An Atlantic article about the collapse of Venzuela reminded me of this thread. Starts out with a no-so-amusing anecdote about toilet paper:

The entrepreneur’s ordeal started about a year ago, when the factory union began to insist on enforcing an obscure clause in its collective-bargaining agreement requiring the factory’s restrooms to be stocked with toilet paper at all times. The problem was that, amid deepening shortages of virtually all basic products (from rice and milk to deodorant and condoms) finding even one roll of toilet paper was nearly impossible in Venezuela—let alone finding enough for hundreds of workers. When the entrepreneur did manage to find some TP, his workers, understandably, took it home: It was just as hard for them to find it as it was for him.

Toilet-paper theft may sound like a farce, but it’s a serious matter for the entrepreneur: Failing to stock the restrooms puts him in violation of his agreement with the union, and that puts his factory at risk of a prolonged strike, which in turn could lead to its being seized by the socialist government under the increasingly unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. So the entrepreneur turned to the black market, where he found an apparent solution: a supplier able to deliver, all at once, enough TP to last a few months. (We’re not naming the entrepreneur lest the government retaliate against him.) The price was steep but he had no other option—his company was at risk.

But the problem wasn’t solved.

No sooner had the TP delivery reached the factory than the secret police swept in. Seizing the toilet paper, they claimed they had busted a major hoarding operation, part of a U.S.-backed “economic war” the Maduro government holds responsible for creating Venezuela’s shortages in the first place. The entrepreneur and three of his top managers faced criminal prosecution and possible jail time.

Nice catch-22 situation!


Ah… the triumph of socialism over capitalism!


Sounds more like a catch [I]number [/I]2 situation.



To the same extent that Trump’s nomination represents the triumph of conservatism!


Yeah, once again, Venezuela is no more socialist than the US is. They claim it for the mantle and so they can position themselves as opposed to the former conservative government, but really they are just populist oligarchs. For them “nationalizing” means “taking over for ourselves”, not “taking over for the people”. It’s just a way to play for wealth and power. Compare Venezuela with Scandinavia or Uruguay to see what socialism is really like.


Yeah, once again, Venezuela is no more socialist than the US is.

Er… yes it is.


Er . . . no it isn’t.

Your move!


Bollocks. Nationalized industry is the definition of Socialism. The fact that these government managers always manage to always be incompetent, corrupt or both is a feature not a bug of Socialism. Welfare systems are not Socialism. To point to a country like Sweden, which has which has a robust capitalist system, no minimum wage, and was/is producing more than its share of Capitalist billionaires as a model for “Socialism” indicates either that you are quite confused, or that you have no clue what the definition of Socialism is.


Needless to say there is a very broad range of governments that are called socialist. If you insist on a narrow Marxist definition, however, then I agree that Scandinavia is not socialist. But Scandinavian “socialism” which is of course a widely-used term very commonly applied to those governments over many years, is much the same as the “democratic socialism” espoused by Sanders. It may not take full control of the means of production, and it may allow the unlimited accrual of private wealth, but it socializes many services that are corporatized in the US.

For that matter Venezuela allows capitalist private corporations and unlimited wealth in private hands, so by your definition it can’t be socialist either.

However socialism is democratic. If a dictator like Chavez or Maduro (or Stalin or Brezhnev for that matter) is in charge, the country is ipso facto not socialist. Moreover under socialism social ownership of nationalized enterprises does not siphon money into private accounts as it does in Venezuela. Venezuela is obviously an oligarchic kleptocracy.


For that matter Venezuela allows capitalist private corporations

But we just read about how they “allow” it.


If you click on the list of major corporations in Venezuela from wikipedia you can find some that are nationalized, some that are privately owned locally, and some that are half-foreign-owned and half-local. No doubt they all pay graft to the government to continue to operate, but plenty are still private corporations. Once a government becomes corrupt enough it hardly matters what its supposed form is; all it amounts to is a pack of thieves wearing masks that might say republican or socialist or democratic as the case may be.


Socialism of the 21st century.


Socialism of the 21st century argues that both free-market industrial capitalism and twentieth-century socialism have failed.

Huh, so I guess in the 21st century we can redefine any political philosophy to mean whatever we want it to mean, even if it means explicitly rejecting the 20th century definition.

The conclusion is inescapable: if Chavez is standard by which “socialism” should be judged, then Trump is the standard by which “American conservatism” should be judged.


Socialism covers a variety of specific implementations, but no real expert suggests that what has happened in Venezuela is NOT in fact socialism. [I]Because it very clearly is[/I]. As far as I’ve seen, the only folks trying to pretend like it isn’t are folks offering up some no true scotsman argument, mainly because they seem to want to cling to some idea that socialism is awesome, so anything that points out its flaws must be lying somehow.

By any real measure, a country like Venezuela is further down the spectrum of socialism towards hard core marxism than a country like Sweden, due to its large scale nationalization of industry.

While its easy to point out the corruption and say that its the cause, not the embrace of socialist ideas, the reality is that the corruption you see, and the economic failures we’ve witnessed, are a direct problem of trying to implement socialism in that way.

Chavez was elected on a platform of socialist promises, and for a while everything was unicorns and rainbows. But those promises were empty. In order to implement the nationalization of industry on that scale, the government is given a huge amount of power over everything, and that inherently leads to corruption. It always has, and it always will. And those people in the government are simply incapable of running industry as efficiently as private ownership, and this leads to inevitable economic devastation.

Folks can just handwave it away, and refuse to learn anything from it, but that seems silly to me.


And Trump is only a tenth as bad as Chavez. It’s as absurd to consider Venezuela an exemplar of socialism as it is to consider Mussolini an exemplar of conservatism.


Socialism and Conservatism aren’t really on the same spectrum.
And Mussolini was a fascist… essentially also a type of socialism. Instead of democratic socialism, mussolini pushed national syndicalism, which is essentially ant-democratic socialism.


Come on now. Socialism is left, conservatism is right. There’s no question about this. And as for fascism being socialism, you might as well say that North Korea is a democracy because it’s the Democratic Republic of North Korea. This is just wacky. But yes, Mussolini wasn’t [I]really[/I] conservative; it’s just that he could be called conservative with the same legitimacy as Venezuela being called socialist. Fascism is of course generally considered to be a right-wing form of government. Venezuela, IMO, offers a superficially left-wing analogue of fascism.


Come on now. Socialism is left, conservatism is right. There’s no question about this.

Those are different spectrums. Trying to define everything by “left or right” doesn’t really work in practice. It’s really just a convenience description used sometimes, but it doesn’t really work if you try to think that it’s some kind of useful description. Because, in the case of fascism, you have a type of socialism (generally regarded as left) which is generally placed on the far right.

In reality, fascism was once described as “the third way” as an alternative to communism on one side, and capitalism on the other. The reality is, something as complex as political/economic ideology isn’t something you can measure on a single axis graph of “left to right”.

And as for fascism being socialism, you might as well say that North Korea is a democracy because it’s the Democratic Republic of North Korea. This is just wacky.

No, this is actually how it is. As I pointed out, Fascism is anti-democratic socialism, as contrasted with democratic socialism.
The reason why north korea isn’t a democracy, is because they don’t actually practice democracy.

But fascist countries DID in fact practice anti-democratic socialist policies. They did in fact nationalize industry and put things under state control. You can read about some of the background here if you like, and see how it arose out of movements in France pushing anti-democratic socialsm.

You appear to be operating under the mistaken impression that democratic socialism is the only type of socialism… but it is not.

Mussolini pushed national syndicalism, which is considered a variant of socialism.


The term Democratic Socialism has historically been an oxymoron. Since Socialism does not work, actual Democratic Socialist governments have either have had to give up on Socialism and transform themselves into Social Democrats (the case in Europe), have gone totalitarian, or have been thrown out. Venezuela is at the decision point.

Hayek had this all figured out 70+ years ago.


Socialism has a real economic definition and a wishy-washy political definition.

Venezula is pretty clearly a socialist country by the economic definition. The country nationalized vast swathes of industries. They also imposed rationing/price controls on many goods.

If you have no control of the price of any good you sell and can lose your biz/be jailed for setting the wrong price, then that’s a pretty clear indication of of a socialist state. It is irrelevant if there was private enterprise, if businesses had no control of prices or quantity of good sold.

I’m shocked that so many socialist systems end up as authoritarian regimes. Who would have guessed that a system must constrain liberty and private property would tend towards a dictatorship? Other than Mises/Hayek et all.

Most countries are now capitalist where means of production owned by mostly privately entities and businesses can set prices. There are elements of socialism where the state mandates price controls or price floors but most nations remain capitalist. (price system is the #1 reason why socialism will always fail and capitalism win)

The political label of socialism/conservatism has no real meaning since people call themselves whatever they want.