- - Sunday, May 21, 2017

I often say only half-jokingly to students on college campuses who are all in with Bernie Sanders that if they think socialism is such a wonderful economic model: how about a one-way ticket to Caracas?

You’d be a fool to go there today. Venezuela is a human rights crisis of epic proportions with mass hunger, mass poverty, despair, ghetto upon ghetto, and a mass exodus of private businesses and anyone with money. There are no rich and no evil corporations to loot anymore. The inflation rate is almost 500 percent as the currency value is about as valuable as Monopoly money.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela now employs 100,000 security forces — not to repel foreign threats or invaders, but to keep the government leaders like corrupt President Nicolas Maduro safe from their own citizens. Adjusted for population size, this would be the equivalent of one million Americans employed every day to stop riots in the streets. More than 40 protesters have been shot so far this year by the guardsmen.

The average pay has fallen to less than $50 — not per day, or per week, but per month. How’s that for a minimum wage? The people eat dogs if they can find them and the world was shocked by the story earlier this year of the raid on the municipal zoo to eat the animals. How bad off does a population have to be to start carving up an elephant meat?

The burgeoning resistance throws Molotov cocktails, rocks and even human feces at the security forces during the nonstop rioting. “I don’t fear death because this life is crap,” one protester told the WSJ.

Wait, I thought socialism was supposed to create a worker paradise. It turns out that share the wealth eventually means there is no wealth and the egalitarian dream means everyone becomes equally poor. Venezuela is on its way to becoming the next North Korea.

What is stunning about this story is that this is a nation that was once one of the wealthiest places in South America. Unlike places such as Subsaharan Africa where extreme poverty is the norm, there is no excuse for Venezuala’s steep fall into the abyss because this is a resource-rich nation.

Under thug Hugo Chavez the former socialist dictator, Venezuela began its relentless conquest of private wealth and it’s process of nationalizing private enterprises. Mr. Chavez was lionized by the American left and the Hollywood elite — Sean Penn and Mr. Chavez were BFFs — for his “progressive” policies.

Yet, no one in the media seems to pay any attention to this man-made disaster. Economist Mark Skousen noted at an international investor conference last week that “almost no one in academia or the news outlets seems to be covering the tragic and swift collapse of Venezuela.” He explains that what is happening on the streets of Caracas should be “deeply embarrassing to the American left.” So they pretend it isn’t happening.

In many ways we have here the cautionary tale of our times. Maybe we really should be sending planes full of “progressive” college students who don their “Feel the Bern” T-shirts and are forever agitating for free tuition, free health care, free condoms, a $15 minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich, and on and on to spend a semester in Venezuela so they can see and feel these policies upfront and personal.

The left’s standard explanation for this recurring story of economic meltdown is that Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Burma just didn’t get socialism right. Well who has? And when if ever? Sweden is turning way from socialism. Argentina tried this model — Peronism — and skidded down the path to economic misery much like Venezuela is doing now.

The Argentines have finally started to move back to a free market economy as well and lo, things are getting better fast. So perhaps there is hope for Venezuela.

But in the U.S. it is wise to be very worried about the leftward drift — especially of the youth. More American high school and college students believe that socialism is a better economic organizing model than capitalism. Bernie Sanders advocated tax rates as high as 80 percent and a government takeover of the health care industry and he was celebrated as a liberator by the media and came withing an eyelash of winning the Democratic nomination for president last year.

The enduring history lesson of the last century is the socialism leads to, well, crap. How dangerous that so few understand this.

• Stephen Moore is an economic consultant at Freedom Works and a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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