Here’s an old joke: What would happen if the Soviet Union conquered the Sahara? Nothing for fifty years, and then a shortage of sand.A similar joke could be told about Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez has used his country’s vast reserves of oil to enrich himself and his cronies. Meanwhile ordinary Venezuelans live near old and decaying pipelines that have a bad habit of bursting and ruining their water supply, as occurred again just last week. Chávez eviscerated the national oil company in 2002 when its workers went on strike: 17,000 people were fired and replaced with Chávez loyalists. Since then, workplace deaths have increased, infrastructure remains unmended, oil spills left uncleaned and covered up and revenues dispersed to friends. (Bolivarian socialism, like the Soviet variety, espouses the ideal of equitable distribution of natural resources, with “equitable” meaning whatever Chávez wants it to mean.)Via Meadia suspects there may be one difference between the Soviet joke and the Venezuelan version: It probably won’t take Chávez fifty years to run his country’s most profitable enterprise into the ground.