mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Saharan Sand, Venezuelan Oil

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • LarryD

    I understand that oil production is a high maintenance industry, so I expect you’re right.

    Anyone have reliable figures for Venezuelan oil production, going back before Chavez?

  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    There’s also another variation. Consider both Texas and Saudi Arabia. Similar populations, challenging climate, and lots of oil. The comparison between the two places is remarkable.

    If, however, one could magically switch the populations of both places there’s little doubt that within a generation the relative condition and prosperity of those places would be reversed.

    It doesn’t take much. Median household income in the US has been falling like a rock since early 2009 and is currently at mid-1990s levels. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They predict that by year’s end it will be back to about 1983 or ’84 levels.

    Four years to wipe out a generation of middle class progress, and we are already seeing the results in deferred maintenance of homes, vehicles and businesses. This is NOT happening in Canada, so the deterioration is clearly the result of the actions and policies of the current American administration.

  • Mrs. Davis

    It is unfair to blame all the current problems on the current administration. The seeds were sown throughout the last 70 years. To test this, ask if things would be appreciably better if we had President McCain for the last 3 years.

  • a nissen

    If all you say is true, Chavez learned his tricks from free market shock therapists. Not terribly ironic for their students to go rogue.

    The ironic parts are getting away with tossing the free market bit, all but for for whoever or whatever inflicted the cancer upon him..

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Venezuela’s oil production has dropped from 3.2 million barrels per day in 97 to 2 million barrels per day in 2010. The trend is for even lower production in the future. A people get the government they deserve, and the Venezuelans deserve Hugo Chavez, after all they knew what he was, he was the leader of an attempted Coup only a few years before they elected him Dictator for Life.

  • Kris

    nissen@4: “Chavez learned his tricks from free market shock therapists.”

    Do elaborate.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service