Blogs > Liberty and Power > Chavez - the Evita Sequel

Aug 18, 2004 12:46 pm

Chavez - the Evita Sequel

While I'm a bit surprised my lament about Venezuela has prompted two negative reactions, I'll take this opportunity to suggest, at the very least, some sort of musical might come from this. An Evita sequel? Perhaps with Antonio Banderas playing Chavez? Don't cry for me Venezuela, the truth is I've slept with Castro! He's such a cutie, not such a bastard....

First, Bill's quote from Wanniski. Agreed that it often takes Nixon to go to China, but I suspect anyone who has Chavez's views and ties is NOT going to go supply side. Remember this isn't Brazil. Chavez has tons of oil money coming into the country; he's not a leftist who's being forced by market forces to compete and liberalize. Call me crazy about this (it wouldn't be the first time), but I don't see Chavez calling up the Chicago econ department for advice anytime soon.

Let me address Keith's lengthy blog with a lengthy reply. I think he and I may disagree slightly less than it appears on the surface. Let me start there.

I agree that basically if the election result is" certified" by a collection of various international organizations, that's fine - give the people what they want as the Kinks would say. I would hope you and I would agree that elections as preference aggregation tools are deeply flawed, as public choice theory has shown us, but ok, I'll grant you in some vague way the"people" have spoken. But I'd say in very much the same way that I'm always pretty depressed when the people speak in the U.S. after elections, I think this result in Venezuela fits that category.

And let's not kid ourselves. Chavez is a bad guy who violates basic human rights, intimidates opponents and uses state power to oppress people. Let's leave the BBC out of this and go to Human Rights Watch who in April sent Chavez an open letter condemning the actions of the military in beating opponents and random by standers, throwing tear gas in their eyes, shocking them with electric batons, and spraying them with high pressure hoses. Did that change the results so that he won? Maybe, maybe not, but I for one wouldn't defend his human rights record.

Moreover I'll take serious issue with two of the broader claims you seem to be making (and if I'm wrong here I apologize). First, you seem to say that Chavez is, in fact, helping the poor of Venezuela. Nothing could be further from the truth. He's violated the rule of law and basic property rights; he's invited thousands of Cubans into the country to promote socialism; he's not introducing markets, rule of law, or any limits on his own power. He opposes the proposed FTAA that would open up free trade throughout South America. If state run literacy programs and other" crumbs" can be seen as some strange bread and circus advantage to the poor I don't understand it.

Before I make my second point, just to set the record straight, I opposed the Iraq war, and have done so consistently on this blog. Second, just because people are"left alone" because they stay out of a dictators way, doesn't somehow make anything that those dictators do ok. I'm confused by your Iraq/Taiwan point. Are you saying the people in those mass graves are our fault? I'd agree that the Bush administration was partially responsible for some of what went on after the war, but let's not put our heads in the sand - Saddam is a really bad guy who killed a lot of people. We can agree that our removal process stunk, but let's not suggest we forced him to slaughter everyone they are digging up. He killed a lot of people who opposed him, and the last time I checked, opposing political power was the sort of fundamental right that libertarians were fighting for.

Again I may not be understanding your broader point about our invasion - which I agree was wrong. But I don't see how blaming us for Saddam's actions makes that claim.

Let me see if I can use an historical example. Everyone agrees that Mayor Richard J. Daley ruled Chicago using techniques that were often illegal and consistently unethical. However people also agreed that the guy had wide spread support. Now, what to do with him? We'd like him to play by a fairer set of rules and protect basic liberties. I'd agree invasion is not the way to handle this, but should we not feel frustration that Venezuelas did not pick a path towards greater openness and liberty?

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