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home : opinion : columnists May 27, 2016

3/20/2013 10:23:00 AM
Another hero of the liberal left is gone
Bill Forhan

Hugo Chavez, the champion of 21-Century Socialism and darling of Hollywood liberals like Sean Penn, has died. It's a real loss for those who want us all to believe that a socialist society is much more fair to the poor and middle class.

But just what did Chavez's 14 year rule actually accomplish? During his regime inflation averaged 22 percent per year. Substandard housing increased 37 percent. Venezuela now sports the fifth highest murder rate in the world according to the United Nations. The countries national debt increased nearly 400 percent despite the fact that Chavez nationalized the oil industry in a country that contains the second highest reserves in the world.

Business investment in Venezuela has nearly dried up. Possibly because Chavez did not hesitate to confiscate private property for the "good of the poor" or because the owners were "corrupt." Venezuela's oil refineries are producing less today than when he took office because of poor maintenance practices and bad management.

Chavez put price caps in place to counter the effects of runaway inflation on the poor. The result is shortages for food, gas and electricity.

Teacher salaries are so low that many teachers don't show up for work. Only 47 percent of the workforce is actually employed.

Of course, Hugo's personal wealth is estimated at between $1 and $2 billion. Data on per capita income for the poor and middle class is not available. It seems our socialist friend has refused to share the good news of his "revolution" with the rest of the world.

Once again we get a chance to witness the utter failure of the socialist experiment. The people are robbed of their property in the name of the poor while the leaders line their pockets. Charismatic leaders promise much but deliver little. When the residents grow restless they are demonized, marginalized or even killed for their opposition. It is not an isolated incident in world history. It has been repeated time and again and always concludes in an ugly fashion.

Those who do not understand the power of a free market economy continue to support these concepts of centralized planning and fair distribution of the "collective" wealth of the society. It seems to be a part of the human condition that some of us are compelled, often with the best of intentions, to believe they know what is best for the rest of us. But when you compel someone to do something that they are not convinced is in their best interest, they will do one of two things. They go underground or they leave. That is what happened in Venezuela. The underground economy thrived - mostly the drug dealers. And those who could, took whatever they had left of their personal wealth and fled the country. Those that left drained much of the capital needed to grow the country so the leaders, unwilling or unable to face the error of their policies, found it necessary to confiscate "strategic" assets for the good of the people. It is a never-ending death spiral of denial that destroys individual choice and freedom.

We are now at a crossroads in this country. We have spent the better part of the last half century trying to model America after the failed systems in Europe. We've tried to run a public retirement system with an inadequate funding model ever since FDR. We've been losing the war on poverty since Lyndon Johnson. We have been trying to become energy independent since Jimmy Carter, but we refuse to develop our own natural resources in order to get the job done. Now we want to add a public health care system that is bankrupting the European models we are attempting to emulate. And instead of recognizing the programs don't work or need to be revised our leaders continue to expand them.

We can continue down this path toward our own charismatic leader who promises much, delivers little, pits us against each other and then.. Oh wait, I think we are already there.

Bill Forhan can be reached at 509-548-5286 or

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013
Article comment by: Craig

Great article on. I've lived half my life overseas with most of that time spent in Europe. I love visiting and traveling there but their economic policies are disastrous. They pile one disincentive on top of another for the average worker and it's now all starting to unravel. Keep on educating!

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