Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chavez buys support with people's oil

According to a recent AP article, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is pledging to Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti that he will "supply of all your energy needs, 100 percent."

Chavez, who may not be able to go forward with these policies, is doing so at the expense of his own people. He is using the country's nationalized oil to buy support from other left-leaning nations in central America. The oil, which could be sold on the world markets (primarily to the US) at a higher price, will be sold at below market value, at a discount. One questions why Chavez, who leads a nation that has 37.9% of its population below the poverty line, would be giving deals to other countries when his own is in such bad shape.

The obvious answer comes to mind: he cares more for himself than his people.

Caring for oneself more than others is not a bad thing in a free society. In fact it is rational and moral to do so. However, government turns this principle on its head. Because power in government is not earned, but taken or forced, market functions do not apply.

If we allow people to have private ownership, the people of Venezuela would, undoubtedly, sell their oil at market value. If they didn't, competition would ensure businesses who didn't would not stay in business long.

But in government there is no competition. There is no reason to do what is best for the shareholders of a company or the shareholders of a country (its citizens). In government, you don't want to get the best value for your time, energy, and resources; rather you only need to do what is politically expedient to gain more power.

This is what Chavez is doing with this agreement, and it is at the expense of his people. By selling oil below cost, he is essentially transferring money from his people (of whom, again, 37.9% live below the poverty line) to those of other nations. He does this to gain support to oppose free trade policies which would help his people even more as well as gain himself more power and clout within the region.

Capitalism is the driving force behind the eradication of world poverty. Conversely, socialism ensures equal poverty for all. Chavez has been able to stay below the radar with the US being focused on terrorism, however we should be mindful of his actions as they undermine the interests of his people, the people of the region, and the US.

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