The Corner

Politics & Policy

Venezuela’s People and ‘Collective Ownership of the Means of Production’

Opposition protesters react to tear gas as they face government security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, April 30, 2019. (Manaure Quintero/Reuters)

The Socialist party of Great Britain asks, “When did the people of Venezuela get collective ownership of the means of production?” This is part of that perpetual argument, “True socialism has never been tried.”

If the argument of the Socialist party is that many who claim to be acting in the name of economic equality get into power, focus their efforts on securing their grip on power, and then act in their own interest and only their own interest . . .  yeah, no kidding. Thanks for noticing, guys.

If the argument for socialism is that it’s a noble theory that delivers economic and social equality on paper, but that every single time it gets tried, the leaders succumb to temptation and start accumulating wealth for themselves and stifling dissent and building a secret police and gulags . . .  then as a theory, it’s worthless. It would work when it’s run by human beings who can resist the temptation to take what they want through force, and those humans don’t exist. As Alexander Hamilton wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Socialism requires a government with far-reaching authority to set the rules for every little nook and cranny of the economy — which inevitably gives it a lot of power, and the human beings running the system inevitably start abusing that power.

Some might argue that Venezuela did attempt to enact “collective ownership of the means of production,” as Hugo Chavez’s regime nationalized large swathes or all of the oil industry, the agriculture sector, the finance sector and banks, manufacturing, gold mining, steel production, telecommunications and power production, a ferry company, and some private homes.

But the government and the people are different entities, no matter how much socialists may insist that they are acting on behalf of “the people.” The Venezuelan government took over those companies, industries, and properties, not the Venezuelan people.

Even the best systems of government create a divide between the rulers and the ruled. There’s always a throne, a politburo, a central committee, a premiere, a Dear Leader. In almost every system, those who are making the laws always end up with better housing, better cars, better clothes, better food, and a better overall quality of life than everybody else.

Ironically, one of the few systems where someone outside of government can enjoy a better quality of life than the people running the government is . . .  free-market capitalism!

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