The Alternative

Leave the soil and the people alone

    The worms, they work for me. I don't pay them a wage or enslave them at the point of a gun. I just leave them alone. They get hungry and burrow through the ground eating protozoans, bacteria, rotifers, and decaying plants and animals. All this life in the soil functions to aid their fellow soil citizens purely in their own self interest while providing pathways for water and nutrients for my crops.

    This balance is a microcosm of human activity on earth. Left alone to pursue our whims and desires, we find the path we either enjoy or find easiest and so that's what we do. The key to making it all work for the common good is not making it all work, but letting it all work.

    The disaster that is Venezuela is a perfect example of an attempt to make it work rather than letting it work.

    In our hectic lives we wish to simplify to the point that finding a villain is easier than fixing the problem. Hugo Chavez was blamed for Venezuela's troubles, now it's his successor, Nicolas Maduro. These men had little to do with the reason people are starving. It can be blamed on an evolved system rooted in compassion and ignorance of basic economics.

    In the early twentieth century, oil was discovered in Venezuela. The government was not yet sophisticated enough to regulate the industry and it flourished to such an extent that in the 1950s Venezuela was ranked fourth in terms of wealth per capita worldwide. While the system was not yet expansive enough to redistribute the wealth of Venezuelans, it did protect property rights and that enabled productivity which resulted in that rapid creation of wealth.

    As is always the case, some were left behind. And the vast wealth was seen as an opportunity to help those in need and otherwise make life more comfortable for all. Venezuela transitioned from a country that left its citizens alone to a country that “helped” them with cash from an oil industry that was nationalized in 1975.

    Left alone, the people found their niche. They did what they excelled in or enjoyed. Needs were met through a chaotic market system that kept prices affordable and goods available. People were proud to fulfill a role in society.

    With nationalization of the oil business the concept of private property died and along with it anyone successful was tapped to fund unlimited social programs and giveaways. The pride of participation in the neighborhood gave way to the satisfaction of gaming the system. Productivity was secondary and even demonized. Theft was normalized.

    In the past year, the average Venezuelan has lost 19 pounds. Families have locks on their refrigerators. Farmers who have not yet quit have their crops picked and supplies stolen during the night by thieves. Since 2012, 82% of Venezuela's hog farmers have quit. An average butcher hog now weighs 175 pounds, down from 240. This is not because government didn't do enough. It is because it did too much.

    I leave the worms alone because they work for me. Venezuelans should be so lucky as my worms.