A starving country with a surplus of food


More evidence that Chávez’ 21st century socialism seems to be failing spectacularly: as this Economist article describes, thousands of government-imported food containers were discovered rotting away in Puerto Cabello. Officials admit to 30,000 tons, while the opposition claims the number to be somewhat higher – around 75,000. This is quite uncomfortable news for the regime amid growing food shortages and rising prices ravaging the country.

Throughout his 11-year presidency (now extended for an indefinite period thanks to last year’s referendum), Chávez has nationalized many corporations, while private firms face constant threat from the state. In the meantime, the government-run industries such as telecommunication, agriculture and supermarkets are deteriorating day-by-day. Authoritarian regime aside, it is not really in the president’s best interests to let the country starve. Rather, the fault lies with the inherent inability of a regime to succeed under a planned economy.

Despite all outrage caused by this scandal, there is nothing really new here. How many times have we witnessed a similar scenario, replayed over and over again? The Soviet Union (both before and after the perestroika) and Cuba are just a few examples. Aside all ethical and theoretical discussions, the system has proven to be unsuccessful and impracticable many times over. We knew this during Adam Smith’s day and we know it now: free markets are the most efficient means of allocating resources. Government meddling, no matter how benevolent its intentions are, will always lead to miscalculations – simply due to the staggering amount of planning involved. Decomposing containers of food in the port of a starving country is testament to this very fact.

By the way, another feature of such ineffective regimes is that people eventually get tired of them. It’s only a matter of time before Chávez’ indefinite presidency term comes to an end.