Who's to Blame for Chavez?
By Bryan Caplan
Kevin Grier, guest blogging on Marginal Revolution, makes an argument calculated to offend:
In 1957, Venezuela’s GDP per capita was 51% of the US, in 2003 it stood at 18.5% of the US. Existing institutions had no credibility with a very large portion of the population and simply could not continue to exist as they had.
I am just saying that Venezuela was run into the ground by its ruling class and Chavez is the (I hope only temporary) result of their short sighted, poor governance.
Of course, I’m not offended, but I do have a question: What would have happened if Venezuelan elites had tried to pursue a pro-growth agenda during the post-war pre-Chavez era?
I suspect, though I’m open to correction by experts in the region, that leaders who tried to pursue significantly better policies would have fallen from power one way or another.
If I’m right, Venezuelan policy was bad in the past for the same reason it’s really bad now: In Venezuela, bad policy is good politics because it’s popular. So perhaps Grier should think twice before telling Venezuelan elites “you have only yourselves to blame” – and think about offering them sanctuary in the U.S. instead.
Cuban exiles have put Castro’s Cuba to shame; let’s give Venezuelans the same opportunity.