Venezuela’s Hunger Is No Game

Venezuela’s Hunger Is No Game, by Mary Anastasia O’Grady. Inflation hit 180% in late 2015. Little food is available, and most people can’t afford it. The big picture:

In his craving for power, the late Hugo Chávez pledged to redistribute Venezuela’s wealth to the poor masses. The god-father of “21st-century socialism” seems to have been unaware that the resources he promised to shower on his people had to first be produced.

Fifteen years into the Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela is facing dire food shortages. A crisis may still be averted—but only with a sharp reversal of the policies that have destroyed the country’s productive capacity.

A small but important part of the picture:

Consider what’s happened to transportation. Workers need to travel to their jobs, components must be delivered to factories and inventories to retail outlets, and tractors have to plow fields. Yet wheels are grinding to a halt in Venezuela.

The local manufacturer of car batteries in Caracas has trouble importing components, and government price controls have strained the profitability of the business. To replace a battery, customers line up at the factory—which to cut costs rarely uses retailers for distribution any more—in the wee hours of the morning. But it takes several days of waiting to complete the transaction, and the old battery must be surrendered. If it’s been stolen, which is not uncommon, customers need to present a special certificate from law enforcement.

Societal wealth ultimately stems from productivity — producing more goods and services that are in demand in fewer hours and with less material. Imagine what the chaos above is doing to Venezuelan’s productivity and living standards.

This in a country so physically rich that any plant you stick in the soil grows fast, which has a good range of minerals, and which hit the jackpot with oil. What does it take to turn this to ruin? I think we have the answer now. But you wouldn’t know that from our big-government-friendly PC media.

Among the many stupidities that socialism promotes is the idea that by imposing price controls and forbidding profits, government can make food both cheap and widely available.

The opposite is true, and Venezuela proves the rule. An August-September 2015 survey by the multi-university, Caracas-based social and economic research project Encovi found that 87% of those polled reported that they did not have sufficient income for food.

UPDATE: Maduro in crackdown under Venezuela emergency decree.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a sweeping crackdown Saturday under a new emergency decree, ordering the seizure of paralyzed factories, the arrest of their owners and military exercises to counter alleged foreign threats. …

He accused the United States on Friday of destabilizing the country at the behest of the “fascist Venezuelan right,” prompting him to declare a state of emergency. “We must take all measures to recover productive capacity, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie,” he told the cheering, red-clad crowd. “Anyone who wants to halt (production) to sabotage the country should get out, and those who do must be handcuffed and sent to the PGV (Venezuelan General Penitentiary).”

The move comes after the largest food and beverage company in Venezuela, the Polar Group, halted production of beer on April 30, saying government mismanagement meant it was no longer able to import barley.The company’s owner, billionaire businessman Lorenzo Mendoza, is a vocal opponent of Maduro, and the president has accused him of conspiring against his government.

Opposition leaders accused Maduro of using the emergency decree to destabilize the country and block them from organizing a referendum on removing him from office.

hat-tip Matthew