President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela presides over a socialist regime, and the country’s current problems are the inevitable result of socialism. Contrary to the “not real socialism” trendies, who were quite happy to praise Hugo Chavez and Maduro before their citizens were compelled to eat their own pets to survive, the food shortages and inflation are a direct consequence of price controls and land confiscation. Like every revolutionary regime of its ilk, it is yet another failed example of a bankrupt idea.
It is true that Venezuela never achieved the aim of full worker control of the means of production, yet this doesn’t mean that the fault cannot lie at the feet of socialist ideas. The worker utopia is impossible, just as Mises demonstrated. The fact that the attempt to produce the utopia did not produce the utopia does not mean that it was not, in fact, attempted.
During impossible times like these, as troubles in Venezuela escalate, that there are increasing calls for “humanitarian” intervention. Anti-imperialists, in turn, are accused of naivety and told solemnly that doing nothing cannot be an option. It has been speculated that the country stands on the brink of civil war as Maduro’s regime has been challenged by an activist movement organised by opposition leader Juan Guadio. Videos emerged of military vehicles running over peaceful protestors in the street. The presiding regime has won this round, and neocons such as Senator Rick Scott are baying for intervention to prevent further oppression.
You’ll often find, in fact, that doing nothing is precisely the correct option. The skeptic’s guide to ethics starts with the first immutable rule: first, do no harm. In any given complex situation, doing nothing might be an error, but it’s a rational error considering the sea of uncertainty that lays before you. You are equally likely to make things worse by your well-meaning intervention than make things better.
It might be worth, before you accuse non-interventionists of utopianism, examining the record of US foreign interventions, and whether the same consequences may not be likely in any interjection in Venezuela.
Firstly, what about Libya, which was supposed to be rescued from the tyranny of Muammar Gaddafi? Well, it’s a feudal wasteland, as it happens, “like Game of Thrones where every house is ruled by Joffrey,” as a policy expert from the European Council on Foreign Relations put it.
Even the most shameless of jingoists admit mistakes in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that discombobulated the country but maintain that it was “necessary” to remove Saddam Hussein. Yet this preceded further occupation and interventions well into the 2010s with the rise of the Islamic State, that of 2019 is still active in the country.
The less said about Afghanistan the better, from the US military’s point of view, as they have recently given up measuring how much of the country that is still, 18 years after the operation to capture Osama Bin Laden, controlled by the Taliban.
It is not out of an insufficient understanding of how desperate the life of average Venezuelans is at this moment in time that people call for restraint. Gaddafi, Hussein, the Islamic State, and the Taliban were/are all awful and deserve to disappear. Notice I can also warn against a war in South America without having to appeal to the purity of the current Venezuelan government. Socialism could also be safely placed in the dustbin of history without much loss to the human race.
Let’s not give credence to the conspiracy theories surrounding the West’s attitude to Venezuela. Guadio’s movement is being called a US-backed attempted coup. The Maduro-apologists are right to the extent that the US supports and recognizes Guadio, but wrong when they say that there is no organic grassroots opposition to Maduro on a wide scale. Venezuelans really are suffering, and they know whose fault it is.
Socialism and imperialism are errors of a kind: interventionism. They both presume to provide more order to the world than would emerge in the absence of coercion. The alternative is freedom, where people are fit to associate themselves and their property with whom they wish. So radical, I know.
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