Just how many people voted in Venezuela’s assembly election on Sunday? The Maduro government, which plans to rewrite the constitution to formalize the transformation into a socialist dictatorship, claimed that over eight million people provided the mandate for that change. Reuters did a deep dive into the electoral data and calls shenanigans on those claims:

Only 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30 p.m. in Venezuela’s controversial Constitutional Assembly election on Sunday, according to internal electoral council data reviewed by Reuters, casting doubt on the 8.1 million people authorities said had voted that day. …

The low turnout would be a major indictment of Maduro, especially after the opposition last month held its own unofficial vote in which it said more than 7.5 million voted against the government’s controversial assembly.

The documents, which break the data down into Venezuela’s 14,515 polling centers, show that 3,720,465 people had voted by 5:30 p.m.

“Although it’s possible to have a late push at the end of the day, and the Socialist Party has tried to do that in the past, to double the vote in the last hour and a half would be without precedent,” said Jennifer McCoy, a political scientist who led several election-observation missions to Venezuela for the Atlanta-based Carter Center.

A socialist utopia manipulating elections? Quelle surprise. Next, you’ll be telling me that shutting down businesses and free speech isn’t about redistributive justice, but about seizing and keeping power. Who knew?

Actually, F. A. Hayek knew, and described in The Road to Serfdom the process of disintegration that socialism inevitably produces. Even when socialist policies get adopted through popular processes such as elections and representative democracy, the economic failures require more brutal policies to force redistribution to support those in power. That inevitable attracts more brutal people into government and forces those who know what they’re doing in both the public and private sectors out of their positions. That leads to more failures, more of the same cycle, and eventually it takes brute-force dictatorship for those brutal leaders to hang onto power — and not end up against the wall, as also happens in most instances.

Even those who assist in the process with good intentions end up disillusioned and exploited. Smartmatic launched its voting systems in support of Hugo Chavez’ rise to power on the promises of socialism, but today the CEO is shocked, shocked to report that Maduro’s government cheated:

The CEO of the voting technology company Smartmatic says the results of Venezuela’s election for an assembly to rewrite the constitution were tampered with.

Antonio Mugica told reporters in London on Wednesday that there was a discrepancy of 1 million votes between the turnout figures announced by the government and those recorded by his systems.

Mugica said “it is therefore with the deepest regret that we have to report that the turnout figures on Sunday, 30 July, for the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela were tampered with.”

Mugica should look up the phrase “useful idiots” in relation to socialist utopias and the maintenance thereof. Speaking of which, Jamie Kirchick wonders when a few others who hailed the advent of the Venezuelan socialist marvel will admit to that status:

Most of Chavismo’s earlier adherents have maintained a conspicuous silence in the face of the Venezuelan calamity. Those who do speak up, rather than apologize for getting things so wrong, blame collapsing oil prices for the country’s fate. Yet the decline in the value of petroleum has not led to rioting on the streets of Oslo. The tragedy of Venezuela is the predictable result of what happens when a strongman wages, in Chavez’s own words, “economic war on the bourgeoisie owners,” cracks down on media, prints money with reckless abandon and implements all manner of harebrained socialist schemes.

In the age of Trump, Brexit and a wider backlash against globalization, left-wing economic populists are enjoying a resurgence in mainstream credibility by railing against free trade and “neoliberals.” This is a scandal. For in the form of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the world has a petri dish in which to judge the sort of policies endorsed by Jones, Klein, British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, homegrown socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and countless other deluded utopians.

There, the ghastly failures of their ideas are playing out for everyone to see; a real-time rebuke, as if another were needed, to socialism. That these people are considered authorities on anything other than purchasing Birkenstocks, much less running a country, is absurd.

So yes, let’s put term limits on pundits. And let’s start with anyone who praised the Venezuelan model.

Say … where is Sean Penn when we need him, anyway?