Socialism Doesn’t Work

In November of last year, the government of Venezuela seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services. The company had shut down the rigs because the Venezuela oil monopoly was behind on payments.

On November 3, I posted an article about the takeover (

Nicolas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez, has not taken over any industries during the six months he has been President of Venezuela. This is the first move he has made in that direction. When Hugo Chavez began taking over industries, one news analyst observed that it would be difficult for him to keep those industries running at their profit levels without the knowledge of the companies that owned them. The seizure of these two rigs, which are repair rigs, is an illustration of that point.

So where are we now? The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that despite being an oil-rich nation, Venezuela has now introduced food rationing.

The article states:

Here at Maracaibo’s supermarkets, hot and cranky consumers who were waiting in line recently pointed to the irony of Venezuela, a country with $114 billion in oil sales last year, having to ration toilet paper.

“It sort of makes me want to laugh, but I can’t,” said Nayibi Pineda, a hotel housekeeper. “How is it possible we’ve gotten to this extreme?”

Shoppers said the time waiting in line can stretch to more than five hours, a delay they chalk up to malfunctioning fingerprinting machines.

“I’ve spent hours standing in line, suffering in the sun,” shrieked a tearful Luzmarina Vargas, clad in a bright pink robe typical of the area’s Wayuu Indians.

Salvador González, the Zulia state finance director who oversees machines, said officials were requiring machines to be installed at each checkout point in order to shorten lines. Supermarkets must bear the cost of the machines, around $150 each.“Our objective is to guarantee cheap food,” he said in an interview.

It isn’t just food that’s rationed here. Officials shut off water to homes for up to 108 hours a week, say residents, because of problems with the water delivery system.

In the birthplace of Venezuela’s oil industry—the first well was drilled here in 1914—the sale of gasoline is also tightly controlled. Scanners read bar codes that are required on car windshields to limit drivers from filling up their sedans more than twice a week. The measure is designed to curb the sale of Venezuela’s heavily subsidized gasoline—which costs less than a penny per gallon—in neighboring Colombia, where a gallon goes for $4.50.

America learned in the days of the Pilgrims that communal property was not a good idea. The Free Republic has an article entitled “How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims” on its website.

The article states:

Bradford’s history of the colony records the decision:

 At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number.
So the land they worked was converted into private property, which brought “very good success.” The colonists immediately became responsible for their own actions (and those of their immediate families), not for the actions of the whole community. Bradford also suggests in his history that more than land was privatized.

The system became self-policing. Knowing that the fruits of his labor would benefit his own family and dependents, the head of each household was given an incentive to work harder. He could know that his additional efforts would help specific people who depended on him. In short, the division of property established a proportion or “ratio” between act and consequence. Human action is deprived of rationality without it, and work will decline sharply as a result.

There are a number of basic principles that can be followed by a country that lead to prosperity. One of these principles is private property rights, another is free markets. When the government attempts to control the economy of a country, they find that they are in charge of an increasingly shrinking economy. Human nature says that people work the hardest when they know they will be rewarded for their efforts. If governments want financially successful countries, they need to remember that.