Foreign Policy tracks the uninterrupted collapse of Venezuela, which has been all but overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine. Venezuela is proof that even if no one hears a tree fall in the forest, the tree still hits the ground. But its proof of another less lofty adage: that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Socialists can keep failing forever without ever realizing that something is wrong.
For example Julia Buxton of the Guardian sees Maduro’s problems as the result of insufficient agility. But nothing is said about the model itself; except to suggest that Maduro’s opposition will make itself unpopular by refusing to ‘help’ or ‘cooperate’ with the Venezuelan strongman.
They were exacerbated by constant ministerial turnover and the government’s failure to engage with these issues as social and institutional problems, rather than facets of capitalism that would fade under Chávez’s model of 21st century socialism.
High inflation and shortages are the result of an overbearing state that is intended to frame the socialist economy. In the early 2000s price and exchange controls had logic in the context of private-sector lockouts, massive capital flight and the need to ensure access to high-price goods and services for the poor – Chávez’s core supporters. But the rationale for their retention has long expired.
As with Obamacare, the greatest sin of an ideologies’ victims is their unwillingness to patiently endure its supposed fixes. “Venezuela faces serious economic and security challenges. These need no exaggeration, and Maduro recognises that they can only be addressed through a national dialogue. An initial peace conference convened at the end of February was boycotted by the radicals and Capriles, but attended by lower-profile opposition figures. They, rather than Capriles, may prove to be the beneficiaries of the popular frustration with Maduro, who for now finds his position strengthened.
Whether it is Obama putting forward Debo Adegbile or Detroit insisting on its pensions or socialists doubling down on Socialism the problem is always framed in terms of: “yes it sucks so why not lend a hand and make it work?” The possibility it may fail is excluded a priori.
But in reality things fail all the time. And though everyone sees it coming there’s not a damn they do about it. The history of humanity is the history of unrepentance. Clayton Christensen argues that “great firms fail” — really excellent, innovative, world-beating teams — they often simply drift toward the sound of roaring water audible for miles yet despite decades of warning still go over the edge without a barrel.
This happens to countries and empires too. They can see the black line of the waterfall’s edge in the distance, but no one can steer away.