Predicting socialist policies lead to disaster is like shooting fish in a barrel

In a response to a recent post on the need for us to pray for the poor people of Venezuela, one poster suggested the problems weren’t socialism, but over-dependence on one export–oil.  And since the price of oil has dropped so dramatically, that has caused the problems.  While that is a superficial reason, one has to look at deeper reasons as to why they were overly dependent upon oil, and we also must examine why the oil industry in Venezuela was so dilapidated–after all, the other major oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia have far less natural resource alternatives than does Venezuela, and they aren’t starving.  Why is it that Venezuela has so many problems when the other members of OPEC aren’t?  They are being hurt by the low price of oil, but nothing like the unfolding disaster that is Venezuela.  So I encourage a quick read of Steve Horowitz’ post on this over at the Foundation for Economic Education.  He’s just shootin’ fish in barrels.  The most important part from my perspective, in discussing the proponents of those that try to defend socialism as applied throughout the world:

they are guilty of a severe intellectual error that has real moral consequences. Though they may not have intended the humanitarian disaster that we now see, they do bear responsibility for not being aware of the long-standing criticisms of socialism that have given us reasons to expect such a disaster.

15 thoughts on “Predicting socialist policies lead to disaster is like shooting fish in a barrel”

  1. One important thing to note, socialism is not black and white. America has socialist aspects, the early church had socialist aspects.

    I think what Venezuela shows us is that extremes are a problem, an extreme version of socialism is harmful just like an extreme version of capitalism is a problem.

    1. Agreed. Socialism is not black and white. Few things are in the real world. But we are talking about Cedarville Home School (sorry, scratch that) University, which paints the world in black and white extremes and therefore fails in preparing students for the real world, which is rife with uncomfortable complexity.

      The early church was focused on getting ready for Christ’s return. Early believers if they were alive would cringe that the materialism that pervades the faith now. Far too many “Christian” college/university students are in school just to get a nice job which will provide a cushy life. Christ’s return is not really on their minds. If it were, more would be serious about saving the world.

      1. If all these kids do is graduate, do something useful for the economy and pay taxes, they have done their duty. If all do the same, then they will do “great things” depending on the system they grow up in.

        But it is we who have created the environment they struggle in. We, the incumbents, control city planning and make it difficult, and expensive, to build homes for them to buy because we don’t want to stretch resources or ruin the “view”. We demand employers provide all sorts of “benefits” which is great if you have a job, not so good if you are trying to get hired. We require licensesure to do all sorts of jobs, supposedly to protect the public, but really to prevent new entrants to our industry to drive up wages. The saddest part is many of our young people vote for the same politicians who re-enforce this behavior (Can you say “Feel the Bern”).

        Sadly America does have some Socialist tenancies. Unfortunately, those areas of Socialism are not working out very well for our kids. Capitalism is not the threat. Capitalism is a gift to our young we have chosen not to give.

      2. Be careful not to confuse and institutional form (markets) with motives which might be found in any form, including socialism. If humans have some shady motives for doing what they do, some institutional forms (like socialism) won’t change them (since an institution can’t change human nature) and in fact may exacerbate the bad aspects of their human nature. I think CU students have something many don’t and that is a better foundation in Biblical teaching on virtue-and that has been emphasized in the last few years. I think you will find fewer at CU who “just want to get a nice job” than at the average secular university. And as for “saving the world” I believe the first task is to see God call more to salvation, and then secondarily to think about how seriously-considered policies can help people become better off. The rub is that too many people don’t actually want to think through the consequences of policies. Instead they just want to throw a shibboleth at it: “Socialism!” for example, and hope all will be utopia.

    2. You will have to explain what the “extreme version of capitalism” looks like. NO ONE except anarchists suggests that we should abolish the laws against theft, contract violation, duress, and fraud. And even anarchists would have their own “private law.” Therefore capitalism is never completely unchecked and never has been. And government does not go away, but is properly understood. No one believes the poor should be treated differently under law than the wealthy, except people who really don’t believe in capitalism but rather in cronyism or just plain corrupt dictatorship. With those “rules of the game” in place, everyone in a given nation will become better off over time (except the cronies and dictators).

  2. “the early church had socialist aspects ”
    Not in what economists think about–the direction of market activities. Look at Peter’s point in Acts 5:4; the property was always under the control of the individual. What individuals do with their personal property (consume collectively or individually) is of no concern to the economic question of socialist calculation.

    Likewise, I’m interested in what you would define as an extreme version of capitalism. If you’re concerned about crony capitalism, or corporate statism, I agree with you. If you mean Laissez Faire, I would disagree with you.

  3. Jeff

    Why must you be so dense?

    Venezuela’s reliance on oil exports is beyond question. It is not a “superficial” reason for Venezuela’s problems. It is an established fact that over 90% of Venezuela’s export income comes from oil. It is not alone in making such short-sighted mistakes.

    This is not about socialism. It is about basic math.

    If more is being spent than is coming in, a nation is going to suffer in time. What has hurt Venezuela is NOT spending on social programs. If it had spent excessive money on, say, military programs, it would still be dire straits.

    No, it is spending more than what one takes in. And being overly reliant upon one source of income.

    Ever hear the expression about not putting all of one’s eggs in one basket?

    As for Saudi Arabia, even though its population is about the exact same as that of Venezuela, its oil revenues are much greater. Still, Saudi Arabia has been cutting back on its social programs due to declining oil revenue. Obviously, Venezuela is as well. And it will have to continue doing so.

    Where would you rather live: Socialistic Venezuela or Saudi Arabia, an Islamic absolute monarchy?

    To answer a question another raised: the social darwinistic wing (marked by Ayn Rand Libertarianism) is an immoral extreme of capitalism. It is also anti-Christian. Unfortunately, many so-called Christians think they can reconcile both points of view. One cannot.

  4. Jeff, Thought I’d repost what I posted to you on the previous article about Venezuela and why there situation is what it is. Interested in your response to this article basically agreeing with Dr Haymond. Here it is:

    From this article you do have a point. (“Things got really bad when oil prices started to plunge in 2014. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, but the problem is that oil is the only game in town. It makes up over 95% of Venezuela’s revenue from its exports. If it doesn’t sell oil, the country doesn’t have money to spend.”)

    But as usual you only report the small portion that lends credence to your point and ignore the rest. Yes, oil is practically the only export and prices have dropped. However, the article also says the following:

    – “Years of excessive government spending on welfare programs, poorly managed facilities and dilapidated farms set the stage for the crisis.”
    – “The problem is that Venezuela has not taken care of its cash cow — squandering opportunities to invest in its oilfields when times were good. Because the country has neglected with the upkeep of its oil facilities, production has dropped to a 13-year low.”
    – “Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA, hasn’t paid the companies that help extract its oil, such as Schlumberger (SLB). In the spring, Schlumberger and other companies dramatically reduced operations with PDVSA, citing unpaid bills.”
    – “Despite a crashing currency and falling oil revenue, the government continued enforcing strict price controls on goods sold in the supermarkets. It forced food importers to stop bringing in virtually everything because they would have had to sell it for a major loss.”
    – “Only recently has the government stopped enforcing price controls, and food has returned to supermarket shelves. However, prices are so high that few Venezuelans can afford the food. Medicine remains in short supply too. Venezuelans hunt for penicillin and other remedies at pharmacies everywhere, often without any success. The country’s public hospitals have fallen apart, causing people, even infants, to die due to the scarcity of basic medical care.”

    So to recap: Excessive government spending on welfare, poor management, lack of facility upkeep, squandered investment opportunities, state run companies, lack of payments to oil extracting companies, strict price controls, lack of medical supplies and broken down hospitals.

    Sounds like Dr Haymond is spot on with his diagnosis, but even more so that prayer for these people is the priority here.

  5. “Predicting socialist policies lead to disaster is like shooting fish in a barrel.”

    Germany began its social security program back in 1889, 128 years ago.

    It’s still around, despite two world wars, fascism (whose supporters opposed socialism and oppressed socialists), and the physical division of the country.

    Yes, like shooting fish in a barrel. Unless the barrel is as big as an ocean, no, lol.

    1. There is, of course, a significant difference between a social democracy and socialism, don’t you think?

    2. Yes, social democracy (or its relatives modern liberalism, progressivism) are “different animals” than socialism as understood from the early 1800s through WW II and beyond. It is the revisionist variation. But it does still partake of socialist tendencies and goals. And I agree the US has over time adopted some of that agenda, but that does not make it any less problematic. Let me add too that my aim in saying that is to argue that there are better ways to help people or “save the world” than socialism or socialist variations. Compassion is not about being Left only. But clear-eyed action rooted in solid analysis is the key. To take the example of social security you mentioned, it is a much worse system than several alternatives out there, but unfortunately the politicization of the issue by the Left has destroyed the possibility (for now) of implementing those alternatives that would truly help people.

  6. I think the difference is with one the dictator steals it, the other the people strangle it…

Comments are closed.