Socialism: The Grinch That Stole Venezuela’s Children

Behold the fruit of the latest failure of socialism: the redistribution of children.

By Ben Johnson Published on December 27, 2016

The Christmas season is a time to think of those less fortunate. This year, the children of Venezuela certainly qualify.

It’s not merely that they’re suffering through the third year of a crippling recession, although that’s bad enough. Thanks to the wealth-destroying policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, more of them are hopeless, starving and effectively orphaned.

Decked out in black to mourn her murdered son, 40-year-old Dileida Palacios told her daughter that, this year, “everything is tough and Santa Claus isn’t coming.” Who can afford toys when a few food staples can absorb much of the $20 average monthly salary? Hyperinflation caused by runaway deficit spending has made the nation’s currency, the Bolivar, worth less than one U.S. penny, and inflation is expected to climb to 2,000 percent in 2017.

Socialism Drives Parents to Give Away their Children

The crisis has deepened to the point that a growing number of parents are doing the unthinkable: giving away their children. While the government does not release official statistics, Reuters reports that “three local councils and four national welfare groups all confirmed an increase in parents handing children over to the state, charities or friends and family.”

Behold the fruit of the latest failure of socialism: the redistribution of children.

It may be inaccurate to describe as a “failure” one of socialism’s cherished goals. Friedrich Engels, the more obscure co-author of The Communist Manifesto, wrote in his 1884 book The Origin of the Family that Communism sought to transform raising children “into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair; society looks after all children alike.” Statists of all descriptions must necessarily seek to undermine the family, and any pre-political or intermediary institution that competes for its loyalty.

It is a miracle that children are able to be born, as the economic crisis led to an increase in voluntary sterilization. Venezuela’s stagflation, crony wealth redistribution, growing indebtedness, punishment of investors, and nationalization of industries have succeeded in fraying the tightest of all bonds.

Parents simply cannot afford life’s necessities since Maduro — who insists that the nation’s economic woes are part of a conspiracy to topple him, and hence the people’s revolution, from power — imposed strict price controls on food and medicine. Shelves immediately cleared out and have only been restocked in areas where he lifted artificial price ceilings. But there are few goods and is even less investment in a market beset, as the World Bank delicately puts it, with “distortions.” (The Heritage Foundation describes the nation’s economy as “repressed.”)

To divert the people’s attention, this month Venezuelan authorities seized 3.8 million toys and redistributed them via socialist committees.

Like Stalin Playing Santa Claus

To divert the people’s attention, this month Venezuelan authorities seized 3.8 million toys from the nation’s leading toy manufacturer, Kreisel, on the grounds that the company conspired to sell them for more than the state-mandated price. The toys were redistributed in the days before Christmas by the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAPs), the same committees charged with distributing enough groceries to feed every needy family – and which have been credibly accused of starving Maduro’s critics.

The distribution of toys will be doubly problematic since many of the children, socialism’s refugees from their own families, no longer live at the address the government has on file.

Not Even Big Brother Can Really Run an Economy

All of this bears out Friedrich von Hayek’s observation that even the most enlightened government cannot properly manage an economy, because it lacks the necessary information to do so. Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom

There would be no difficulty about efficient control or planning were conditions so simple that a single person or board could effectively survey all the facts. But as the factors which have to be taken into account become numerous and complex, no one center can keep track of them. The constantly changing conditions of demand and supply of different commodities can never be fully known or quickly enough disseminated by any one center. Under competition — and under no other economic order — the price system automatically records all the relevant data.

Yet Venezuela’s socialists continue to practice the fatal conceit with no signs of mercy or self-knowledge. Upon confiscating Kreisel’s inventory the consumer protection agency, Sundde, tweeted: “Our children are sacred, we will not let you rob them of Christmas.” In a nationally televised speech announcing the toy distribution, Maduro modestly called himself “a reinforcement for Father Christmas” and “Saint Nicolas with a mustache!”  

But the children of Venezuela need their families far more than the government’s purloined trinkets. They long to grow up in a society that has the building blocks of human flourishing: respect for the rule of law, inalienable rights, the sanctity of the family unit, and economic policies that reward productivity and private initiative. Far from the saintly bishop, who gave his own money to those in need, Maduro’s socialist policies are like year-round minions of the Grinch, snatching away Venezuelan children’s food, their families, and their future.

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