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… without a paddle

Venezuela seizes toilet paper factory to avoid shortage

51 comments to … without a paddle

  • Edward

    They’ll be impounding all fans next, to avoid all possible impact incidents…

  • Perhaps Venezuelans are now using toilet paper as an alternative currency.

  • Not sure why anybody is surprised…

    To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

    Nearly a century since that was written and accurately reflects the sentiment of collectivist looters the world over.

  • Frederick Davies

    Shit happens… it’s just that in Venezuela there is nothing to clean it up with!


  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Perhaps Venezuelans are now using toilet paper as an alternative currency.

    Wrong way round.

  • Paul Marks

    One state interventionist leads to another.

    Government PRICE CONTROLS have led to shortages – but rather than get rid of the price controls (i.e. admit error) the government takes over the factories.

    Almost needless to say – the BBC does not understand this, it just repeats V government claims about how greedy and/or corrupt traders are the problem.

    The scary thing is that I can see this sort of thing happening here – a crises produces higher prices, the government reacts by imposing price controls, this produces shortages, and the government (with the full support of the media – and academia) takes control of production.

    It need not be outright nationalisation – it could be dressed up as a “social responsibility agenda” for corporations.

  • Paul Marks

    Milton Friedman used to say that it appeared to be impossible for people. apart from trained economists to understand the concept of a price system – people kept falling for the fallacy that government interventions could produce lower prices, or costless improvements in quality (better quality products without higher prices).

    Sadly Milton Friedman was being over optimistic – there are plenty of “trained economists” (such as those who advice the V. government – they have plenty of “academic qualifications” as do the “economists” who advice the Argentine government and the …… governments) who have not got a clue about such things.

    And that is the nice way of interpreting matters.

    The nasty way would be that they understand the harm they do – and that is why they give the advice they do.

  • Natalie

    No, it’s hard to use currency as toilet paper. It is very un-absorbent, and it won’t bend the way toilet paper mostly does. Plus, currencies are mostly too small.

    I recall visiting Poland before the Berlin Wall fell. When my visit had ended I offered my hosts two things. First, all the Polish currency I had left. And second, two rolls of Andrex I had brought with me, but had happily not needed to touch. They scorned the first, but accepted the second with huge gratitude. There was a baby on the way. One of the rolls would be reserved for him/her. The other would be an occasional treat for other family members.

    The currency would have been no damn use as toilet paper. It would, in fact, have been even worse than the regular Communist toilet paper they had to put up with.

    Focussing on toilet paper alone is enough to prove the superiority of free market arrangements over state centralism. As I get older, I find that Andrex, which used to be a luxury is now more like a necessity. I will spare you the details.

  • RickC

    Let’s just finish the thought. “Venezuela seizes toilet paper factory to avoid shortage” . . .thereby ensuring a shortage of toilet paper.

  • Perhaps Venezuelans are now using toilet paper as an alternative currency.

    This ultimate irony could only be brought about by socialism. If it actually happens (and it probably will, see cigarettes in prison and Tide in the US) we could probably discard much of the free market literature and simply tell this story, over and over again.

  • Mr Ed


    Practical examples of consequences are so much easier to use to explain the path of righteousness than any number of assertions.

    In the 1980s, Portuguese went to Venezuela in droves for work, and the Bolivar was quoted in Portuguese Forex booths, now, post-Chavez and heir, when Enya performs Orinoco Flow, it’ll be a ‘muddy’ river.

  • Mr Ed

    Rather OT, but many will be disappointed with the identity of this American man, who has volunteered to boldly go where no man has gone before.

  • Mr Ed

    In the 1970s, as a child, I was most amused on visiting a museum, almost certainly the Science Museum, to find that the toilet paper, which had the look and consistency of tracing paper, with which I was familiar, had printed on it ‘Property of HM Government’. In brief, one could not fairly say of it ‘On the whole, it’s very good.’.

    Even then, aged about 10, I thought it implausible and risible that anyone would steal government toilet paper, whether or not it’s ownership might be traced, and whether or not it was used. Although I had gone to an ILEA primary school, nothing would have led me to suspect that within 4 decades, this would be a minor issue compared to the horrors of Chavism.

  • Mr Ed

    ‘its’. Maduro, the new President has played his hand, and it’s a busted flush.

  • veryretired

    It is one of the fascinating elements of life that authoritarian over-reaching like this is always announced in all seriousness, and always ends up failing miserably, while an announcement that toilet paper production, or the provision of any community staple need, was being privatized would be met with howls of outrage and ridicule, even when the market has repeatedly shown it is the best means of providing necessities.


  • Mr Ed

    I would not be surprised if, buried deep in a Federal programme somewhere, where not even Chilean ingenuity and determination could reach it, there is a budget for a Federal loo roll (British slang term for toilet paper) strategic reserve, and perhaps FEMA has 3,000,000,000 yards of Federal loo roll, with just a hint of sandpaper to its feel. Roughly 10 yards per resident, but no means of getting it out (US Postal Service?), and mice are squeaking with excitement over many cosy nestng opportunities.

  • Richard Thomas

    Brian, that’s nice theory but on the whole, I find US TP to be vastly inferior to Andrex. I have a sneaking suspicion I may be using it (culturally) incorrectly though.

  • Richard Thomas

    Veryretired. Of course, this can be a success. For while a private company being told to produce an amount of TP that would cost 1.2 million to produce and to sell it for 1 million will inevitably lead to failure, the government will see no problem with sinking 10-20 million of taxpayers money to produce the same output.

  • Laird

    Richard, of course the Venezuelan government will happily flush (apologies!) away oodles of money to produce the product. What’s risible is that anyone believes that notwithstanding all the money wasted the government will succeed in producing more of the product than the private owners would have. The simple solution, obviously, would have been to eliminate the price controls and any import restrictions on TP (I don’t know if there are any, but given the nature of that country I would be shocked if there weren’t). But that doesn’t grow the government, or pander to the breathtaking ignorance of the populace, so of course it isn’t even considered. No one could possibly be surprised by this event.

    What a godsend to comedians, though.

  • veryretired

    RT—I was using the word “fascinating” in the way Spock does when confronted with some irrational human decision that is incomprehensible, even when it works by some odd quirk of fate.

    Back in the 19th century, when all sorts of scientific and pseudo-scientific claims were all the rage in intellectual and cultural circles, and new discoveries and methods were coming fast and furious, the claim that a disinterested state, similar to the philosopher state Plato described, among others, made up of various experts, could manage human affairs better than the uncoordinated efforts of thousands and millions of individuals might have seemed plausible.

    But now we have had an entire century, the abysmally bloody and corrupt 20th, in which dozens of experiments in this form of autocratic rule by politically chosen “experts” and their disciples have come and gone.

    The results have been clear and unambiguous—for every step forward the human race made under the whips of the collectivist overseers, the mountain of corpses that the effort left behind negated and betrayed any possible positive benefit, and the utopian claims of the ruling elites faded into an unreachable and impossible future the more the controls clamped down, and the more blood flowed into the sewers of the slaughterhouses these countries inevitably became.

    I remember as a young student reading about ancient history, and the fall of various empires, and remarking that the obvious cause of the collapse of some Egyptian dynasty that had ruled for generations was that some Pharoah went through all the required rituals to ensure the renewing flood of the Nile, but nothing happened.

    A few years of this, and the starving peasants finally overcame their fear and awe of the divine ruler and his minions, and threw them in the Nile to see what the gods thought of that.

    The same sequence of events brought down the soviet and mao led empires of Marxism. Only the names were changed, from divine to scientific.

    Now we in the west, having built a civilization that has fulfilled some of the biblical dreams of our ancestors thousands of years in the distant past, creating a land flowing with milk and honey, that has explored the earth to the bottom of the deepest oceans, and walked on another world, is being led to the edge of the same chasm by an ignorant, arrogant, and incompetent elite whose relentless march toward catastrophe is endlessly excused by the smug claim that it’s not the power they have that’s the problem, but the power that still eludes their grasp.

    This is the fascinating insanity of the modern age, a delusion as old as the oldest witchdoctor reading the future in the entrails of a bird, reborn in the computerized delusions of a technocrat who claims the knowledge sufficient to control a process that includes steps that circle the globe to produce a common product that he could not have invented in the first place if he lived a dozen lifetimes.

    The ancient serpent that tempted the first couple did not promise knowledge alone, but the power to control the world and its inhabitants. And, to the endless sorrow of humanity for millennia, it crept into the human heart, where it lurks, spreading its deadly venom from one generation into the next.

    We are engaged in an ancient and deadly struggle, involving everything from the trivial to the momentous, between the free and independent mind, and those for whom such an entity is the most fundamental threat in all the universe.

    So, yes, even toilet paper matters.

  • Wow veryretired! That it so good an analysis that it should be a mainline post.

    Best regards

  • llamas

    @ Mr Ed, who wrote:

    ‘In the 1970s, as a child, I was most amused on visiting a museum, almost certainly the Science Museum, to find that the toilet paper, which had the look and consistency of tracing paper, with which I was familiar, had printed on it ‘Property of HM Government’. In brief, one could not fairly say of it ‘On the whole, it’s very good.’.’


    Ask me how I know that the product to which you refer was manufactured by the Paper Cutting & Toilet Requisite Company, with offices in Victoria and The Provinces, and the telegraphic address ‘Toilet, London’.

    Go ahead, ask me.

    Why do I have instant recall for 50-year-old trivia like this, but I can’t remenber where I left my damned car keys? Why?



  • Me, I blame Climate Change™ for the near extinction of the indigenous Toilet Tree.

    A serious question though: why is it that toilet paper is always the first product to disappear from the shelves in socialist economies? Or is that not the case?

  • the other rob

    Richard – you won’t find any TP here that’s comparable to Andrex and the stuff that tries to be is vastly inferior.

    The only practical solution that I have found is to buy Scott 1000 (plain, single ply), tear off a very long length and fold it by hand to achieve the desired number of layers.

  • llamas

    @ Alisa – because the infants and primary schools which I attended were supplied with the same commodity that Mr Ed decribes, and because as an infant newly introduced to the unfathomable wonder that is the Printed Word, I tended to read and absorb any and every example that came my way, including the printing on packages of commonly-seen products.

    In hindsight, perhaps ‘absorb’ is not the right word to be using in this context. The peculiar aroma of this material, never smelled since, would be to me as Proust’s madeleine, an instant recherche du temps perdu.

    The material which Mr Ed and I (and many others) remember so fondly (!) was universal in all UK goverment facilities of that time, and is actually a good example of what happens when a state monopoly holds sway over an essential commodity – it was out-of-date, unfit for the intended purpose and generally reviled by all who were compelled to use it.

    The takeover of the TP plant by the Venezuelan government will immediately result in higher prices, greater shortages and a flourishing black market if there isn’t one already. There is no other possible outcome. And yet they never learn.

    Incidentally, it would appear that most of the stories about Tide-detergent-as-black-market-and-drug-dealer-currency are overblown.



  • There are only two products that I consider it catastrophic to run out of: toilet paper and coffee. Both are subject to shortages in socialist countries. There is probably a dissertation in this.

  • Richard Thomas

    Llaird, government couldn’t produce as much as private industry? Nonsense. They can produce oodles of the stuff. Then they can pile it up in warehouses and landfills and burn all the surplus twice a year.

    You are too unimaginative about the ways government can stuff things up.

  • veryretired

    NS—thank you for that kind thought. At my age, a good dump is often the high point of my day, so I guess I find the subject of adequate TP somewhat inspiring…

  • Thanks, Llamas:-)

    VR, are you familiar with the term ‘alte kaker’?:-O

  • Mr Ed

    Llamas, can the Paper Cutting and Toilet Requisite Company, should it still persist, cut a deal to barter its paper for some Bolivarian crude? It might find a wonderful nîche, carved out of many crevices.

  • wcchavez

    Is that a very specific creek to which you’re referring?

  • veryretired

    Alisa—if you look that term up in a Yiddish dictionary, my picture is next to the text. If I seem to be grimacing, don’t worry, I’m just experiencing a high point.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    wcchavez, it refers to the Second-Hand Information Technology creek, a polluted stream in silicon valley, which is not found on the tourist maps.

  • What, VR? You mean they removed my picture?


  • Richard Thomas

    Oy vey!

  • veryretired

    Why of course they replaced your photo, Alisa, they found the picture of an attractive woman just didn’t convey the needed impression, so they found one of me—an old fool with the appropriate look of a lost and confused prune.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Alisa, FOOD is the first item to disappear from the shelves when the communists win, so I guess toilet paper would be unnecessary.
    Llamas, a visit to a museum would be a rare event, but you often move your keys around all the time- hence the difference in memory retention rates! Problem solved. Don’t worry, you are not suffering from Alzheimer’s! (Why do we have to keep saying this over and over again?)
    Veryretired, i find this discrimination against attractive women very galling! When will the world accept Alisa as not just a smart woman, but an alround asset? Why do prune-looking people have such an unfair advantage?

  • Very retired

    Prune power!

  • Paul Marks

    Very retired – the weird language (full of pretend scientific terms and so on) taught by the universities helps people delude themselves (as well as delude other people).

    I remember a novel (I forget the title).

    A person is talking to a brutal African dictator. The following may not be the exact words – but they carry the gist…

    “Your father [a tribal chief] murdered people as well – but he did not think he could create prices by his whims, and he did not borrow money waste-it-all and then borrow more money”.

    “You are not qualified to discuss fiscal and monetary policy with me – your racist comments simply show your ignorance of modern economics…..”

  • What Richard Thomas said:-)))

    Actually, food is not the first thing to disappear from the shelves (unless someone is set on creating an artificial famine, as happened in the past). Under normal, more-stupid-than-evil socialism, what disappears first are luxury products (where by ‘luxury’ I mean anything other than food and water). If you recall that Argentinian guy who wrote a book on his experiences during the recent crisis there, he mentioned things like underwear, toothpaste etc. Maybe people simply tend to single out toilet paper among that category of products because of its humorous value?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very, let me add the sound of my own clapping to the general applause. Beautifully done. :>)))

    . . .

    Five years ago two notable things happened: We had the Meltdown of 2008, and I was told that I had ten years to live*.

    People were thinking about where to put their loose cash — gold, ammo? And some of us thought, stockpiling.

    In the basement I still have my stash of 10 years’ worth of “Please don’t squeeze the” Charmin. (That would be TP, if anyone hasn’t figured it out. *g*)

    My kids think I’m nuts.

    *It’s looking now as though I’m going to be late checking out, though. I have a lifelong tendency to tardiness. :>)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Since we’re on the topic of general Governmental economic malfeasance, here’s a headline from USA Today from Sept. 9:

    2008 Financial Crisis: Could it Happen Again?

    What kind of a dingbat question is that!


    In ~ 2 1/2 minutes, the video girl doesn’t exactly address the question, but she does explain the wonderful things the Gov did to keep our financial ship, holed as she was, afloat.

    (In fairness, she does mention that some people seem to think the best thing would be to let the “private sector” take over the mortgage industry. The question would be how to ease into such a system.)

    . . .

    So, Mr. Bernanke has decided not to “taper” just yet.

    Last Wednesday I had a conversation with my “financial advisor.” He had been of the opinion that I should get out of long-term bonds, since interest rates were due to rise. Why? Because historically, “they always have.”


    I had said, “But–but–but–” Well … never mind.

    So Wednesday arrived and with it the appointed discussion with Kyle. And Bernanke announced the decision not to raise interest rates this time around.

    Kyle told me this in some surprise. I said, “Uh-huh.” He said, “Aren’t you surprised? I sure was.” I said, “Nope.” He said, “You’re not? How come?”

    –How to explain this???. Finally I just said, “I don’t think Bernanke really understands how the economy works.”

    I’ll stand by that opinion, but I also think it gets the chutzpah-of-the-year award. :>))))!!!!

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I remember an Australian commentator saying something like, “With all that’s happened to the economy lately, you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s pregnant.”
    Congratulations, it’s a Slowdown!

  • Julie near Chicago


  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Saw this recently- definition of a broker. “What he makes you.”

  • Laird

    Julie, that video clip was just an extended apology for the government’s actions in 2008. Does anyone really expect that Hank Paulson would admit that any errors were made, or that he (and the Fed) was in full panic mode and totally clueless? Anyone who takes financial advice from USA Today deserves what he gets.

    You were lucky with your bonds (OK, I’ll grant that it probably wasn’t pure “luck” guessing that the Fed wouldn’t retrench just yet), but in the long run (and even in the medium run) they’re going to be a loser. Eventually all that money printing is going to catch up with us and inflation will come roaring back. There’s no other way for all that cash bottled up in “excess reserves” to be absorbed by the economy. If you hold your bonds to maturity you will get all your principal back, albeit with its purchasing power debased. But if you should need to liquidate any of them before maturity you’ll take a large loss. Your financial advisor may have been premature, but on balance he probably was right: with the recent drop in yields this might be a great time to take some profits. They’re going to melt away soon enough.

    Personally, I won’t touch bonds with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird: The video clip: agreed. I just thought that it’s a classic example of the ignorant explaining things to the ignorant. When that’s what people hear all day every day, that’s what they tend to come to believe. And I thought the whitewash was more … blatant (and thus illustrative) than usual.

    As to your second paragraph, I agree. However, my point was different from your point.

    My problem is that if financial professionals including the one who’s supposed to be advising me! are so totally unable to read creatures like Ben Bernanke…well–would you want your $ left to the tender mercies of somebody who thinks BB is going to change his spots to stripes and make us all well again just because “history” will make him do it? And my Kyle isn’t the only one. I’ve been reading lots about how the financial guys are a little surprised.

    No. Of course BB will stick with the hand he’s been playing all along. He’s comfy with it, the rest of the Club seems content with things as they are, do you think the Nutter-in-Chief is going “Look here, Bennie, you got to start tightening up, let the rates rise, yeah the suckers will hate your guts but your career so what, and it will be good for the economy”? I don’t know if he knows he’s speeding up the derailment or not, but slowing down the engine just isn’t in his playbook. It’s not his style, regardless of whether he believes it works or not.

    So it wasn’t what Kyle was doing that bothered me, not at all. It was his “reason” for doing it.

    Thanks for the advice, however. It’s good to have your opinion, and frankly I’ve been puzzled for quite awhile as to why the serious inflation has taken so long to hit. My IRA’s all in mutual funds, but I’ll be getting out of the long-term bonds altogether. Most of the $’s not in bond funds, but where it is they’re all funds that hold corporate bonds only.

  • Julie near Chicago

    NngG — Eee-e-ew-w-w!! *holds nose tightly with one hand while the other claps loudly and appreciatively*

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Of course! Ben Bernanke= BB = Big Brother! We finally know Big Brother’s real name! Rush this info to Goldstein in his secret headquarters! Double plus GOOD!