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Socialism in Action: Venezuelan Government Takes Over Toilet Paper Factory

An acute shortage of TP demands desperate measures — even if they're the wrong ones.

by
Rick Moran

Bio

September 22, 2013 - 8:36 am
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There is a crisis in Venezuela — an acute shortage of toilet paper. President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has hit upon a brilliant solution: take over the largest factory in the country making toilet paper to “ensure a sufficient supply.”

Your what hurts?

I believe there is a direct correlation between the economic health and spiritual well-being of a society and the quality and selection of the bathroom tissue it offers. The link is unmistakable, as I wrote a few years ago:

Socialist societies overflow with TP jokes. That’s because when such a basic necessity is part of a command economy, there will never be enough and its quality will be a joke. This brings to mind P.J. O’Rourke’s masterpiece Holidays in Hell where his visit to the Soviet Union in the early 80s was painted as a nightmare of shortages, and standing in line for hours just to purchase a couple of rolls of toilet paper.

This incredible report from a sociologist in Russia describes how the Stalinist state designed one kind of toilet paper:

My view is that the development and usage of toilet paper has a much neglected ‘cultural’, as opposed to crudely ‘economic’, aspect. I remember using something called ‘Izal’ – a sort of hard, crumply, medicated affair, prone to splitting under excessive pressure. It was clearly designed and manufactured by an anally retentive Methodist sworn to clean living, clean air and clean bums. It came in boxes especially designed to keep use of paper to a minimum. Each sheet had to be withdrawn singly and was usually the devil’s own job to extract. Sort of thing one found in the lower middle class household of Stalinist persuasion that I inhabited during my childhood years…. It never did me any harm, honest.

If you read between the lines of this old Russian joke about toilet paper, you can catch the utter helplessness that people feel in a society that is incapable of addressing their most basic comforts:

A woman walking in the street is carrying a bag full of rolls of toilet paper.

A passer-by opens his mouth, “Hey, mother, where did you buy it?”

“Buy? Are you crazy? Where could I buy it nowadays? They are five years old. I am taking them back from the cleaners.”

And, of course, there are dozens of variations on the newspaper Pravda (Truth) being better utilized for duty in the water closet than actually finding out what was going on in the Soviet Union at the time.

Venezuelan troops will “occupy” the factory so that “the … People’s Defense from the Economy will not allow hoarding or failures in the production and distribution of essential commodities.”

By the “People’s Defense,” Arreaza was referring to a government agency created on September 13 by President Nicolas Maduro to “defeat the economic war that has been declared in the country,” according to a report from state-run ATV. This group is charged with looking at inefficiencies across various industries in the nation, including foods and other products, and taking action presumably in the South American nation’s best interests.

Toilet paper is very much a part of the war.

The bathroom essential is one of the basic goods and foodstuffs that have been disappearing from store shelves since earlier this year. In Caracas, for instance, long lines are common whenever new rolls come in.

As the amount of TP and other products, such as rice and cooking oil, have lagged, the blame game has picked up.

Businesses and the political opposition say the shortages stem from ill-conceived government policies such as price controls on basic goods and tight restrictions on foreign currency. These moves make it so many producers can’t even break even, they say.

But the government has said private companies aren’t doing their part, accusing them of hoarding their products in hopes of selling it later at a higher price.

They’ve also suggested the problem is tied to a broader conspiracy.

“There is no deficiency in production,” Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming said in May according to ATV, “but an excessive demand generating purchases by a nervous population because of a media campaign.”

At that time, Fleming announced the country would import 50 million rolls of toilet paper to meet demand. Other hygiene products, such as toothpaste and soap, may be similarly brought in bulk for the same reason, the minister said.

There is a shortage of TP because the government is paranoid. And ridiculously inefficient. And economically illiterate. That’s a combination guaranteed to make people extremely unhappy, helpless in the face of government stupidity.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Fear not, Venezuela! The local newspapers, particularly those with pictures of Maduro, will serve as a useful substitute for toilet paper.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Shortages of consumer goods can appear in the healthiest of economies, but they are usually short-lived, and self-adjusting to an extent. The recent shortage of ammunition is an example of a commodity shortage here that adjusted itself when the price went up and manufacturers increased production to take advantage of the higher prices.

But that's not going to happen in Venezuela because the central economic planners have thrown the entire economy out of whack trying to keep retail prices low, and control hard currency flow.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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USA is following in Venezuela's foot steps
Anybody talking about this? Crickets! A little article in Huffington Post’s recent publication by Messr. Sanjay Sanghoee and Former Labor Secretary for President Clinton – Robert Reich in the LA Times…Income Inequality? And that’s all.
1) Inequality is greater than it's been since the 1920s. Average income in the U.S. is $51,000, but $717,000 for the top 1 percent.
2) Two-thirds of minimum-wage earners live below the poverty line.
3) The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of America's wealth, raking in 95 percent of all income gains since 2008. Thanks mostly to crony-capitalism, Monetizing America’s debt and Quantitative Easing (favors to “too big to fail“)
4) Large corporations and wealthy individuals continue to evade taxes through offshore tax havens and other loopholes, costing the government $150 billion a year.
5)The wealthiest are getting wealthier while the poor become poorer, in both relative and absolute terms.
"The culture of gaming the system for personal gain, which lies behind this, is bound to be destructive since for someone to win, someone must lose," says Mr. Sanghoee for the HuffPo.
Corporations and wealthy individuals are increasingly using
political campaign contributions to control the government. For example, PAC contributions exploded during 2012 elections, "virtually hijacking both Washington and the elections to move us towards a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich." So, We The “little” People now know about those Washington DC Elites’:1)greed, 2)power and out-and-out 3)corruption.
Our Constitutional Republic will most certainly morph into a “tin-horned” dictatorship if income inequality continues to increase if we don't:1) reform Wall Street, 2)control corporate fraud, 3)close tax loopholes for the wealthy,
and 4)limit political contributions.
Absent these measures, increasing income inequality will lead to growing social unrest, warns former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who produced a new film "Inequality for All."
"The anger is coming directly out of the frustrations of so many people who are working harder than ever, and still living essentially paycheck to paycheck," says Mr. Reich for the LA Times.
This is the Progressive New Left Activist’s publishing what Constitutional Conservatives (Tea Partiers) have been talking about since late 1970’s. Pray. Amen. Redistributing OPM(Other Peoples Money)never, ever worked. Look at Venezuela’s toilet paper fiasco, Cuba’s sad state of affairs, Western Europe’s demise. There’s more Marx/Lenin failures, too numerous to list. Liberty amendments are the path.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe they should get bidets so they don't need toilet paper.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I assume that Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Danny Glover and all of the other A-listers who were such big fans of the late Hugo Chavez will be emptying their bank accounts, hitting the Wal-Marts, chartering aircraft and organizing the "Caracas Toilet Paper Airlift." I can just see Penn, Stone and company driving through the streets of Venezuela's capital throwing rolls of Angel Soft four-ply from the back of trucks to the adoring crowds and yelling "Viva La Revolution." Warms you heart, doesn't it?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Troops guarding toilet paper factories means they're close to achieving true socialism. Socialism is based on redistribution and "fairness", and it consists of people who go around taking things from those who produce and giving the seized goods to those that don't. Producers stop producing because everything they make gets "appropriated". Those producers are removed and replaced by true believers, who in turn fail to produce because either they realize the futility of it or they can't get supplies because those producers quit too. So a socialist country starts running short of stuff to redistribute, and people start hording what little stuff remains, and the government has to become ever more intrusive about seizing and redistributing. Eventually the government declares that anyone who's not producing enough stuff to redistribute will be shot in the back of the head as an enemy of the people. This helps drop the population to rebalance it with the low amount of production, and the fear and paranoia keeps the government in power for another generation or two, at least absent outside intervention. Almost every country trying to achieve "true" socialism follows the same trajectory.

44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, they create the crisis with their inane policies, then use the crisis as an excuse to get more power. Next, they'll have "TP death panels". They'll decide who gets how much TP, and maybe they'll decide that you and your family will get none. No wiping for you. Go back to using a smooth stone.

Of course, this action will produce a black-market for TP. "Psst, hey buddy. I got TP...."
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was sharing a rueful moan with a taxi driver the other day on the way to work about how awful the traffic was (this is in San Jose, Costa Rica) and remarked that at least there was no shortage of toilet paper. He told me that he had ferried a group of Venezuelan tourists around not long before and their chief concern was stocking up on a few dozen rolls each of papel higienico. Quite extraordinary how flat-Earth socialists still persist after so many examples of the utter stupidity of central planning.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fear not, Venezuela! The local newspapers, particularly those with pictures of Maduro, will serve as a useful substitute for toilet paper.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"guaranteed to make people extremely unhappy, helpless in the face of government stupidity"

Perfect description of what is going on here. But there is always a lag between the stupidity and the unhappiness. We are in that period now.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Merdura is just papering over the problem of Chavistaism to be wiped clean.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Venezuelan troops will “occupy” the factory so that “the … People’s Defense from the Economy will not allow hoarding or failures in the production and distribution of essential commodities.”

Anyone care to guess who will be the primary "hoarders" when this comes to pass?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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