Saturday, 12 August 2017

Politics and Ideologues

Image result for ideologues + images

Emma Duncan, an economist and Associate Editor of The Economist magazine, wrote an interesting article for The Times recently the state of affairs in Venezuela. 

Whilst not completely damning of Jeremy Corbyn her judgment of the Labour leader is that he is a political ideologue - a man who is not inclined to reconsider his views when facts and circumstances change.

If you ask me, that is spot on.

Judge Corbyn by his basket-case foreign friends

By Emma Duncan - The Times

A socialist dictatorship has brought oil-rich Venezuela to its knees but Labour’s leader still refuses to denounce it

Every day since April thousands of Venezuelans have been on the streets of Caracas and other cities protesting against the government of President Maduro. More than 100 people have been killed in the demonstrations and thousands arrested. The protests reach a climax this week with a general strike called for today and tomorrow and, this weekend, the event that the demonstrators are protesting against: the election of a constituent assembly whose job will be to rewrite the democratic constitution and entrench Maduro in power.

Maduro needs to undermine democracy because he is so unpopular; he is so unpopular because he and his mentor (and late predecessor) Hugo Chávez have made such a hash of the economy. Venezuela should be a rich country. It has more oil than Saudi Arabia. If its government had used its resources sensibly it could be Norway, with a high standard of living, a generous welfare state and many billions of dollars to keep it prosperous long after the oil has run out. As it is, its population is hungry and angry. According to a report earlier this year from Caritas, a Catholic charity, 11 per cent of under-fives are malnourished. Inflation is running at 700 per cent. The country’s economy is shrinking at an annual rate of 18 per cent.

Chávismo, the Chávez ideology, has turned what should be a rich country into a basket case through a range of daft left-wing populist policies derived from the belief that the market is a conspiracy against the poor. The prices of a wide range of goods are controlled, with the result that it is not in producers’ or retailers’ interests to produce or sell them, so shops are empty and the only way Venezuelans can make a buck is by smuggling: food and medicines in, petrol (sold at 1p a litre, far below the cost of producing and distributing the stuff) out, and selling the goods on the black market.

When Chávez died four years ago Jeremy Corbyn eulogised him. “Chávez showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things,” he said. “It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step towards.”

Then when Tony Benn died the following year Corbyn called Maduro’s phone-in radio show and had a long conversation with the president, in heavily accented but impressively fluent Spanish, about these two recently departed heroes of socialism. In their conversation, interestingly, Corbyn talked about the suffering caused by the European Union to the people of Europe, not a subject that would much appeal to his young, mostly pro-European fans.

Since then the people of Venezuela have had to put up with conditions a great deal worse than those anywhere in Europe. There has not been a peep out of Corbyn about their suffering. That is only what one would expect from Corbyn. His beliefs about how the world should work are untrammelled by evidence about how the world actually does work. The fact that price controls turn out to be bad for the poor as well as the rich does not undermine his conviction that price controls are a fine policy. Unlike John Maynard Keynes, Corbyn is not a man who is inclined to change his mind when the facts change.