Venezuela, socialism, and the dog that didn't bark

There’s a Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of Silver Blaze, in which one of the key clues to solving the case is a dog that didn’t bark. That’s sort of where things stand with Venezuela, socialism, and our national media.

Last Friday NY Times Opinion writer Bret Stephens published a piece titled “Yes, Venezuela Is a Socialist Catastrophe.” Stephens’ point is that as Venezuela collapses, you frequently hear about a number of reasons for its decline but some still seem hesitant to pin the blame on socialism:

On Venezuela, what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, U.S. sanctions and trickery, even the residues of capitalism itself. Just don’t mention the S-word because, you know, it’s working really well in Denmark.

Curiously, that’s not how the Venezuelan regime’s admirers used to speak of “21st century socialism,” as it was dubbed by Hugo Chávez. The late Venezuelan president, said Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, “showed us there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice, and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step toward.” Noam Chomsky was similarly enthusiastic when he praised Chávez in 2009. “What’s so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela,” the linguist said, is that “I can see how a better world is being created and can speak to the person who’s inspired it.”

But as Stephens points out, there’s really no question what caused the disaster in Venezuela. It was socialist over-spending followed by an attempt to keep the party going by printing money and price controls:

Government overspending created catastrophic deficits when oil prices plummeted. Worker co-ops wound up in the hands of incompetent and corrupt political cronies. The government responded to its budgetary problems by printing money, leading to inflation. Inflation led to price controls, leading to shortages. Shortages led to protests, leading to repression and the destruction of democracy. Thence to widespread starvation, critical medical shortages, an explosion in crime, and a refugee crisis to rival Syria’s.

All of this used to be obvious enough, but in the age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez it has to be explained all over again. Why does socialism never work? Because, as Margaret Thatcher explained, “eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

And his last point is really the one that’s important for us, living here in the U.S. The only reason we don’t have video Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praising Hugo Chavez (and him praising her in return) is that she’s too young to have been around for that. But even without that direct connection, why don’t we see anyone in the media pushing her to explain what went wrong with Democratic Socialism in Venezuela even as she’s pushing something very similar here at home?

On top of 22 trillion in debt we have now, AOC wants to spend tens of trillions more over the coming decade on the grounds that it’s the moral thing to do. That’s how you wind up with a wealthy country like Venezuela becoming a destitute one where people are fleeing by the millions to survive. But to date, AOC’s only statement on the crisis in Venezuela, if you can even call it a statement, has been a single retweet indicating a preference for a “negotiated settlement” and an end to sanctions.

It’s annoying that leftists like Corbyn and Chomsky rarely get called on their support for Venezuela in the past but it’s incredible that the new crop of Democratic Socialists in office aren’t even asked about their position on the subject while the country is falling apart before our eyes. Why doesn’t the media see the connection between what’s happening there and what some far-left figures want to happen here? Maybe there’s a perfectly logical way for AOC and Bernie Sanders to explain how their program would differ substantially from that of Chavez, but shouldn’t they at least be asked to explain? On this issue, our national media is like the dog that didn’t bark. What’s conspicuous at this moment is their silence.