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Which is a real dystopia, the U.S. or Venezuela?

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As Americans contemplate a “Green New Deal” and British schoolchildren skip school by the thousand to demand (more) government action on climate change, a little-noticed op-ed gives us a glimpse into a genuine dystopia. The author warns that this nightmare scenario will not unfold “The Day After Tomorrow” but has already taken place, for years, in the squalid homes and empty stores of socialist Venezuela.

In the West, the stereotype of a Christian crackpot warning “The End is Near” on a sandwich board sign has been replaced with dark, Green visions of an environmentalist conflagration. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez captured the nation’s attention when she said last month, “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change, and your biggest issue is – your biggest issue is, ‘How are we gonna pay for it?’ And like, this is the war, this is our World War II.”

Less reported is what she said three sentences later: “How are we saying take it easy when the America that we’re living in today is so dystopian, with people sleeping in their cars so they can work a second job without health care, and we’re told to settle down?”

The congresswoman’s description of the United States as an economically depressed dystopia bears little resemblance to the contemporary American landscape, where unemployment is at historic lows and wages are rising. However, let’s accept her rather bare definition of a dystopia as a place in which it is impossible to provide for basic needs while working two jobs.

Enter Daniel Di Martino, a young writer who enjoys considerably less exposure than “AOC” but, based on his newest article, deserves a wider readership. Di Martino left Venezuela for the United States and is currently a college student in Indiana – and he warns that left-wing proposals for massive government intervention in the economy turned his homeland into a “nightmare.”

In an article published at USA Today on Friday morning, he wrote:

I didn’t need to look at statistics to see this, but, rather, at my own family. When [Hugo] Chavez took office in 1999, my parents were earning several thousand dollars per month between the two of them. By 2016, due to inflation, they earned less than $2 per day. If my parents hadn’t fled the country for Spain in 2017, they’d now be earning less than $1 per day, the international definition of extreme poverty. Even now, the inflation rate in Venezuela is expected to reach 10 million percent this year.

Venezuela has become a country where a woeful number of children suffer from malnutrition, and where working two full-time jobs will pay for only six pounds of chicken a month.

In the course of the article, he describes how nationalization of vital industries led to weekly power outages and his home going without water for weeks at a time. While he says that no one proposal of itself – from nationalized healthcare to a wealth tax – will necessarily destroy the U.S. economy by itself, “if all or most of these measures are implemented, they could have the same catastrophic consequences for the American people that they had for Venezuela.” (Please take the time to read the article in full here.)

Taxation drives out business; socialism destroys innovation; and paying for the programs by printing money (Modern Monetary Theory) devalues currency and devours families’ life savings. Di Martino warns specifically that “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed paying for the [Green New Deal] proposal by asking the Federal Reserve to print money. This is exactly what produced Venezuela’s nightmare.”

The nightmare – or dystopia, if you prefer that term – is the mirror image of the fanciful dream that government alone can solve all human problems. One expert, or a few technocrats, have all the answers to plan for the happiness and well-being of millions, or billions, or people – but their plans require unquestioning obedience. The late Presbyterian minister Marvin R. Vincent of Union Theological Seminary wrote that if Christ had accepted the Satanic temptation to turn stones into bread, he would have said, in effect:

As I cannot live without bread, so My kingdom cannot thrive so long as men’s worldly needs are unsupplied. My administration must be a turning of stones into bread. It must make men happy by at once miraculously removing all want and suffering from the world, and inaugurating an era of worldly prosperity.

Marxism promises all this, but at the price of freedom. The offer of guaranteed, meager daily rations in exchange for absolute allegiance emanates from demonic sources. “We know that this has not been Christ’s policy,” Rev. Vincent continued. “Social prosperity is based on righteousness.”

That has been the genius of the West’s historical economic system. Capitalism incentivizes people to engage in spontaneous cooperation. The free market rewards high-quality, conscientious, and diligent service to meet the needs and desires of others. The synergy of service creates greater abundance and social harmony.

Di Martino warns us that rejecting these pillars of a sound society leads to dystopia.

He ought to know. He’s seen a real one.

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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