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Toast or not toast, that is the question

Tim Worstall writes, “You know the Bolivarian Revolution is toast when…”. His criteria for Bolivarian toastiness is “when even the Guardian is running reports on how socialism makes the food supply go tits up.” He links to a Guardian article about the “economic war” launched by Chavez in Venezuela which does indeed make it sound as if Chavez has defied reality once too often.

Trouble is, as The Remittance Man says in the comments, we saw the same and worse from Mugabe – and he is still in power, sort of. Indeed we saw the same and much worse in the Soviet Union and that lasted seventy years.

How do these regimes hold on for so long? Shopkeepers in Venezuela are being ordered on pain of imprisonment to sell at a loss. One would think they would just walk away. Why does it take so long for Atlas to shrug? Perhaps most of his economic war is just bluster and shopkeepers know this. Perhaps there is some mechanism of benign corruption operating that means that the shopkeepers do continue to make money regardless. Perhaps Chavez is right and they do have a lot of money stashed away and can afford to run at a loss for a time, and also have some reason to believe that this episode will be sufficiently brief that it is worth their while to do so.

Or perhaps the toast is about to burn.

10 comments to Toast or not toast, that is the question

  • Paul Marks

    I happened to catch a bit of “Start the Week” on BBC Radio Four on Monday morning.

    I normally avoid this leftist group hug – but today it was useful.

    A man was ranting on about how Latin America was going to rule the world (this was a good idea because Latin American is Progressive you see). And how only “the fringes of the Republican party” (rather than vast majority of Americans – including hispanic American citizens) want to secure the border.

    He mentioned how the hispanic players are allowing the United States to do so well in the World Cup.


    For even I know that the United States was knocked out (by Ghana) on Saturday – but this chap was still going on about how well the new hispanic United States was doing…..

    Anyway our hero also mentioned a grand association of Latin American countries that had just been formed (no doubt to coordinate the legions of world conquest that exist in this person’s fantasy world – along with the U.S. winning the World Cup and so on).

    “Apart from Honduras – for understanable political reasons”.

    So Bolivia is fine, as is Ecuador, Venezuala, and Nicaragua and El Salvador (with its FLSN supported President) and, of course, Cuba.

    They are all fine – but Honduras is utterly unacceptable.


    I wonder if it has anything to do with ex President trying to make himself dictator – and the Supreme Court and Congress ordering his removal (the military kicked out the would be President-for-life out of the country – in his underwear I believe, odd that it was pink and had little flowers on it…..).

    Of course not allowing your country to become a dictatorship makes it “unacceptable” to the Progressive.

  • Kevin B

    Hmm Paul. Did Columbia not get a mention as a bad guy?

    As to Natalie’s question about why fascists survive long past their shoot by date, well one answer is despair. If the middle class are so mired in despair that they cannot see a way to rid themselves of the dictator then El Presidente survives.

    Another key to survival for dictators is class warfare. Any problems for the peasants and workers are the fault of the ‘rich’ middle class. As long as the boss can keep the class warfare going, (and the Army on side), he’s laughing.

    Of course if the bread and circuses for the workers run out then Caesar’s palace better have a good back door.

  • Simon Jester

    How do these regimes hold on for so long?


  • Eric

    Yeah, it’s oil. Look at the Saudis. They’re running a crazy society that would never, ever work if they had to pay the bills like normal countries. Chavez will last to the day he dies if he uses that oil money to buy off the right sectors of society.

  • Kristopher

    The shopkeepers find a way to eak out a living.

    Goods they are required to sell at a loss never get restocked for some reason.

    People who offer enough money privately to have goods delivered always seem to be able to get what they pay for, for some strange reason.

  • Bogdan from Australia

    When Sarah Palin wins election in 2012 and the US embarks on a massive program of rebuilding America’s ENERGY SECURITY, we shall observe the sudden collapse of crude oil and gas prices on the controlled by OPEC and Russia “free” market.
    That day shall also be the beginning of the end of the oil based totallitarian regimes.
    It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.
    Just dreaming…
    The neo-Soviets, Saudis, Iranians, Chaves and others are perfectly aware of the threat posed by Palin so they will stop at nothing in order to destroy her.
    Or it is rather more likely that the GOP’s apparatchiks will do the job for them…

  • You’re all correct – that is, Chavez is a drink AND a floor cleaner.

    Oil, because until he finishes dismantling the economy a windfall surge in the global oil price is “because socialism works” (that’s what we’re told here in Ecuador) whereas a dip (not on the cards right now anyway) would be “those evil empire destabilising capitalists”.

    Class warfare, because it’s a show that just runs and runs. All you need is a near-monopoly of the nation’s media (so called “independents” are cowed into submission with threats of closure). It’s the most entertaining soap on TV.

    Another important question is: if those shopkeepers were to “just walk away”, where would they walk away to? You can’t underestimate the effect of an imploded opposition, which is the problem of both Venezuela and Ecuador: their current rulers got where they are by exploiting power vacuums caused by the collapse of utterly corrupt and bankrupt political systems. Here in Ecuador there is a lot of opposition to Correa, but the best way to silence it is to ask “well, where is the alternative?” All we have are three discredited, clapped-out clowns, and the govt’s media manipulation ensures that no new faces can come forward. Chavez’s former “opposition” are now mostly in exile or behind bars, and the real opposition now are mostly former supporters of his who, however, have very little opportunity to make their voices heard.

  • Paul Marks

    On Colombia – I have to mention a good article in the Economist magazine (“have to” because I attack them so much for their bad articles).

    It pointed out that Colombia has a bankrupt health system (this will not stop the Economist declaring that health care is a “public good” that should be supported by the United States government of course), and terrible labour market laws that force vast numbers of people into hand to mouth illegal jobs.

    The President of Colombia (the old one and the new one) killed a lot of Communist terrorists (good), but the economy is unreformed (which is perhaps why the person on the BBC did not attack Colombia).

    However, (and this was not mentioned by the Economist) any President of Colombia faces the problem of an absurd Constitution which defines various government spending schemes and regulations as basic “rights”.

    Sadly, contrary to the “mainstream” media and academia, most Latin American Constitutions are like this.

    Chile stands (or at least stood) out because its Constitution was (perhaps still is) fairly sane.

  • Paul Marks

    Still Natalie was talking about Bolivia.

    Potted excomic history of Bolivia:

    Not very good even in the 1920’s (an interventionist government that got the country involved in a war with Paraguay – and mananged to get the worst of the war).

    1930’s – wild interventionism (including the nationalization of oil and gas).

    1952 Revolution – more nationalization, and the destruction of virtually every large farm (broken up into peasant plots and cooperative farming – both of which tend to fail).

    And, of course, inflation and coups (about one a year in Bolivian history).

    Normally what happens is that the government nationalizes stuff and steals big landed estates.

    These industries and farms are then run into the ground.

    Then (when everything has fallen apart and there is no more loot to be had) what is left is sold to private owners.

    The private owners manage to restore the enterprises to some sort of health.

    Then a new “reformist” government steal them again.

    As for the present regime – the new President is even more statist than most Bolivian rulers (indeed he may be the worst President Bolivia has had since the “great” President behind the 1952 Revolution).

    Almost needless to say, each new tosspot ruler is greeted as a great “compassionate reformer” by the academia and the msm – as long as they steal a lot of property and make Marxist style speeches.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way, the British media (not just the BBC – but “private” REGULATED broadcasters like “Classic FM” also) have spent the past two days in two interesting ways.

    Virtually ignoring the death of Senator Robert Byrd (the deaths of other American Senators have been covered in the past) as his decades of wild Pork project spending and intense racism (he justified not serving in the military during WWII by saying that there were blacks in the US military, although they were in segregated units, and he would rather “die a thousand deaths” than serve in a military that allowed blacks to be in it). By the way – he was still an active racist in the 1960s (so no more BS about it was “only in his youth” – he changed when he smelled the winds of POWER and ADVANTAGE).

    Still the American MSM has concentrated on his fiddle playing and his nice smile – he supported their side, so nothing else matters to them.

    And the other thing of note?

    The downplaying of the arrest of many deep cover Russian agents in the United States.

    The only reports have been that various “hardliners” in America are trying to undermine President Obama’s friendly relations with Putin and co, by the nasty tactic of arresting people.

    Just when I think the BBC and the rest of the msm can not possibly give me more reasons to hate them – they always do.

    The logical end of the sort of attitude the media people have would be to turn Britain into a fully “Progressive” country like Bolivia.

    The BBC (and so on) “liberals” are not “good people” – they are DIRT, and they should be treated accordingly.