Posted on | March 6, 2013 | 43 Comments
The legacy of his 14-year “socialist revolution” is apparent across Venezuela: the decay, dysfunction and blight that afflict the economy and every state institution.
The endless debate about whether Mr. Chávez was a dictator or democrat — he was in fact a hybrid, an elected autocrat — distracted attention, at home and abroad, from the more prosaic issue of competence. Mr. Chávez was a brilliant politician and a disastrous ruler. He leaves Venezuela a ruin, and his death plunges its roughly 30 million citizens into profound uncertainty. . . .
The once mighty factories of Ciudad Guayana, an industrial hub by the Orinoco River that M.I.T. and Harvard architects planned in the 1960s, are rusting and wheezing, some shut, others at half-capacity. . . .
Underinvestment and ineptitude hit hydropower stations and the electricity grid, causing weekly blackouts that continue to darken cities, fry electrical equipment, silence machinery and require de facto rationing. . . .
Reckless money printing and fiscal policies triggered soaring inflation, so much so that the currency, the bolívar, lost 90 percent of its value since Mr. Chávez took office, and was devalued five times over a decade. In another delusion, the currency had been renamed “el bolívar fuerte,” the strong bolívar — an Orwellian touch.
Harassment of privately owned farms and chaotic administration of state-backed agricultural cooperatives hit food production, compelling extensive imports, which stacked up so fast thousands of tons rotted at the ports. Mr. Chávez called it “food sovereignty.”
Politicization and neglect crippled the state-run oil company PDVSA’s core task — drilling — so that production slumped. “It’s a pity no one took 20 minutes to explain macroeconomics to him with a pen and paper,” Baldo Sanso, a senior executive told me.
Read the whole thing. The Irish writer, Rory Carroll, is actually a man of the Left and seems to view Chavez’s failures as idiosyncratic and personal, rather than a necessary correllate of the dictator’s Marxist ideology. The belief that rich people are inherently evil, and poor people inherently virtuous, so that “social justice” requires that private wealth be expropriated in the name of “the people” — this is a harmful idea, a very bad idea.
Good people do not cherish such bad ideas. Good men do not become Marxist dictators. The entirety of Chavez’s vicious character could have been known to anyone who bothered to read a single chapter — “Why the Worst Get on Top” — of Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.
But why bother to read that much? You could summarize what Chavez so predictably did to Venezuela with a single word that Ayn Rand used to describe the left-wing politicians in Atlas Shrugged: “looters.”
Chavez was a looter, a bandit, a vandal incapable of building anything except a movement that destroyed everything.
We could say the same of others, much closer to home.