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No one can explain it

Venezuela food shortages: ‘No one can explain why a rich country has no food’

I know you all want to jump in and offer your suggestions. Do not, however, be too scathing. Seriously, the clue train shows signs of having made an unscheduled stop at the Guardian station. The article mentions, albeit in a hurried way and sandwiched between irrelevancies, price controls as a possible explanation for the mystery. And this is downright subversive:

For Oliveros, an additional cause for the shortage of basic food staples is the decrease in agricultural production resulting from seized companies and land expropriations.

From the way that is phrased one could almost think that a decrease in agricultural production was a result of seized companies and land expropriation. I am beginning to wonder if the “No one can explain it” title was selected by either the writer or the mole among the Guardian‘s sub editors in order to call forth the responses it did get.

24 comments to No one can explain it

  • After I finished laughing and replaced my keyboard with a new one it occurred to me that the circumstances in Venezuela are not only unsurprising to those of us with any knowledge of history or economics, but rather such occurrences are guaranteed under any form of hard line socialist policies.

    From the USSR through Cuba, Zimbabwe and Venezuela these are mere destinations on a road well known and well travelled.

    If you price goods at the cost of manufacture (or less), then they will flee from the shelves to the black market for risk-adjusted prices. The higher the risk, the higher the price.

    The Guardian’s piece is neither naive or ironic, it is clearly stating that the people are being starved and cheated by black-marketeers who may be in league with the CIA. What we view as paranoid fantasy, the Guardian views as a precursor to civil unrest as happened (in the collectivist narrative) in Chile under Allende.

    We can snigger, but they are deluded enough to believe this bullshit.

  • Paul Marks

    So price controls do not work – indeed they cause harm.

    And collective ownership does not work either – indeed it causes harm.

    There may be hope for someone at the Guardian yet.

  • Laird

    “it is clearly stating that the people are being starved and cheated by black-marketeers who may be in league with the CIA.”

    I didn’t get that at all from the article. I didn’t see any indication that the black market was viewed as anything other than meeting a need, and the claim by Maduro that the shortages are CIA induced was simply reported as his opinion, not that of anyone else. Indeed, I got the sense that the writer thought that was a joke, although he didn’t actually say so (which could be just my own projection, of course).

  • Regional

    I grew up on a farm and went to a rural primary school, on my first day of high school this big kid walked up to me and said ‘Your father should provide food for nothing’ This was the mindset of many of the teachers and pupils.

  • Mr Ed

    The Soviet Union’s spies were adept at stealing information to help them develop technologies, Attlee simply gave them some Rolls Royce jets engine after WW2, but no matter how many agents, bribe, threats and tricks were deployed by the GRU or the KGB, and no matter how many samples were brought or bought, even legally in broad daylight, be it in Washington, Bonn, London, Paris or New York, and no matter how many samples were analysed – only to show a puzzling lack of grit, sawdust, sand or dirt – the Soviets never properly solved the problem of making enough bread for the Workers’ needs. The funny thing was that they had the key ingredient all along, but it was impossible to replicate.

    The price tag.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    As I pointed out in another column, since socialism breeds food shortages, you don’t really need toilet paper, either. I suppose Venezuela also has draconian gun laws- Centralists don’t want any chance of independence!

  • Very retired

    Two points—

    First the (possibly apocryphal) story of a visit by the soviet ruler Kruschev during Eisenhower’s administration during which the first Lady, Mamie, took his wife on a tour of various sights such as schools and hospitals, etc. At each stop, the repeated remark of Mrs K was that they had better than that in the ussr.

    Finally, they went to an A & P grocery store, and Mamie led Mrs K through the meat section to the produce aisle. Witnesses said that the soviet’s wife stopped dead in her tracks and looked around at the piled counters of fruit and vegetables and just started shaking her head, and then with tears in her eyes she went back out to her car and the tour was over.

    Secondly, a pet theory of mine, not that I’m claiming any exclusive rights to it, which is that the role of culture, which includes religion and government in various formats across the globe, was as a brake, if not obstacle, to any significant development away from subsistence, ignorance, and a short, brutish life.

    Now, of course there are exceptions in some areas and at some times, but in general, the peasant just about anywhere in the world could have traded places with either a distant ancestor or distant descendent with little or no change in how they lived or worked.

    It is not some historical accident that the culture which began limiting the state and the church, and finally asserting the right of the individual mind to create new and different modes of work and life, especially medicine and other scientific endeavors based on empiricism and experimental procedures, which suddenly, in the space of a few centuries, completely overturned millennia of hardscrabble traditions and replaced them with technology and mechanization.

    The much vaunted stability which so many of my history and other texts in school praised as valuable was much like the stability of the mob after the establishment of the commission by the big crime families in the US —the split on the take was regularized, but the people were still preyed upon, just in a more systematic way.

    The developing nations around the world are recapitulating the western experience, some by following the openness to innovation that fueled the revolutionary developments of the last few centuries, and others by adopting the repressive ideologies that stunted the Soviet Union and it’s acolytes for most of the last century.

    Venezuela, among others, has chosen the latter course, and, eventually, will rue the wasted years and squandered opportunities just as it’s predecessors have. The only variables are how long it will take, and how many will be sacrificed at the collectivist’s altar along the way.

    We in the west have our own battles with the collectivist mindset to wage.

  • Snag

    I didn’t get that at all from the article. I didn’t see any indication that the black market was viewed as anything other than meeting a need, and the claim by Maduro that the shortages are CIA induced was simply reported as his opinion, not that of anyone else. Indeed, I got the sense that the writer thought that was a joke, although he didn’t actually say so (which could be just my own projection, of course).

    The fact that the URL reads: ‘venezuela-food-shortages-rich-country-cia’ might dissuade you that it’s considered a joke.

  • CaptDMO

    “…unexpectedly went contrary to proclaimed intent”
    ‘Recent studies show…”
    “Civility dictates that we MUST…”
    “(fill in the blank) deniers are…”
    “(fill in the blank)-phobic statement by…”
    “(fill in the blank)racist policy…”
    “Did(fill in the blank)do/say THIS? (the question mark is the “indulgence”)
    “Unnamed EXPERT(fill in the blank)has told EXCLUSIVELY…”
    “(fill in the blank)to raise awareness…”
    “(fill in the blank)proposal intended to prevent…”
    “(fill in the blank)proposal intended to promote…”

    “(fill in the blank)belies lust for power… DESPITE last 800 previous claims of utopia”
    Unrevised books with resumes/CVs/”peer review” of principals, by actuaries, not found in “common” academia.

    Am I missing anything here?

  • John K

    Paul:

    It’s not often that I disagree with you, but there is no hope for the bloody Guardian. That rag will never change its socialistic mindset as long as there are enough government and BBC employees left to buy it.

    Nick:

    Yes, faced with the worst level of violent crime in the Americas, the Venezuelan government have prohibited the civilian ownership of firearms. It is now a haven of gun control, and with only the government and criminal gangs, insofar as they can be distinguished, having arms, we will soon see if the fantasies of Guardianista gun grabbers will be proved. But then again, I think we know how it will play out. Bad news for the unarmed Venezuelan citizens at the mercy of these crooks, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

  • Andrew Duffin

    I am sure that Mrs. Khruschev would have been entirely used to such displays in the USSR; I believe that the special shops for Party Members and – especially – those for the Nomenklatura, were well-stocked with the best of everything.

    If she really did weep, it was probably at the stupidity of the Americans in allowing such things to be bought by the little people.

  • Gary Poteat

    Once must thank the author for reading the Guardian so other, more easily disgusted, souls don’t have to.
    Currently, in the USA, Obamacare is starting to have a bite. Some outlets are reporting (tentatively) on the enormous increases in insurance premiums, disruption of patterns of health care, and job (or hours) losses resulting from businesses trying to survive by working within the requirements/incentives of the collective (mostly the business media). However, as the problems worsen, I expect the ‘insurance companies’ and ‘evil corporations’ will get the blame (maybe they will throw in the NSA or CIA for variety.
    Indeed, many reports are that Obamacare is saving people money and creating jobs, repeating the White House lies.
    The truth may set you free, but since the media is firmly on the side of serfdom, I doubt we will ever hear truth about socialism from big media.
    The recent attempts to define “journalist” in the US may indicate that the system realizes that the internet has made the ability to control internal news more difficult. However, international reporting is where the legacy media still has a lot of power and it has been and will be used to protect their ideological partners (like Cuba and Venezuela)from responsibility for their failures. The media watches socialists ‘create a desert and call it prosperity’ over and over again and lies about it. This has been going on since Duranty and the NY Times won Pulitzers for lying about ‘Papa Joe’ and the early USSR.

  • Paul Marks

    John K. – I agree, my last line was silly.

    Mr Ed – it is an old idea of collectivists.

    In Plato’s “The Laws” (the supposedly “moderate” sequel to what we know as his “The Republic”) Plato suggests that people be sent out from his state of “Magnesia” to both compete in the sporting events (to show how wonderful the state is) and to SPY ON TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN OTHER CITIES.

    Plato just assumes that his city will not produce any useful new inventions (I wonder why…..), but he also falls into the trap of thinking that stealing tech will allow a collectivist place to keep up with non collectivist places.

    As you point out – it does not work that way,

  • Laird

    Snag, as I said, I might just be projecting and could be entirely wrong about the article. But I don’t draw any inferences one way or the other from the URL. That’s not written by the author of the article.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I read it Laird’s way, too. Maduro’s claim that the shortages are the work of the CIA is stated as being his view, but not endorsed. In comparison to the glowing accounts of Venezuela from the regular columnist Mark Weisbrot, this story is pretty factual. I think I see an implication of scepticism and weariness about Venezuelan government claims in the way that mention of them is alternated with downbeat accounts of the difficulties faced by individual Venezuelans, but it’s very slight.

  • […] Gary Poteat, commenting here on […]

  • Tarrou

    Did anyone else read this sentence: ” Toilet paper, rice, coffee, and cornflour, used to make arepas, Venezuela’s national dish, have become emblematic of more than just an economic crisis.” and think, “man, if their national dish is made with toilet paper, they were in bad shape to start!”?

  • veryretired

    Tarrou—Gracie Allen would have a field day with that sentence.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Now would be a good time to sell guns to Venezuelans! I think we could use at least one libertarian society devoted to gun-running, if not more, so we can take advantage of stupid policies.

  • NickM

    Tarrou,
    Ever had a pot noodle? Or a not poodle as they once termed it. The RSPCA saw the red mist but that was nowt to the essentially banned ads branding it the “slag of all snacks”. Pot Noodle was mind actually invented in Japan. For shame. I mean it’s not like the Vesta curry had anything to do with India.

    Paul Marks,
    Bertrand Russell in his “History of Western Philosophy” was quite clear on the idea that Plato’s Republic would lead to a country quite good at fighting small wars against similar states but bound to eternal technolical/cultural/moral stagnation. To give the old Greek credit (ask Angie about that one!) the state was based upon a “noble lie” which is disarmingly honest.

    As to the supply of jet engines by Dear Old Clem to the Sovs… Close to treason in my book.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    NickM,

    You awakened the beast within.

    I want a Pot Noodle so much.

  • Paul Marks

    The BBC are reporting (on its text thing) that the government of Venezuela has expelled three American diplomats who have sabotaged the economy – by bribing the evil capitalist power companies to cut production.

    No mention of price controls (like the Californian black outs – which the American socialists, sorry “Progressives”, still blame on “Enron”) – the insanity continues.

  • Ernie G

    “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman

    Friedman was talking about the U.S. government, but the idea would apply universally.

  • PapayaSF

    @Very retired: When some Russians were allowed to emigrate in the ’80s and early ’90s, they often had the same reaction when they first saw a typical American grocery store: they were first shocked, then they burst into tears, and then they got angry at how the Communists had lied to them.

    Soviet propagandist Vladimir Pozner and broadcasting partner of Phil Donahue had an explanation, though: the shelves of American grocery stores were full because many Americans couldn’t afford to buy food, while Soviet shelves were bare because food was so cheap and affordable for everyone. (I swear, that was his explanation!)