I Was Wrong

Those of you that have followed this website for a while will know that I have been off the radar for quite some time. So before going into what I was wrong about, an explanation seems to be in place.

A lot has happened over the past two years or so: I moved from Europe to South America (where I ended up both penniless and jobless before climbing my way out of that rut), I developed an intimate, personal relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ, I met the love of my life and married her 11 months later, and we ended up moving back to the place I thought I had left for good. In the midst of all this writing articles has, shall we say, not been my priority.

In my first article since a long time, however, I want to do something unusual and rebuke my own article. Specifically this relates to a position I took publicly on this very site about four years ago, and it was something I firmly believed in. But hey, sometimes one comes to new insights and, as they say, if you never changed your mind, you never learned a thing! So here we go.

stockvault-white-house139532In this article in the run-up to the U.S. presidential elections of 2012, I made the emphatic case (or so I thought) that Gary Johnson should be the next president of the United States. I was wrong.

The reason I now feel slightly embarrassed for having written that piece, is not because of Johnson’s infamous “Aleppo moment”, or the other gaffe about which foreign leader he looks up to. Far be it from me to let those incidents, or even his running mate Bill Weld sticking up for Hillary Clinton, surprise or disappoint me anymore! (Although admittedly that last one was particularly appalling). The problem with not just this libertarian ticket but the general idea of “voting yourself free” goes much deeper than that.

As unimaginative as I find my viewpoint looking back on it four years later, the subject of my writing was and is even more unimaginative – and indeed utterly uninspiring and downright boring. Now I realize the odds of my ranting ever reaching his desk or that of anyone close to him are infinitesimal, but I feel compelled to take this stance nonetheless. Not only because my argumentation had as many holes as Swiss cheese, but also because I am frankly disgusted with the “libertarian” standpoints the Libertarian Party takes and the terrible job it does of representing the best ideas mankind has ever known. While I am not personally involved with the U.S. Libertarian Party in any way, shape, or form, as a freedom advocate I am disgusted with the way the principles and values I hold near and dear to my heart with are being bent and twisted everywhere Gary Johnson shows his face.

For starters, what kind of a signal does the slogan “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”, send? That is like saying, “Well, you know, both the Republicans and the Democrats have some really great ideas, and if you don’t know which to choose, you can always vote Libertarian!”. People like Johnson can certainly debate how and to what extent the government should rob people of the fruits of their labor through taxation, but let’s not get extreme and entertain the thought that stealing people’s belongings is the definition of theft and therefore immoral in the first place!

In my 2012 article I also write that the Libertarian candidate “wants to audit and reform the Federal Reserve”. Yawn. Why not take (economic) freedom right to its logical and rightful conclusion and take a stance against legal tender laws and central banks’ monopoly on the issuance of money? Why can’t the two parties in a transaction decide for themselves what monetary instrument they want to use to compensate one another?

I then state that Johnson “wants to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana” before claiming that he “believes in civil liberties”. Yet one who truly believes in civil liberties would not dare argue in favor of the government’s authority to tell us when, how, and where to consume a plant – let alone try to make a buck off of our voluntary choices while at the same time attempting to manipulate those choices by way of taxation.

In response to the above, some will tell me I am just a hopeless ideologue and that my utopian vision of a libertarian paradise is just as unlikely to come about by not voting than by voting. However my advocacy is only partially concerned with voting, whereas sticking to the libertarian principles of non-aggression and self-ownership is absolutely non-negotiable, period. By now it has become more than obvious that Gary Johnson is not a good example of a principled libertarian, and as such I take offense at his claiming to be so. In that respect the above only scratches the surface, but then again he is just another politician that we should not waste much time or effort thinking or talking about.


The National-Socialist Legacy of Chávismo in Venezuela

Loved by some and hated by others, Hugo Chávez was arguably one of the most influential Latin American leaders in recent history. After his death earlier this month and with new presidential elections coming up on April 14th, now is an opportune time to analyze what the man who liked to portray himself as a friend and advocate of the poor, did and did not accomplish.

Chávez’s reign started in 1998 when he won the presidency using his typical populist rhetoric, The national-socialist legacy of Chávismo in Venezuelaproclaiming he wanted to create “optimum prosperity for the fatherland”[1]. He subsequently launched his “Plan Bolívar 2000” named after Simön Bolívar, a military and political leader who fought for Latin American independence from the Spanish empire in the nineteenth century. The plan encompassed rewriting the constitution and putting it up for a referendum. For this purpose, a Constitutional Assembly was created, for which elections were held in 1999. Its first meeting took place in August of that year, when Chávez urged the members to produce the new constitution as fast as they could, kindly providing his own draft to give them a head start. The plenary sessions that were subsequently held were eventually abandoned in favor of twenty-one specialist commissions tasked with defining and rewording the separate articles of the constitution[2]. So much for the will of the people being heard..

The powers of the Constitutional Assembly, which had now become the country’s supreme authority as far as most jurists were concerned, seemed to be at odds with those of the democratically elected Congress. To make matters worse, Chávez declared a “judicial emergency” and appointed a nine-member commission with the power to dismiss the Supreme Court, resulting in its president resigning in anger, declaring the “Supreme Court was now dead” and “the democratic system in danger”[3]. The final outcome of the political standoff was that the opponents of the government in Congress agreed not to pass laws that might obstruct the work of the Constitutional Assembly[4].

Furthermore, Chávez blocked the approval of articles referring to the freedom of the press and “the right to life”. The final version of the constitution, while including a so-called “right to work” and supposedly guaranteeing “full care and social security benefits” for senior citizens, made no mention of such basic rights as self-ownership or freedom of the press. Nonetheless, nearly 72 percent of Venezuelans voted Yes, giving the president the green light to move forward with his plans.

The referendums and re-elections might lead one to think that the Venezuelans are a free people who were perfectly content with the reign of “El Presidente”. Those re-elections, however, left many Venezuelans wondering time and time again where the votes had come from or whether their votes were being properly registered by the electronic voting machines. Those concerns cannot simply be dismissed as unjustified claims made by sore losers either, considering the lack of transparency, lack of independent electoral observers and the closure of the consulate in Miami to prevent the city’s large opposition voting bloc from having their voices heard. Such measures would make any election unfair if not outright illegitimate.

A closer look at the effects of Chávismo on the country and the daily lives of its citizens reveals why opposition against the late president may have been stronger than anyone was supposed to know. Part of the people’s discontent has to do with the economic chaos caused by Chávez’s national-socialist policies aimed at micro-managing every aspect of Venezuelans’ lives. In many ways the economic policy pursued by the Chávez government for many years is a classic example of how some government intervention invariably and inevitably leads to more and more intervention, until the Leviathan decides to just go the whole nine yards. In the case of Venezuela, the results included the nationalization of “strategic companies” deemed too important to be owned and controlled by foreigners, a massive loss of purchasing power and devaluation upon devaluation of the bolívar followed by shortages of foreign currencies, most notably U.S. dollars. Strict currency controls were then implemented aimed at stopping the black market from supplying dollars, further aggravating Venezuelans’ misery, whose consumption consists for 70 percent of imported goods. None of that stopped Chavez from  using state oil funds to finance his latest re-election campaign, though, thereby leaving his political successors and the entire country with serious budget deficits.

Despite his professed benign intentions, Hugo Chávez leaves a country in ruins and a people in despair. Let’s hope the next Venezuelan president will do more than pay lip service to the plight of the country’s vast poverty-stricken underclass, If the new elect knows anything about history, he might give free market capitalism a try.

[1] Richard Gott, Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution. (London: Verso, 2005). pp. 136-137

[2] Richard Gott, Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution. (London: Verso, 2005). pp. 146-147.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Richard Gott, Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution. (London: Verso, 2005). p. 147