News brings word that things in Venezuela, over the last few weeks, have gotten as ugly as a West Virginia tailgate. Instead of people throwing bags of urine at one another, which is the custom in Morgantown, the locals are throwing “poop bombs” at the police. In the age of fake news, this could be a totally made up story, but it is not implausible. For some reason, flinging crap at people is something that comes naturally to people. I guess it is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Or, maybe some people just like throwing poop.
Searching the archive, I see I have never written a post about Venezuela and I have mentioned the place just eight times in three years. Given that I have cranked out 1.4 million words in three years, it is same to assume that Venezuela does not rank very high on my list of interests. The one interesting thing about the place, at least to me, is they have some of the most dangerous prisons on earth. Each prison is a self-regulating island, where the prisoners run everything inside, and the guards make sure they stay inside.
For a while, American libertarians tried hard to make Hugo Cavez a bogeyman worth our attention and Venezuela an example of what happens when you anger the god’s of Von Mises. Chavez tried hard to do his part, but the day of the macho socialist dictator has past, at least for American elites. The ideal leader for the managerial elite is the childless powerskirt or the sexually ambiguous fop. Chavez just reminded the swells of the guy that cuts their grass. It’s hard to make a bogeyman out of Pablo the lawn guy.
Chavez was a ridiculous gasbag, for sure, but Venezuela is not exactly Wellesley Massachusetts either. When Chavez came to power, the per capita GDP was roughly $5,000. The average IQ is 84, which is in the same band as most Arab countries. There’s not a lot of human capital, but they have oil that is easy to access. By the time Chavez shuffled off this mortal coil, per capita GDP was over $12,000. How much of that made it to the people is another story. In all probability, the oil profits were stolen.
This is a familiar pattern in low-IQ countries. The relatively small cohort of smart people have no illusions about their ability to elevate their people. In fact, they are usually taught this from birth. Instead of making their country better, they make their own lives better by exploiting the mass of stupid people around them. The per capita GDP of Equatorial Guinea is the same as Venezuela, but the people live like cavemen, while the Esanguii clan of my good friend Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo live like royalty.
The point is that the ceiling for places like Venezuela is not very high, relative to the West and their capacity for honest government is also limited. Strangely, countries like Venezuela are not made better by vast natural wealth. Instead they are made worse because they have something worth stealing and something worth stealing is worth killing for too. The result is the people running the place will kill as many people as possible to maintain control of the nation’s oil wealth.
It’s not the policies or institutions. It’s the people in charge of the place. It’s not that they are misguided or in error. They know exactly what they are doing. They are big fish and they are doing what big fish always do and that’s eat the small fish, which happen to be the population of low-IQ Mestizos. The fact that they are willing to starve their own people tells you they are not the sort of guys worried about the nuances of tax policy. They are hard men running a rough country the hard way.
The other thing worth mentioning is Venezuelans are not campus snowflakes. The murder rate is twice that of our worst cities. It’s hard to know the exact figures. The government is so corrupt, no one can trust their numbers. Even so, it is one of the most dangerous countries on earth. It is safe to assume that the people are willing to employ rough justice, but somehow they are unable to do anything about their government. There are protests and minor street rebellions, but not at a level high enough to destabilize the government.
Maybe things just need to get a bit worse before the people throw over their rulers or maybe the people in charge have such an edge that the people can never throw over their rulers. Perhaps we have reached a point where technology has allowed even a wildly corrupt ruling class to maintain power in the face of popular unrest. They can use spies, mass media propaganda and control of commerce to keep a lid on things. We may have reached a point where revolution is impossible, even in a craphole like Venezuela.
The news tells us that Venezuelans are eating zoo animals. Again, it could be made up, but there is no doubt there are serious food shortages. If a relatively violent people are eating their pets, yet unwilling to turn on the local officials, what are the odds that the pampered pussies of Western nations will push back against their rulers? Our superiors are smarter and better able to keep us fat, dumb and happy. The lesson of Venezuela is that our rulers can probably get away with a hell of a lot more, if they want.