Thursday, January 30, 2020

Quickies: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

     If there are any hard and fast, entirely reliable rules in the realm of geopolitics, this would be one: Never trust an avowed socialist. Especially once he’s had power enough to show his true colors. So I wouldn’t be in a great hurry to bid on this offer:

     When Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, Venezuela was producing more than 3 million barrels per day of crude. With the help of billions in loans from China, Chavez was able to sustain production at around 2.5 million barrels per day. In the past year, production has fallen below 1 million barrels per day, the lowest rate of production in 75 years. As a result, per capita GDP has fallen by nearly half in the past six years.

     Now, the Chinese government is apparently becoming reluctant to throw good money after bad. As a consequence, Chavez's hapless successor, President Nicolas Maduro, is now reportedly proposing to sell a majority stake in, and give control of the country's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, to private international oil companies. This offer may be less than tempting to Big Oil since the Bolivarian Republic still owes billions to the oil companies whose property it seized 10 years ago.

     “Privatize.” A lovely word, but...would the government of Venezuela retain the power to re-nationalize the oil industry? Because if so, no investment in any industry in that nation would be safe from the claws of the State.

     Allow me a citation about another “socialist paradise:” Burma under dictator Ne Win:

     Ne Win set out his ideas in a manifesto: The Burmese Way to Socialism, which proclaimed two antithetical principles: a commitment to Marxism and the promise of “a new society for all, economically secure and morally better.” It was the commitment to Marxism that won.
     More than 90% of Burma’s commerce and industry was nationalized, creating drastic shortages of all commodities on the home market and – the natural consequence – widespread corruption and a flourishing black market, despite severe penalties. IN agriculture, Ne Win went even further than his distant mentors of the Soviet Union, for instance by “nationalizing” onions, potatoes, and beans. All three items promptly disappeared, since the farmers saw no special reason to produce them. Ne Win’s response was typically authoritarian. He decontrolled onions, potatoes, and beans; all three rapidly reappeared on the market. He then pounced on the private traders who were handling the reborn items, ordering the army to seize the more successful firms, and jailing the successful owners.

     [Arthur Seldon and Brian Crozier, Socialism: The Grand Delusion. Emphasis added by FWP.]

     How do you feel about Bernie Sanders now, Comrade?

No comments: