Even though I’m Cuban American, I’m not going to come at this the way most Cuban exiles would. I’m not going to accuse the Nicolás Maduro government of Venezuela of creating a Castrist, Marxist style system of rationing food. I’m not going to mention that Maduro just returned from visiting with a convalescent Fidel Castro in Cuba, before announcing his new ‘biometric’ food quota system which is essentially the same as the one Castro enacted in the 1960s.
Here’s what I’d like to do instead. I want to ask, Why? Why would you try and solve a 21st century problem with a 20th century solution? Duma-style collectivism is as dead as Lenin’s morbidly displayed corpse in his Red Square mausoleum, and it should stay that way! You got that, President Putin?
Those people you call hoarders and thieves, the rest of the world calls them self-starters. They will use their gumption, their curiosity and their will to succeed to find better ways to distribute goods.
But Maduro, the 51-year-old successor to Hugo Chávez, says he has a problem. And it’s this: too many people are buying subsidized food and selling it in the black market. Maduro claims his plan, the "Secure Food Supply" card, will set limits on purchases as a way of stopping unscrupulous shoppers from stocking up on subsidized groceries and reselling them.
The reaction among Venezuelans has been mixed at best. A man obviously angered by the interminable lines made worse by the “biometric” system, which scans shoppers fingerprints, is heard on camera screaming out, “this isn’t Cuba, we don’t want to be Cuba.” Another accuses the Maduro government of using “Band-Aids” to heal a gaping wound in the Venezuelan economy.
Shortages of food and other products have caused three months of protests seeking Maduro's resignation. Many of the protests have resulted in bloodshed and even deaths.
But Maduro, appearing oddly dressed at a news conference in a warm-up suit and sporting a soccer ball, seems convinced he can win support of his quota system by offering those who sign up first a chance to win cars and other prizes. “Each month we'll set aside, I don't know, 500 apartments and maybe 500 vehicles, special bonuses, vacation packages," explained the Venezuelan president.
It’s an old trick. Maduro is attempting to buy support for his plan by giving away the government’s resources. Meanwhile, those who should be incorporated into the plan and rewarded for helping the government distribute goods at fair market prices are being punished.
I’m referring to the citizen entrepreneurs who are smart enough to figure out how to save and buy enough goods to then sell fair market prices. What’s a fair market price? It’s whatever consumers are willing to pay for it.
It may be a foreign concept to Maduro and his inexperienced economic advisors, but even Cuba has begun to realize that adopting free market principles can lead to a better system of distribution of goods.
Why, President Maduro, would you stifle initiative when you should be rewarding it? Don’t repress the entrepreneurial spirit, embrace it.
License them, regulate them if you must, but don’t take away from your most productive and creative citizens their natural right to self-determination. Learn from them.
Those people you call hoarders and thieves, the rest of the world calls them self-starters. They will use their gumption, their curiosity and their will to succeed to find better ways to distribute goods. And they’ll do it, history has shown us, much better than any government or bureaucratic scheme will ever do.
Fact is, no government should control what, when or how much people should eat or buy. That should be left up to the people.
You want to help those people, Mr. President? Get out of their way!