When Socialism Fails
"The Venezuelan case is a textbook example of the evolution of socialism."
Venezuela and North Korea could not be more dissimilar in terms of their respective cultures, peoples, and histories. And yet they have arrived in approximately the same place: at the terminus of F. A. Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom.”
Socialism is defined by central planning, which is to say by the subordination of the economy to political discipline. When U.S. progressives talk about socialism, what they usually mean is those nice democratic welfare-statists in Denmark or Sweden, or maybe Germany if they are particularly interested in industrial policy and labor power. European welfare statism has its ups and downs (the occasional bout of right-wing hysteria notwithstanding, it is not obviousthat the Norwegians inhabit a post-apocalyptic hellscape; if Oslo represents the end of the world, then Armageddon is shockingly expensive), but those welfare states are attached to largely free economies.
Progressives will consider the case of Venezuela or North Korea (the American Left’s longstanding admiration of Castro’s Cuba, and its celebration of Hugo Chàvez only a few years ago, has been memory-holed) and say that the problem with those countries is not socialism but a lack of democracy, political violence and instability, etc. But repression on the Venezuelan model is not extraneous to socialism — it is baked into the socialist cake. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro (and Castro!), Chàvez, Maduro, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Shining Path: No ideology is that unlucky. Violence and oppression is not something that just happens to accompany efforts to impose political regimentation on the economy — which is to say, on private life — but is an inescapable accompaniment to it.