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Socialism, by any other name

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At the end of January I had the pleasure to speak with my friend of many years Ricardo Ball about the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.  The conversation was livestreamed from the Acton Institute allowing an international audience to listen in as we discussed recent developments from the streets of Caracas. The conversation is still available for viewing on our livestream page. The tragic case of Venezuela is but one in a seemingly endless series of failures of socialism from which many at home and abroad fail to learn.

At the New York Times Bret Stephens points out that the socialistic nature of Venezuela’s failed economic experiment is downplayed by the mainstream media,

Conspicuous by its absence in much of the mainstream news coverage of Venezuela’s political crisis is the word “socialism.” Yes, every sensible observer agrees that Latin America’s once-richest country, sitting atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is an economic basket case, a humanitarian disaster, and a dictatorship whose demise cannot come soon enough.

But … socialist? Perish the thought.

Or so goes a line of argument that insists socialism’s good name shouldn’t be tarred by the results of experience. On Venezuela, what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, U.S. sanctions and trickery, even the residues of capitalism itself. Just don’t mention the S-word because, you know, it’s working really well in Denmark.

The radical left, however, has never been as calculating or circumspect. In the United Kingdom Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has a long record of praising Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro’s self-styled Bolivarian socialist revolution. Here in the United States the left’s leading public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein have been no less effusive in their praise. At Reason Jenipher Camino Gonzalez notes that even members of the United States Congress are not free of these delusions,

Rep. Ro Kahnna (D–Calif.) took a shot at Sen. Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) for embracing the opposition leader, calling Venezuela’s situation an “internal, polarized conflict.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) took to Twitter to decry “U.S. meddling,” adding that Venezuela’s Supreme Court, stacked with Maduro loyalists, had declared Guaido’s action “unconstitutional.” Never mind that in 2017, that same court allowed Maduro to strip Venezuela’s Congress—the only governing institution he did not then control—of its powers and set up a parallel legislature, essentially giving him dictatorial power.

The Muduro regime continues to become more isolated internationally but freedom for Venezuela is far from being won. Please continue to pray for Venezuela and all Venezuelans and to demand truth and honesty in naming the source of the crisis, the fatal conceit of socialism.

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Rev. Robert Sirico Rev. Robert A. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America, following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990. As president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Sirico lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, the BBC, NPR, and CBS' 60 Minutes, among others. In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pèlerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. He is also currently serving on the pastoral staff of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fr. Sirico's pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institute of Health and the recent founding of a new community, St. Philip Neri House in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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