                It is counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

                The same argument could be applied to education.

                So, there you go, one of my reasons to disbelieve in your points of view.

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            • Me alejo del Blog por un momento y al regresar descubro que en el intervalo ha estallado una furiosa tormenta sobre lo bueno o malo que es la forma como en EEUU el gobierno usa de los fondos publicos para ayudar a los necesitados o para favorecer las actividades de ciertos negocios y esto aparentemente asociado a algun comentario inocente o cinico (take your pick) sobre las motivaciones que llevan los gobernantes a gastar esos fondos de una u otra manera .(el snobismo moral) .

              No se que relacion exacta tiene eso con la situacion de la Venezuela actual y sus peculiares circumstancias , pero acaso lo tenga por eso de que podemos ver la actividad filantropica o intervencionista del gobierno como la causa de nuestros males o como algo esencialmente meritorio .

              De momento creo que no podemos en este momento comparar las acciones del Gobierno de los EEUU con esa monstruosidad que pasa por ser el gobierno de Venezuela y mucho menos comparar las circumstnacias que permiten juzgar sobre el merito o demerito de esas acciones en uno u otro pais.

              Aunque no sigo de cerca la guerra que existe en los EEUU sobre este topico, sospecho que aunque simpaticemos con la justicia o generosidad de este gobiero en ayudar a los necesitados hay un punto previo a considerar y es si el Estado americano tiene o no los recursos para continuar con esta ayuda indefinidamente . Entiendo que la respuesta es que no necesariamente a menos que se aumenten los impuestos de los negocios y de quienes ganan mas, algo que el estamento politico temeroso de las reacciones adversas de sus electores tiende a postergar o eludir , prefiriendo una politica de creciente endeudameinto que algunos temen pueda a la postre llevar al traste la prosperidad americana.

              Esto nos revela algo triste y es que a la gente no le gusta que el fisco les quite sus reales para ayudar a aliviar la necesidad ajena . Algo muy humano y comprensible pero quizas no tan moralmente gallardo como nos gustaria que fuese.

              Los politicos que conocen de esta triste realidad de la condicion humana entonces estan en un dilema , quieren por un lado crear y aumentar y mantener el maximo de auxilios posibles a los necesidtados por ganar sus muy numerosos votos y asegurar asi su acceso al poder . ( esta es la motivacion prevalente entre los politicos) y por otro lado no quieren ofender la sensibilidad hiperestesico de los negocios y hombres de recursos imponiendoles el pago de impuestos que odian pagar . Por supuesto los politicos saben que los argumentos sentimentales son siempre los favorecidos y por esos usan de esto de disfraz para no revelar los verdaderos . De alli que muchos de ellos hagan pose de su tierna compasion por los desfavorecidos del destino y asuman la condicion de lo que en los EEUU denominan ‘bleeding hearts’.

              Esto sin embargo no convence a quienes encuentra que el gobierno es un mal administrador de los recursos y un botarata de los fondos publicos quizas por que les incomoda pagar con sus impuestos el socorro de la desgracia ajena

              Cual es la salida facil del politico a este dilema ??. endeudar el gobierno hasta un punto donde es dudosa su capacidad de pagar lo que aduedan .ESto es peligroso y necesita verse con cautela .

              De otra parte hay algo de verdad en lo que menciona Alejandro sobre la costumbre de los politicos de adoptar medidas para favorecer a los negocios en parte por que los negocios son la religion seglar de los EEUU y la fuente de su envidiable bienestar y en parte por que los negocios son generosos contribuyentes a sus campanas politicas y nadie quiere morder la mano que lo alimenta tan munificamente. Fukuyama recientemente ha sacado una obra donde senala el riesgo que para los EEUU representa la patrimonializacion por la puerta de atraz del poder politico , permitiendo a los negocios a traves de contribuciones electorales y la labor de dedicados lobbyist de influir sobre las decisiones publicas en su propio provecho .

              Como vemos hay espacio para mucha controversia en torno este espinoso asunto . Hora quizas para intentar responder a algunos de las dificiles interrogantes que plantea.

              Aqui debo interrumpir para atender a un llamado perentorio de mi mujer para que bje a comer …to be continued….

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              • Volvemos con las siguientes observaciones :

                1, No hay nada intrinsecamente malo y quizas pueda haber algo de bueno en que el Estado favoresca economicamente algunas industrias o negocios en provecho del bienestar de todos . Cada caso tendria que examinarse por separado para juzgar sobre sus meritos o desventajas . su necesidad o redundancia.
                Sino hay cost benefit analysis que favoresca la ayuda esta se elimina y los fondos entonces se liberan para darles un mejor uso .

                2. El gobierno en la medida que lo permitan sus recursos debera velar por proteguer a los mas desafortunados y desvalidos de los peores estragos de la penuria y de la desgracia aun cuando haya quienes representen casos de incapacidad cronica y multigeneracional para valerse por si mismos . Esto mas como un deber de los responsables de una sociedad bien organizada que por razones sentimentalmente piadosas. Es inevitable que en una sociedad existan estamentos de los peremnemente fracasados e improductivos y las victimas inocentes de circumstancias desafortunadas . Humanamente no se les puede botar a la basura. (lo que Rawls llamaria el safetynet principle)

                3. Cuando se trata de estmentos de necesitados rescatables para convertirlos en personas productivas y utiles , la obligacion va mas alla de la de simplemente proteguerlo de las penurias que los afligen y debera buscar dotarlo de los medios que les permitan acceder a una vida mejor a travez de la educacion y otros programas de desarrollo de su potencial humano . ( lo que Rawls llamaria el Fair Opportunity principle)

                4. Muy importante que los programas de asistencia sean bien organizadas y administradas sin desperdicios ni despilfarros por agencias gubernamentales que obren totalmente al margen de toda consideracion clientelar o politica. (lo que se me ocurre llamar el good governance principle )

                5. Por ultimo el estado no debe asumir cargas u obligciones filantropicas que no tengan la capacidad de costearse sin poner en peligro la economia y finanzas del Estado , en otras palabras nada de buscar ganar votos inventando beneficios que no hay como pagar .El endeudamiento irresponsable debe evitarse y el Estado costear sus programas sociales a traves del mecanismo normal de los impuestos . Si el estamento politico es incapaz de obtener el consenso politico necesario para aumentar los impuestos entonces debera prioritizar sus gastos para mantener por lo menos un minimo adecuado de programas sociales .

                Todo muy aburrido y de sentido comun . Donde deja de ser aburrido y de sentido comun es cuando pasamos a Venezuela .!! pero eso para otro dia …!!

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      • Bolivar rode the whole continent horseback while buying “friends”, said stupid “deep” shit and killed people by the thousands.

        Also was a lousy coward, as his contemporary friend Marx pointed out.

        I find it fitting with el legado.

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        • As is often the case, the “legend” is carefully crafted after the fact, and has little to do with with actual persons or events.

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          • And Venezuelans love to live after legends. I´m planning to make an avengers style biopic based on our independence “heroes”. Superpowers and all.

            Me voy a forrar.

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      • Bolivarianismo es la ideología que permite que el mismo grupo se mantenga en el poder siempre usando retratos digitales de Simón Bolívar.

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  9. I’m very happy you highlighted that question by Valesco!

    Meanwhile, Rodriguez’ analysis (which is indeed valuable) should give solace to the opposition: They really don’t need to make any major reforms if they come to power, just fiddle with exchange rates and such and they could muddle along for years and years.

    Ah ha! So, having “no plan” means the plan is to do things the way they were done before Chavez!

    Of course, that plan led to Chavez ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom : Im not sure that all in the oppo lack a plan , in fact I strongly suspect that at least some of them do have a plan , but that they are not going to disclose it if it will be used by the regime to distort it and use it to discredit them in certain electoral segments . They will say to themselves , If the govt is doing such a good job of destroying themselves why should I give it free ammunition to distract the attention of its many critics , first is the political end game , then once thats won the plan can be fully made public, finessed and implemented. Very first part of the plan is that it cant be a repetition of past failed policies and second that it must incorporate whatever part of Chavez policies can be improved and adapted for use in bettering the life of the less fortunate . third that it will be subject to modification as experience shows that it requires improvement . I personally dont think that F Rods explanation go the whole way towards solving the many open issues posed by todays crisis and I would guess very few people in the opposition think otherwise . He has ideas to contribute and they should be used to the extent practicable , but there are many others which he does not broach .

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      • It would be nice to think that there are actually some responsible adults in charge of the Opposition. I am afraid that I haven’t seen much evidence to convince me of that. You may be right that they are simply biding their time. Let us hope…

        Liked by 1 person

      • “…but there are many others which he does not broach”

        agree. The too-fast repartee and all the verbal fills do not personally appeal. Nor do they inspire the greatest confidence in one who has his eye on a MinFin portfolio. Only near the end did I gain a sense of reality from him, when F-Rod admitted — fleetingly — to the ongoing social crises.

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      • Hi Bill
        Yes, Your three points are probably something close to what ‘the plan’ actually is for much of the opposition
        However, there are really quite divergent ideas (for example, many of the more conservative opposition would object to your very reasonable second point — although I am sure both Caprilles and Lopez would agree.).

        But, I really do think it is a major problem that there is no economic plan as a part of a platform or manifesto of the opposition (MUD, or of its major figures). What should be the economic direction of Venezuela is one of the most important political questions, if not THE political question, that the opposition and Chavismo are facing off over. The fact that the opposition does not clarify its position is a real mistake, in my opinion I have talked to man peole about this over the years, and the responses are interesting.

        At one point, in about 2009 or 2010, the response was “but we are very far from taking power.” My comment to that was that, “great, then you have the freedom to issue a manifesto and time to debate and refine it, and most importantly, to gradually educate the people on why it is necessary” If the opposition comes to power and tries to do anything very different than the present government’s policies, there will be a huge outcry that it is a ‘neo-liberal’ grab (who knows, maybe it will be, depending on who takes power), and even within the opposition, tre will be major rifts over policy that should have been aired and resolved years beforehand. (Of course, there is the extreme example of CAP’s second term and the popular reaction to a completely unexpected policy).

        i once asked Lopez, at a meeting in the same room as the one in this video with F. Rodriquez et al, to please define his economic program .. f it is some mix of ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’ or what, specificially, he would do with the economy. He gave a very nice answer about looking out for the oppressed and impoverished; but I still could not say what his economic program was.

        if the opposition is not NOW educating people as to what is needed on the economic front to rectify the petro-state dysfunction of Venezuela … they need to build that consensus with the voters and among themselves now or they will never have the support to take the measures needed to really rectify it once they are in office and fighting to stay in power and bickering with one another as well Well, IMHO, as they say.

        I also agree that F Rodriguez’ measures are not fundamental; they would only stabilize the financial situation and FX system, giving breathing room for real reforms in the role of the oil sector and in diversification of the economy, etc.

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        • Tom: I am not close to any of the main groups , I had some contact in the past with teams working for some of them and was impressed at how well organized they were even though they kept a very low profile , the stance was pragmatic rather than dogmatic . Not vindictive at all . They were under no illusions as to the difficulties of explaining things to the public at large , dont know how politically they will go about selling their message , the timing is very important . Too early and you blow your chances , too late and nobody accepts the explanation. Your concerns are legitimate and real but this is the kind of fuzzy subject where no matter what you do negative fallouts must be expected and all you can do is try to minimize those.

          One thing they should try to do is for the main groups to create a sort of shadow technical support organization to start looking more in detail into the alternatives once greater control over the govt operations is achieved and spell out an action plan that goes beyond the purely political to face the many problems now afflicting the economy . Cant say that such shadow organization does not already exist , but it would be convenient if it did exist and was already working on the scenarios and alternatives.

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          • Thanks Bill – your experience is interesting. Still, I cannot see any advantage to avoiding the public discussion now.
            On the front of PDVSA and oil, the ‘shadow’ group of the MUD would seem to be COENER.(a google group), It is supposed to be the “command” on this topic, making analysis of the present and past and making plans for the future. Dunno if you could say it really goes very much beyond being a sort of listserve.

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  10. When you people do decide and cover FRod’s latest, it turns to be about socialism/populism semantic babbling worthy of a basement dwelling left-communist[0].

    The truth is that none of you are willing to risk your oppo-media political correctness in comparing FRod’s suggestion of cutting distinct subsidies with what the opposition is campaigning, because the latter is exploiting the necessity for said budgeting and there’s no nice way to approach their faults.

    [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Left-Wing%22_Communism:_An_Infantile_Disorder

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  11. Rodrigo: creo que caíste en la sutil trampa de Velasco, quien en el fondo lo que dice es que no vale la pena cambiar al chavismo porque la oposición lo hizo peor y hará más de lo mismo. Velasco es un investigador muy serio e inteligente al que respeto, pero no deja de tener su sesgo pro-chavista o, más bien, anti-opositor.
    “And then here it collapses all that poorly constructed narrative on how we need to change the model. Pretty much every oppo spokesperson from Borges, to Torrealba, to Muchacho to Guevara, to Machado have argued that, implying that it is socialism which has failed. I am not here to argue whether there is truth on that. What I am here to say is that Venezuela is not, it has never been a Socialist country. It has been a petro-state. Plain and simple. Look it up in the dictionary and I bet Venezuela is given as an example.”

    Repites la afirmación de Velasco según la cual Venezuela no es, ni ha sido (él dice además que no será) un país socialista, sino un petro-estado. Pero en estricta lógica, no hay contraposición entre ambos términos. Un país puede ser un petroestado socialista (como la URSS o Rumania en sus últimos tiempos); puede ser socialista sin ser petroestado, y naturalmente puede ser petroestado sin ser socialista. Sí, Venezuela es un petroestado desde hace varias décadas (habría que discutir exactamente a partir de cuándo), pero su carácter de petroestado no es, ni puede ser, el único criterio para definirlo. Venezuela fue un petroestado con un proyecto de economía mixta, en el que nunca antes de 1998 se planteó que la meta del Estado era implantar el socialismo o disminuir al mínimo el papel de la empresa privada. Los gobiernos tuvieron conflictos con el sector empresarial, pero desde el gobierno de Gómez hasta el de Caldera II la constante fue la búsqueda de una economía mixta, con un papel importante del sector privado. El modelo del chavismo es y siempre ha sido el de la sociedad, el Estado, la política y la economía cubanas, es decir, el socialismo totalitario de Estado. Que no lo haya logrado es otra cosa, atribuible a la resistencia de la sociedad y a sus propios errores.

    Decir que el “Chavismo has lot more in common with AD’s governments than anything else” es absurdo. Para empezar, concretemos ese “anything else”. ¿Realmente estás tratando de decir que el chavismo tiene más en común con los gobiernos de AD que con el castrismo cubano, o con el sandinismo?
    Dices: “Same bad policies.” Decir que las malas políticas del chavismo son iguales a las de los gobiernos de AD (supongo que incluyes también a los de Copei y el chiripero) es tan absurdo, para decirlo suavemente, que pienso que debes haber escrito esa frase sin pensarla y sin revisarla.

    “Same fear and that bragging on how they knew “el pueblo” better.” ¿El mismo miedo? ¿Miedo a quién? ¿Acaso en las décadas de los sesenta y setenta los partidos democráticos no conocían mejor al pueblo que los radicales de derecha y de izquierda? Usar equivalencias sin rigor es destructivo para tus propios argumentos porque los hace ver como… digamos, sin sustento.

    No sé si lo que quieres decir es que los gobiernos de la democracia eran o pretendían ser “socialistas”. En todo caso, se les podría denominar socialdemócratas, pero tú debes saber que la socialdemocracia nunca ha pretendido derrocar ni superar al capitalismo, sino reformarlo.

    “And here is my beef with oppo spokesperson. When you construct a narrative in something so evidently wrong, it is built on a house of cards.”

    Es un pelín arrogante discutir partiendo de que la posición del otro es “so evidently wrong”. No, si te parece equivocada, tienes que argumentarlo con razones más sólidas que unas simples equivalencias percibidas, sin investigar aunque sea un poco la historia real.

    “A more powerful narrative is to say that Chavismo is nothing more than a really bad sequel of the last 60 years of policy making in this country and we would like to build something new.”

    ¿El chavismo “no es más” que una “bad sequel” de los últimos sesenta años? Una “sequel”, en cine, es una historia que pretende aprovecharse del éxito del producto inicial, variando lo menos posible los elementos que hicieron el éxito de aquél. El chavismo, por el contrario, si bien ha usado algunos elementos del repertorio anterior, lo ha hecho con la intención de destruir su esencia, que era la construcción de una sociedad pluriclasista, de equilibrio entre los principales factores de poder (partidos, militares, empresarios, trabajadores) para garantizar la legitimidad y continuidad pacífica de un régimen. ¿Que al final fracasaron? Es cierto, pero no se puede confundir el resultado con los fines. En ese sentido, nada hay más incompatible que el chavismo y el régimen anterior.

    ¿Que hay que construir algo nuevo? Claro que sí, pero partiendo del hecho objetivo, innegable, de que somos y seguiremos siendo por un tiempo un petroestado; que no se cambia esta condición con un simple acto de voluntad, sino con políticas de largo plazo (políticas que te invito a leer en los documentos programáticos de la MUD, que al parecer no has leído).

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    • Cal,

      “¿Realmente estás tratando de decir que el chavismo tiene más en común con los gobiernos de AD que con el castrismo cubano, o con el sandinismo?”

      Asi es. Tiene mucho mas en comun. Sobre todo con su fase inicial. AD tuvo miedo a reformas y solo llevadas a cabo por CAP al margen del partido. Subsidios de precios. Distorsiones en el mercado. Impresion de dinero inorganico. Clientelismo. Paternalismo. Etc. Podemos debatir alrededor de la “intensidad” pero no alrededor de las politicas.

      Cuando me dicen que esto se parece mucho al Castrismo, pues claro que tiene sus tonos, pero no son cosas marxistas sino mas bien autoritarias. Sin duda uno puede pensar en un Petro-Estado que es a su vez socialista. Pero lo que Venezuela es realmente es un Petro-Estado en vias de ser autoritario, no socialista.

      Fijate que has tocado un punto neuralgico. Los documentos programaticos de la MUD son buenos. Tienen contenido y estan llenos de propuestas. Pero ahora digame, que vocero habla de eso? La verdad es que he alli el problema. Es que los voceros/candidatos tienen en su cabeza una cosa y los intelectuales/tecnicos que redactaron esos documentos tienen otra y los candidatos/voceros no tienen la disciplina de hablar de ese mensaje. Para serte sincero yo no creo que Capriles, por darte un ejemplo, se haya leido ese documento. Ojala este equivocado.

      Y si bien estoy de acuerdo que el petro-estado seguira por un futuro previsible, me gustaria ser parte de un movimiento politico que se plantee seriamente superar el petroestado. Muchos hoy creo que realmente no se lo plantean sino que se asumen como cuales, y listo, a hacer poltica.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Yet another lame attempt to clean Socialism face implying that there is a “right way to do socialism”

    Venezuelans: eternal lefties.

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    • The problem is, making Venezuela’s situation strictly about socialism causes well-intentioned people to wrongly pick sides and make the country into a silly object lesson in the service of furthering their own prejudices about the region. Its how you get liberals otherwise committed to social progress play blind apologists for an authoritarian regime that is an appalling foe to human rights, democratic principles and lawful governance.

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    • I don’t think there is a clean way to do it. I think Marxism’s premises are wrong and its results inapplicable. Modern Marxists ended admitting both those things and ended up aspiring something more like Liberal Equality but with different distribution schemes.

      That debate, James, is defunct.

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      • What are “Marxism’s premises”, according to you? Marxism is the materialist analysis of history and society. That’s all. It doesn’t vouch for 20/21th century socialist governments or any other government for that matter.

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        • The wrong premises is that it reduced society to the means of production of the 19th century. It assumed that the communist world would be one of abundance, because without it, communism is not possible. Marx rejected equality and justice (jusice is not needed in a communist society as it is one without conflict). The regection of equality is evident in the phrase “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. Implying unequal contribution and unequal benefits but without a sense of justice.

          The paradigm of exploitation where any wage/labor relationship by the fact that it generates surplus value is inherently evil, when there aren’t any logical arguments to proof that it is always the case.

          Marxist also left out any consideration for the role of women and ignored how were women either exploited or alienated in other areas outside the workplace.

          I don’t know about reformist, but analytical marxist all recognize that conflict, scarcity and imperfect rationality are part of the human condition.

          It is a long debate and it can be summed in the publications of Cohen, Roemer, Anerson and Reiman and others.

          See, to fit any modern political theory you must explain marxism as a more just system. So far the philosophers thinking on it have been unable to make compelling arguments in favor of marxist justice. The strongest argument in favor of marxism doesn’t come from exploitation but from alienation. But it fails to include all members of society.

          This is all off topic nonetheless and I would rather discuss it in some other post.

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          • “Marxist also left out any consideration for the role of women and ignored how were women either exploited or alienated in other areas outside the workplace.”

            Marxism doesn’t “ignore” gender struggle, inasmuch as racial, religious and cultural conflicts -to generalize in a way that lends perspective to your claim- is outside his body of work, which is concretely class struggle.

            Communists consider that any such factor that prevents the agitation of masses for the single purpose of acquiring the means of production is a Capitalist device (divide et impera).

            Even bourgeois media acknowledges that Marxist-Leninist governments, such as Stalin’s, do in practice realize reforms towards gender equality–comfortably outside of Marxism’s scope.

            “The wrong premises is that it reduced society to the means of production of the 19th century.”

            I think this is the “Uslar Pietri” argument wherein marxism is depicted as a confabulation influenced by the novelty of industrialization.

            Industrialization is accelerationism in that it increases production and reduces market costs.

            There are no predictions down to the day and minute of the advancement of a post-scarcity society.

            “It assumed that the communist world would be one of abundance, because without it, communism is not possible.”

            This is another factual inaccuracy and a grave misunderstanding of the concept of scarcity, which is not specific to marxism by a long shot.

            Scarcity is reduced when supply is incremented or demand is reduced to meet supply.

            Think of what that means in the context of Cuba, NK and contemporary Venezuela.

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      • The notion of “liberal equality” is decidedly idealistic and has no possibility of reconciliation with Marxist principles. That is, “liberal equality”, as an abstract, doesn’t exist in a materially appreciable way.

        If you’re attempting to talk about reformism, you’re better off doing so without muddling Marxist discussion with ideals.

        Marx on fluffy notions of “equality”:

        “Marx, quite frequently, and with very few exceptions, mentions `equality’ only to make the point that it is an exclusively political notion, and, as a political value, that it is a distinctively bourgeois value(often associated with the French revolutionary slogan: liberté, égalité, fraternité). Far from being a value that can be used to thwart class oppression, Marx thinks the idea of equality is actually a vehicle for bourgeois class oppression, and something quite distinct from the communist goal of the abolition of classes(CW3:79, 163-164, 312-313, 4:39-41, 5:60;6:228, 511; Capital1:280)”

        What ever reforms are then impulsed by approximation to required material conditions for communism (that is, accelerationist reforms).

        Not because of liberal politicking… even in spite of the latam pink tide’s campaign which is evaluated not in terms of Marixist faithfulness but in regards to the consumer’s demographic.

        Just like *gasp* the opposition’s “socialist” campaign. Somehow these reformist accusations haven’t reached VP and their Socialist International membership.

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        • Thank you Dspur for clarifying Marxs views on liberal equality as an instrument of oppression of the bourgeois class . Very revealing and enlightening !! People tend to the unsophisticated view that Marx somehow viewed a classless society as an equalitarian society. Now we know that was never the case.!!

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          • “Thank you Dspur for clarifying Marxs views on liberal equality as an instrument of oppression of the bourgeois class.”

            Social equality, as liberal ideologues promulgate, and as socialist utopians and anarchists also believe, is magic. It doesn’t exist.

            Marx, like Mises from the Austrian free-market dogma circles, both coincide on the eventual advancement of a post-scarcity society.

            Marx sustains that government is there to enforce the bourgeois and landowner’s relationship to means of production.

            When post-scarcity arrives, the government is no longer needed as the proletariat no longer need to work to participate in the market to acquire commodities that are priced based on offer and demand.

            There is *no* ideal involved of equality or even “social justice” as, say, Fidel has been using since the 60’s.

            Does this invalidates Fidel’s campaign?

            No.

            Marx is–even when he’s trying his hardest; e.g., The Communist Manifesto–politically inefficient. He openly calls out campaign deceitfulness that no party can refrain from.

            Therefore contemporary “socialist” parties all incur in campaign liberties, as other parties do that subscribe to different dogmas.

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            • Most serious students of economic phenomena now a days would be deeply skeptical of the historical possibility of a totally efficient continuous naturally self governing market system for the optimal allocation of produced human resources , and would argue that some sort of governing authority is needed to keep it functioning to sattisfy social needs. They view the total dissapearance of government as a frivolous utopian conceit be it spoused by Mises or Marx. Curious how people from the opposite ends of the political spectrum fall for the same follies .

              I gather from the explanation that for Marx inequality is important but that for him the only relevant inequality is that born of the existence of a social class that owns the means of production on one side and a proletariat class of dependent workers on the other. that he is blind to other inequalities such as those born of other social or cultural factors such as differences in social status related to the kind of job performed by different persons or the kind of education they each recieve which in his mind simply cant exist.

              Funny that a man so sensitive to the historical should not have perceived how so many inequalities can be born of a multitude of different factors nor of how much ordinary people enjoy feeling superior and different .!!

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    • There is often a political line drawn between what various governments do and what the private sector does, and then the lines are often “fuzzy” as controls and limits placed on either or both or sides. Calling a government is socialist because socializes a few services does not make it “socialist”…. it is not like a woman being a “little bit” pregnant! I think what we are seeing is a “Cult” government. Cults are groups that follow a personality, religious or political belief with such fervor that facts and logic play no role, and non-follower can be viewed as enemies.

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      • For all the rants on what governments qualify as socialist and which don’t, there’s a disproportionally low amount of work dedicated to explaining what the author *UNDERSTANDS* by socialism.

        These rants are usually perpetrated in circles like these, where no one is pressured to give out their definition of socialism, let alone what parties and countries they consider to be socialist, and why they’re offended by certain reformists and not others.

        On counted exceptions, these rants take place in fundamentalist circles (ultra-left or left-communism).

        Both have in common that they share no interest in productive work within socialist praxis *TODAY*.

        Both have in common, then, that they’re completely worthless.

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        • You are right about the lack of definitions. Marx’s definition is really poor. Perhaps Cohen’s is more palatable.

          I wish to describe socialism as in marxism, which is what opposition leaders refer to (I think). I think Social Democracy is something else.

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          • That is an excellent goal (gaining a PSUV definition of socialism and measuring its success). Good luck finding something that’s stated in a down-to-earth-easy-to-understand manner.

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  13. I stopped the other day by a road side stand that said “lobster”.
    There were 2 pots, one had a lid and the other was open.
    I asked the vendor why does one pot have a lid?
    “Ohh, those are Maine lobsters. Unless I keep the lid on, they will help each other climb out of the pot”
    How about the one without the lid?
    “those are Latin American lobsters. As soon as one tries to climb out the others pull him back in”

    Venezuela is a “Kleptocracy”, it is not socialist,nor capitalist.

    The comments above describe feudalism.
    The hacienda system in Latin America is not truly feudalist.
    5% got the land, 5% worked in town (blacksmith, lawyer, store,etc.) and 90% worked for the landowners.
    For 500 years, whenever one of the ambitious of the 90% wanted more,he needed enough backing to take it, gana (I am perpetually amused that win and earn are the same word). Hence, caudillos. With enough backing I can take the country.

    Everyone here is trying to ride the next “power” wave.
    Not enough think they should attempt to build a better mousetrap,unless they are trying to trap “power”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I am perpetually amused that win and earn are the same word”

      Absolutely! And I often find myself frustrated trying to express the difference in Spanish without using excessive circumlocution.

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      • Or the many many reasons I can think of why:
        Brazil is not the US
        Argentina is not Canada
        Colombia is not Australia
        El Salvador is not New Zealand
        Guatemala is not taiwan
        etc.

        Is the simple fact that ever 8 years old in the non latin american countries can differentiate between win and earn, while adults in latin america have difficulties truly grasping the difference between win and earn.

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  14. Socialism has many iterations but the distinctive feature is the political goal of
    equality of outcome for all except the powerful elites and their cronies and families who govern.

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  15. OT: just had a call from a relative visiting Colombia thru the Tachira border , the passing of venezuelan goods and gasoline trucks into Colombia is an open massive daylight activity , NGB personnel pay no atention to it . Store shelves in the Colombian side of the border are crammed full with Venezuelan produced stapples , the same that are missing inside Venezuela only at much higher prices .!! Wonder whatever happened to the war on smuggling which got so much publicity only a few weeks ago. !!

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    • would be interesting to know what Vzlan goods are on the Colombian shelves, and at what price/on what date — comparatively speaking, that is, if those same goods were available in Vzla. Photos, too, would be extremely useful.

      Not that the activity surprises me. While bachaquerismo is probably now on steroids, we’ve heard about it for some time, and regarding gasoline for a number of years. But perhaps little known is that the smuggling of goods to Colombia, to gain a better price, has occurred in other periods. I know for a fact that it was happening in the 1980s/most of the 1990s, among Vzlan caficultores. Growers knew they could get a better price for their harvest in Colombia, and be paid quicker than they could through the then government-controlled FONCAFE. Colombia moved the coffee quickly given the country’s massive, international advertising campaign (Juan Valdez) that in turn meant all pieces of the national infrastructure were in place to sell and ship product. Don’t know what happened to that relationship when the Eternal One came on board and had Foncafé renamed as Corporación del Café.

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      • The relative mentioned several products but I forget , he did mention that you could buy a can of Venezuelan powdered milk at the equivalent of 500Bs . also reported seeing trucks carrying gasoline and other stuffs crossing the border openly and without hindrance in broad daylight with the National Guard looking on as if nothing was happening . I do realize that smuggling of one sort or another is a long established border custom . what marks the difference is that this time we are talking about massive shortages on this side of the border and of a govt campaign which loadly broadcast how effective it was in combating cross border smugglling apparently with little result . !!

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        • No Vale, Bill, those trucks were going to the Venezuelan state of TUCHIRA.

          That is what what the “Guias de Movilizacion” stated.

          As we all know, TUCHIRA is right next to TACHIRA. There’s a bridge between ’em and everything………..right by Cucuta…………………

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  16. In this discussion of models we are lured by the known social models relevant to us today: “Socialism,” “Mixed Economy,” “Capitalism,” “Democracy.” Thus the discussion of whether Chavismo has more in common with AD (or the ADemocracy that preceded it) than with communism has the propensity to unfold along the traits of those models
    CAL: AD-Copei wanted to develop a plural society while Chavismo wants to do away with the class system.
    Rodrigo: Yes they both have a lot in common. Subsidios de precios. Distorsiones en el mercado. Impresion de dinero inorganico. Clientelismo. Paternalismo.

    I think these two systems have a lot in common, but not in terms of the salient traits of the underlying models. I think that a big feature of our political system has not attracted enough attention in the political debate that this forum and blogs like this propitiate: the moral caliber of the leaders. And and important point to make is that moral compass that matters is not a personal attribute but the byproduct of a system that works to produce crooks.

    True there are crooks everywhere. John Edwards wanted his assistant to claim the paternity of his son while he was cavorting with his mistress and his wife was dying with cancer in a hospital. Violating all norms of security, France president Hollande was riding a motorcycle in a Parisian night to meet his second or third mistress. In all probability Peña Nieto took money from El Chapo Guzman and bought himself a mansion in Mexico City. We had our own Ciliberto with Jeeps galore and other shenanigans and our own Perez Jimenez used to hop along naked in a motorcycle, chasing pretty girls in La Orchila. That is not the morality that I have in mind.

    It is more like the Nixon moral problem: a political system that puts a premium on undermining rivals through tricks and entrapment. CAP was not sacked from power by Chavez but by Alfaro UnCero. The most formidable enemy of Caldera was El Tigre. The viciousness of the internal fights of our political parties was so detestable that they lost the faith of the people.

    Conflicts between friends are more intense than conflict between opponents. There is more acrimony in divorce than in business disputes. In religion the worst sin is apostasy and in war the worst crime is treason. One may speculate about psychological forces propelling the anger that colors the conflict between friends (passion, sense of betrayal, ego involvement, etc.) , but that belongs to other domain. Here we note the intensity of the conflict when the warring parties used to be united before.
    In Venezuela, the dynamo moving politics before Chavez was the internal conflicts in the main political parties. Those with long political memories will remember how vicious was the conflict between Hector Alonso Lòpez and Claudio Fermin when they were vying for the leadership of AD youth organization. I was close to that conflict and remember how one friend from one side saw the others as the incarnation of evil itself. Everything was allowed in order to defeat the devil. The tragedy for Venezuela as a country is that the belief in the creed that “everything was allowed” created a political culture where deception, lies, maneuvering, tricks, and the violation of the principles of fair play and even the law were not only permissible, but valued.

    Chavismo is exactly like that. Remember Aponte Aponte story of the Friday morning meetings where the cabinet and trusted underlings of Chavez got together to plan who was going to get fucked the next week. When Chavez came to power his autocratic style stifled internal dissent among his followers. But now that he is gone, the war among former comrades is brewing. And that war will be very mean.

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    • A class-less society is the goal of social democracy. i.e. “a society of misters”. Where people are not necessarily equal in the amount of resources they own, but people are treated as equals regardless of it.

      Socialism is something else. It is after exploitation and alienation. Not classes.

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      • Rodrigo, Do I understand correctly that you think Socialism has nothing to with (the efforts to do away with) class distinctions? (Which of course produces all sorts of contradictions, humans being what they are.)

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        • Marx didn’t worry about inequalities, but about freedom. Marx argued that we are not free because we are being exploited and alienated by the capitalist. The only way out of the conundrum is by socializing the means of production. I don’t think he wanted to do away with classes, but do away with class struggle.

          One very funny and interesting thing is that Marx’s concerns about freedom were quite libertarian. The logic behind his intellectual constructions around surplus value are similar to the libertarian constructions around taxation.

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          • So, in order to gain freedom from exploitation and alienation, caused by the capitalist, we the proletariat have to “socialize” the means of production. What the hell does that mean, exactly? En criollo, puej.

            And if Marx wanted to do away with class struggle, then the only way I see that happening is by doing away with class distinctions, in other words, making everyone the same. That to me, means doing away with classes and their distinctiveness.

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          • “The logic behind his intellectual constructions around surplus value are similar to the libertarian constructions around taxation. ” Pease, would you elaborate on that?

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            • Libertarians argue that men have natural rights. The right to their property and the fruits of their labor.
              Taxation is forcefully taking the fruits of my labor, therefore I am forced to work to pay taxes. Being forced to work is slavery.

              Marx’s account goes like this. The capitalist control the means of production. The worker uses those means of production to create products. The wages she receives are less than the value she created and the difference is the surplus value which is appropriated by the capitalist. The capitalist therefore is exploiting the worker (or slaving) by taking this surplus value.

              Libertarians argue that taxation is oppressive and Marxist argue that lack of access to the means of production is oppressive.

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  17. The “Model” is not economical. Is political. This model Its totalitarism fueled by the petro-state. Before it was “representative democracy-populism” fueled by the petro-state. Always a petro-state, not the same political goals now and before. Saludos Rodrigo

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  18. I fully agree. Venezuela was never a socialist country and it has few if any bona fide socialists in it. Bolivarian socialism was a knock-off brand distributed by an opportunist. It is important to know that, not to defend socialism, but to diagnose the underlying problem. Caracas and Havana are both disasters, but they are different kinds of disasters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Venezuela’s stewardship under Romulo Betancourt feels pretty socialist. Not only did he nationalize the oil industry and redistribute private land for agriculture, but a ton of public works projects went up during his governance.

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      • Some of the most eloquent and damning criticism of Chavez and his successor has come from bona fide former Venezuelan communists and socialists of a certain age. The phrase “Hero of the Military Museum” comes to mind, for those who used to read El Universal when it was a newspaper…

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  19. Raul please take note that Betancourt did not nationalize the oil industry , the oil industry was in the hands of international concessionaires whose concessions were about to expire in the early 1980’s at which time all oil assets would by law be returned to the State , because keeping an oil industry running requires the making of long term investments it doesnt pay for the oil concessionaires to make investments which pay out would ocurr after the concessions expired , this was hurting the long term prospects of the venezuelan oil industry and both the companies and the govt understood that it was best for the govt to expedite the expiration date of the concessions so that those investments could be made . This happened in CAPs first presidency in the mid 1970’s , amicable negotiations were started some time in 1974 culminating in a agreement to have the concessions expire earlier than originally anticipated , the legal mechanism whereby this result was accomplished was called the oil nationalization and it happened in 1976. The land reform process was indeed a program advanced by Betancourt in the early and mid 60;s, the reform was supposed to affect only lands which were underutilized or under exploited to their best agricultural potential . All expropiations were compensated.

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    • All the great progressives of that era would now be labelled socialists or communists today. We had Lester Pearson. The gringos had Roosevelt. Now you get ersatz ideologues like Chavez and Maduro who are more communist than Che but incapable of effectively or sustainably implementing a single state program or intervention that does not involve arming people, stealing stuff or shutting down media outlets. They could not implement a public toilet outside Miraflores without it being stolen, breaking down or being taken over for criminal purposes.

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  20. If we mean “Socialist” as “Communist”, then no, the country never had a Communist model, and the revolution did not advance a Communist model (it is moving there faster every time it FAILS at something, which is, everytime) as much as the same old petro-state model with some Communist decorations.

    If we mean Socialist as everything from Social Democracy to the left, yep, the country was more or less on a “socialist” model, and one that worked, from the end of Perez Jimenes to CAP. And then it went from there into all new-rich-crazy mode, Venezuela Saudita, which… is the Chavista model, the real model they worked under and assumed.

    For many of you that may seem as unavoidable, but really, given the realities of the country (undeveloped, backward place with good resources but nothing else), social democracy was a correct model to build the industry, the middle classes, the education, etc.. needed to develop the country. That it all ended in I-won-the-lotto antics with the oil boom and then the endless cycle of rags to supposed theorical riches back to rags as the oil barrel oscilates is the real tragedy of Venezuela

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  21. For me, socialism is not only about whether it was accomplished or not, mainly because socialism is impossible to accomplish. Socialism is ALSO the failed methods tried by big government that cause the fuckups every socialist/communist country sooner or later faces. As was said above, we humans have a knack for not behaving the way socialists say we should. When things don’t end up in the paradise their theory says, then it’s not the “model” that is wrong, but the people. Nowadays you hear commies all the time saying the USSR was not “really” communist, and that those daring to criticize communism don’t know what communism is “really” about. Bullshit, of course.

    Pa’ ponértelo bombita, socialism (and its cousin, fascism) is the way, not only the impossible end.

    Despite the crappy post, I like to see people’s true colors in the comments.

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    • “For me, socialism is not only about whether it was accomplished or not, mainly because socialism is impossible to accomplish.”

      But that is also true of any political system. Right?

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      • Hell, no. The goal in socialism is to have an impossible heaven-on-earth utopia where everybody behave like angels ruled by other unselfish angels. A paradise. Remember “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”? The problem -and the crap- starts when (note that I’m not saying ) those who decide what “from/to” favor themselves and their friends.

        Capitalism (the free market variant, not the cronyism present today in most of the 1st world) is an economic system, not a political one. People need to stop comparing a political-and-economic-system-combo (socialism) with an economic one (capitalism) that works in a different political system (liberal democracy/republic).

        Free market capitalism has no end, no utopia to arrive to. It exists merely to allow people to be economically free and create wealth continuously.

        I left Venezuela three times (I hope this one’s for good) because I realized pretty much everybody and their sister is a socialist. Coming from a low-middle class household, with no political connections and an aversion for kissing butts and corrupt/get-corrupted, I would have never been able to give my son a better life (by this I mean better opportunities) than mine.

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        • And you think free market capitalism exists or has ever existed? Right…
          I am no socialist and I prefer free markets but if one of the things I learnt about 11 or 12 years old was a bit about history…world history, a bit of history of economic development of the UK, Germany, USA, Japan, etc.
          Things, I realised, are a bit more complicated than that. Capitalism is just a very general model. Free markets are sometimes either an utopia people strive towards or, more often than not in the case of developed against underdeveloped nation, a fairy tale from a superpower in order to rape the resources of the underdeveloped country helped by the local compradores.

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      • OH!

        Now I realise you wrote the post! That is why you find it annoying, my criticism of (I get it) your writing.

        Sorry, but surely you need to develop a thicker skin, if you want to write for the public.

        If you are willing to take friendly advice, I would recommend these:

        Politics and the English language, by George Orwell.

        History of western philosphy, by Bertrand Russell.

        A short essay and a book made of essays, both available online and for free. Maybe you will find them useful.

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  22. Alejandro if we are going to wallow in subjectivity, let’s at least take a minute to enjoy an appropriate venue for it:

    good day

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  23. I think Venezuelans think they like Socialism but in reality they don’t.Venezuelans are by nature dynamic capitalists with all the qualities this system requires: flexibility, creativity, freedom loving, active, willing to work hard for self…and many orher qualities…..Culture will trump political systems everytime…better for Venezuela to an improved Capitalism than to fail miserably at Socialism, because it will.VEnezuelans are wheeler dealers…that just need to be tempered by a well functioning judicial system.

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  24. As bad is the economic indicators are for Venezuela, one remains relatively good, the unemployment rate. While the share of the workforce in the in the informal sector has gone up recently, the actual unemployment rate remains low ~5.5%. The temptation is to say the number if “fake” but has certainly bounced up and down in the Chavez-Maduro era which suggests it’s no more fake than it was 15 years ago. Another possibility is the current rate is accurate but with salaries declining in real value, people remain in jobs with reduced pay. Perhaps the regime assumes the discontent can be contained as long as people are showing up to work every day, even if it is a “do-nothing” job. The question is how long does the unemployment rate remain low and what happens if it starts rising?

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    • Of course the Ven. unemployment rate is fake–it includes as employed Misiones recipients, part-time self-employed street mechanics/plumbers/construction workers, buhoneros, et. al., none with social safety net benefits= a real Ven. unemployment rate at 50% or so using developed country standards. The Ven. Govt. statistics on virtually everything (inflation/min.wage/agricultural production/probably international reserves/etc.) are outright lies.

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      • The unemployment fiasco in Venezuela goes as far as considering a person who performs “paid labor” for a minimum of two hours a week a full-fledged employed part of the country’s workforce, the same as any person with social security and with full benefits.

        Yep, disgusting.

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      • I once read that during the early part of the 20th century Uruguay enjoyed a period of high prosperity because meat and milk products could be sold internationally at high prices , and that the enlightened govt then in power used the resources coming from that wealth to make every body a civil servant and allow them a salary that allowed most every one to lead a life of middle class comfort , then the prices fell and the country fell into very hard times , discontent flourished and they had the Tupamaros and a succesion of Military Juntas.

        Recently Ricardo Hausman wrote an article in which he brought forth the topic of whether society and govt should seek to follow a distributive policy or an inclusive policy where distributive policy basically sought to distribute the wealth so quality of life among the less economically competent could be improved on the inmediate term or whether the effort should be made to make the poor self sufficient economically by giving them the skils and opportunity of employing themselves in truly productive jobs .

        I sense that one dilemma often overlooked by students of govt and society is how important it is to have govt nurture an economy which sustainably produces a large enough flow of resources which it can then use to ensure most people a certain secure and sattisfactory measure of well being and not just distribute whatever public resources there are .

        Thus where the govt has to choose between spending money to make poor people consume more ( the distributive policy) they should spend it instead in empowering them economically to become productive ( the inclusive policy) and generally to maintain a stable and growing flow of resources to ultimately improve the quality of life of most people in a sustainable way.

        The Chavez regime is an example of distributive policies gone mad , much was done to distribute but very little to actually build an economy which could provide the resoures needed to provide everyone with a stable durable hgh stndard of living for the future .

        The developed nations of the world sometimes incurr in this sort of error , they adopt policies to generously distribute the wealth in all sort of social programs and benefits, without worrying enough about the long term financial health of the economy or of the states finances ,

        By adopting the distributive strategy rulers gain two advantages: they feel good about how philantropic they are , something that feeds their moral conceits and through their irresponsible largesse gain the votes needed to keep themselves in power.

        In contrast if they adopt an inclusive policy their concern is not to distribute the wealth there is but in creating a growing and stable resource base by (among other things) providing people with the skills and opportunities to make them become productive citizens capable of contributing to the economic growth and prosperity of the country in which they dwell,

        .

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        • Right on the money. The problem involves balancing capital investments and immediate consumption. It’s hard for the government in a country that essentially won the lottery to justify to it’s poor people that the fortune needed to be invested in capital because there might come barren days when living off of their savings would not suffice.

          The role of investments is key. Samuelson and Norhaus’s macroeconomics textbook has this classic pearl: “economic growth is a race between depletion and invention”. Invention in this context means R&D driven by capital investments. A subject you often bring up is the wear suffered by the Venezuelan oil production infrastructure and human capital. Essentially this is the reason why chavismo is not sustainable. OT An article on “depletion and invention” in the context of oil exploration that might be interesting to some here: http://www.ssb.no/forskning/discussion-papers/_attachment/93304?_ts=13c8b377120 .

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        • BB, the clarity and maturity of your comments are so welcomed.

          Regarding the distributive strategy, I would add to your optics on how ‘rulers can feel good about their philanthropy, feed their moral conceits, and through irresponsible largesse, gain the votes needed to keep themselves in power.’

          In order to engage in a economic policy of distributing fish, rather than of teaching people how to fish and gain self-reliance, the rulers must first create a veil of opaque discourse, dripping in ideological and mystical tones. The combination ensures that people are kept (a) scrambling for meaning, rather than the job at hand; (b) passive and dependent on the ruler; (c) in the dark (and in certain fear) over where their not-always-reliable supply source lies; and (d) ignorant. All four conditions are needed for rulers to gain the votes that prop up their masquerade of democracy, and maintain them in power.

          As one can expect, teaching people how to fish is negative for the ruler. The policy removes the people’s dependence factor on the ruler, who in turn, loses control and ego-props. Teaching people how to fish also lays a greater logistical and economic burden on the ruler, for laying down the needed infrastructure, tasks that can be easily palliated by the private sector (hopefully with some oversight by the ruler to ensure transparency and fairness) but in the end, also contributes to the ruler’s loss of control.

          In immature political economies, such as many of those in LatAm, the loss of control and mind-share is the greatest threat to rulers.

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  25. So much beating around the bush to state the obvious:

    chavismo is a dictatorship, which uses populist, communist and fascist methods to brainwash and control the population, while not giving a fuck about any mid or long term benefits (“Let’s steal as much as we can while we can before somebody pushes us out of here!”)

    And to that, the opposition wants to “gain people” with the same flawed populist ridiculous promises as ever.

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  26. I am always a bit mistified by the power of some words to fascinate and ellicit a strong emotional response from people even if they are elusive to define and can be understood to mean many different and contradictory things . Socialism is one such word , Sometimes words are not so important because of what they can specifically mean but because of their capacity to evoke emotional resonance in those that use them . In general words like these should be avoided in serious discussion because they only cause confusion and muddled thinking . .

    They are protean words , words which meaning can change depending on the prejudices and humour of the person using them . Capitalism is another such word because there are so many kinds of Capitalism and because its been charged with a peyorative emotional tone that deafens us to what it actualy can come to represent . Capitalism is practiced by China , as well as in Europe (including that blissful emblem of social perfection which is now Scandinavia) and in the US . Each practices a different kind of market economy (or capitalism if you prefer) . so that when referring to it one should keep in mind how many versions there are of it and how much they differ from each other.

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    • I like your post and to honor it I have to make this observation:

      “Each practices a different kind of market economy (or capitalism if you prefer) .”

      The definitions of ‘socialism’ are so inclusive and controversial that there is such a thing as Market Socialism, which is permitted if you consider that socialism equals worker-ownership of means, in this case embodied by co-operatives.

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  27. Rodrigo this is one of the best blogs posted in terms of depht of content , I saw the video and it seemed almost a replica of a previous one with the same people except that it included the participation of Monaldi who spoke very knowledgeably about the state of the oil industry ..

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  28. Call me crazy but, it occurs to me that people having their own private, special definitions for words like ‘feudal’ and ‘socialism’ is not Rodrigo’s (or Kepler’s) problem.

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    • Even within auto-denominated militants, there’s no consensus on a canonical definition of socialism, so your attitude is just that.

      Whether you’re a scientific socialist (or in other words, a Marx and Engels fundamentalist), or a reformist that believes in the ML idea of “socialism in one country”, or a Trot that is waiting for a horizontal revolution, or a Cohen/socialist-lite that likes cooperatives… all of these influence your definition of ‘socialism’.

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      • opaque discourse: add as many gratuitous, superfluous, and meaningless adjectives to certain nouns (*) and voilà: some people will not only think you’ve got the goods, they’ll be so mesmerized by the babble they won’t bother to ask for a presentation of externally verified results, which in the obvious absence of such, is precisely the point of … drum roll … auto-denominated militants..

        Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive! (Walter Scott)

        (*) auto-denominated militants (as opposed to ‘por dedazo’?), canonical definition (precious!), scientific socialist (qué te parece moctavio?), horizontal revolution (para los gallineros verticales?)

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        • “they won’t bother to ask for a presentation of externally verified result”

          I don’t know what this means.

          “[…] which in the obvious absence of such, is precisely the point of … drum roll … auto-denominated militants..”

          Among these auto-denominated militants figure VP, AD and MAS; all members of Socialist International.

          “scientific socialist (qué te parece moctavio?)”

          In reference to the movement Marx and Engel established, where socialism and communism are interchangeable terms, which would qualify all ML governments and reformist parties as Sectarians.

          “horizontal revolution (para los gallineros verticales?)”

          The term horizontal revolution is well-defined in trotskyist circles. It means that the revolution isn’t lead by a Vanguard of elites as was the case in the URSS, Cuba, NK, Venezuela and the rest of ML governments, but by the proletariat.

          “canonical definition (precious!)”

          As in a definition all socialist currents can agree on, which is impossible since, as explained, they have fundamental disagreements.

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