Perhaps inequality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

The poor neighbourhood of Petare in western Caracas is not an obvious hotbed of anti-government sentiment. In the past, its residents have been among the major beneficiaries of Venezuela’s public health and education campaigns, and an economic policy that resulted in one of the sharpest falls in inequality in the world.

But as demonstrations sweep several major cities, even the people of Petare have taken to the streets to protest again surging inflation, alarming murder rates and shortages of essential commodities.

Perhaps, just maybe, said poor would prefer a sufficiency of the basics than equality?

Which does rather lead us to the idea that places should strive to have a market based system, one that provides those basics, rather than a command and control economy which strives to provide that equality.

But then I’ve made this point about Venezuela before. The basic idea, to make the lives of the poor better (if we are to believe the rhetoric) is just fine. It’s the appallingly stupid manner they’ve gone about doing it that is the problem.

38 thoughts on “Perhaps inequality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”

  1. It is of course possible that Venezuelan inequality is a lot worse than they say. Bearing in mind they don’t release murder statistics every year, they are not most honest of Governments.

  2. What these Venezuelans should be doing is throwing off the shackles of the Red Terror and opting for the neo-liberal free market as they did in the ex-Communist Baltic States.Then the welcoming capitalists (what else do you call them?) will close down all their industry and make them emigrate over Europe where they will get a very warm welcome especially in England .They will also provide a massive (burst) housing bubbles which will permanently impair all their economies .Providing a sufficiency of the basics is what the Communist states did.
    Why the braying public school types linked up with American weirdo’s and dead common British fascists to break down the “Iron Curtain” (bollox) and let loose tsunamis of cheap goods and cheap labour onto the capitalist world is only understandable if you take into account how stupid our ruling class is.

  3. Or they can stay home and manufacture tons of consumer shit, and have a thriving economy, kind of thing, like the Chinese.

  4. “Providing a sufficiency of the basics is what the Communist states did”

    They also playfully made people queue for hours in the freezing cold to get those scraps too.

    Except they didn’t even provide the basics. Read about it or talk to people who lived there. The inexplicable shortages of simple things like shoes. The utter, pisspoor quality of nearly everything except that used to spy on control the population.

    When the State defines what both ‘sufficiency’ and “the basics” means, then maybe your point can be argued.

  5. @”DBC Reed
    February 21, 2014 at 10:02 am

    What these Venezuelans should be doing is throwing off the shackles of the Red Terror and opting for the neo-liberal free market as they did in the ex-Communist Baltic States.Then the welcoming capitalists (what else do you call them?) will close down all their industry and make them emigrate over Europe where they will get a very warm welcome especially in England .They will also provide a massive (burst) housing bubbles which will permanently impair all their economies .Providing a sufficiency of the basics is what the Communist states did.”
    Do you think that toilet paper is not a basic?

  6. Ian B
    Of course here in Northampton (where the only development is from the country’s last surviving development corporation that compulsorily purchases land, but everything else is stagnating wonderfully) , we are not immune to the universal beneficence of the free market in its inspiring effects on Poland etc. The town’s two biggest employers Timken and Avon fucked off to Poland as soon as they could, the local paper (in the day’s when the town had one) commenting that Avon paid Poles £4,000 a year to do jobs Northamptonians were doing for £13,000.So what could the capitalist cunts do but remove employment and demand from a town that had loyally kept them in business for years? I ask you .Stands to rezon don’t it, as they say round here while persistently voting Tory.

  7. DBC Reed

    World Bank GDP per capita numbers (Constant 2005 US$)

    Starting from 1999 = 100, (year of Chavez coming to power)
    Estonia 2012: 179
    Latvia 2012:201
    Lithuania:205
    Venezuela: 124

    This after the biggest oil boom in a quarter of century. After the dust settles, Venezuela will be in far more difficulty.

  8. @DBC Reed

    ‘Providing a sufficiency of the basics is what the Communist states did’

    Fuck off! Did you ever travel behind the Iron Curtain? I did, albeit only in the very last year or two before it all imploded (and in some cases the populace hauled the dictators out and shot them summarily, the ungrateful bastards).

    There wasn’t any sufficiency of basics, although they tried to even the odds a bit by starving/executing the odd million here and there.

    Not sure whether you are genuinely evil, or this is merely yet more evidence that the fire upon which your morally superior family contemptuously cast their bills also baked your brains.

  9. @DBC Reed ‘So what could the capitalist cunts do but remove employment and demand from a town that had loyally kept them in business for years? I ask you .Stands to rezon don’t it, as they say round here while persistently voting Tory.’

    Amazingly, the people of Northampton – yes, even you – are descended from other people who got up and walked out of Africa, braving all manner of wild beasts, natural disasters, disease and so on, and ended up in Europe where they basically tamed the beasts, the elements, the diseases etc and produced a world including the warm, dry back bedroom in which you sit at the fucking computer upon which you ‘write’ your shite, and the internet via which you transmit it to my eyeballs.

    And the descendants of those people are at the whim of a few ‘capitalist cunts’, are they?

    They must just sit at their computers, or TV screens, getting fat, and waiting for someone else to give them something – more, that is, than free education, free healthcare, free or subsidised housing, free money – must they?

    The Descent of Man.

  10. Well, perhaps we ought to be asking why a Pole in Poland can live on £4000 a year but an Englishman can’t. Could it be thanks to the Corageous State?

  11. Our present society –for the what?–the 100th time of telling you is a corporate socialist shithole with “the evil of the state” written all the way thro’ it like “Blackpool” thro’ a stick of rock ( a stick of rot?). If Northampton wants to thrive again then those who live there must destroy the socialism that plagues them. Not just root it out of the institutions–best done by abolishing those institutions–but by rooting its poison out of their hearts. When voting for NuBluLabour looks as attractive to Northamptonites as eating shit–they have a chance to prosper again.

    Until that day.

  12. @DBC Reed

    As someone who knows the background for the decisions on why those Northampton companies moved to Poland, and not just the media rhetoric, here it is.

    High business rates coupled with high land value for the sites (town centre or prime residential location) were the main drivers. Labour arbitrage didn’t make it as a decision point as it was known productivity would be lower in Poland. One of those companies remains a major employer in Northampton and has recently invested heavily in redeveloping their manufacturing site into the European centre for Marketing and supply chain management. Net effect: Northampton gets more high value adding and higher paid jobs, fewer low paid manufacturing jobs, consumers get better value products from Poland manufacture. Most of the redundant workers from manufacturing were given enhanced pensions which enabled them to retire early. Harder to see a bigger win for all involved, and the development corporation had to do f**k all to make it happen.

    As it happens, Labour was in control of the borough council when these decisions were being made and they were only interested in increasing business rates, not keeping local jobs.

  13. Dear Mr Worstall

    There must be a mathematical correlation between inequality with a sufficiency at the bottom end of the income spectrum and enforced equality where all share equal misery, save those who do the sharing who seem to need lots more food, warmth and Zil lanes all of their own.

    At a practical level, I am not particularly bothered when I live better than a king of a few centuries ago, while those who created the wherewithal for me to do so enjoy a multi-billionaire lifestyle.

    I shall be extremely bothered if I have an equal share of bugger all (save for those nice chaps with the Zil lanes), and moreover am stopped* from doing anything to improve my lot by those self-same nice chaps.

    DP

    * They do it by calling anyone who tries a black marketeer, and when they catch them. shoot them. No idea why.

  14. DBC Reed

    Can I thank you for at last dropping any pretence and acknowledging that you are an out’n’out apologist for Eastern European communism. It may be because that state-owned Cumbrian shite you drank in your teens has completely fucked your hard wiring, but you are what you are regardless.

    What I propose that what you do now is ask your local council in Northampton, or Development Corporation, to act on behalf of The People, without consulting the people of course, to build a big wall around Northampton, to mow down your kids and grandkids when they try to escape, to provide you with “a sufficiency of the basics” like Venezuelan toilet roll to mop up their blood. And then you should arrange for some deranged knobhead in 25 years time to write to us and tell us how contented you were with your lot.

  15. @Interested,
    Well done ;you are on the ball (though still believing that Cirencester is not in the EU,no doubt).
    Inflated land values are indeed a problem as I have often, even tediously, pointed out. However they are not a separate issue from the problem of rule by a dishonest English ruling-class which stays in power by bribing large numbers of “working” people to look to their houses to make more in a year than they do. These ruling-class cunts who are in all parties (we live in a one-party Homeownerist state) are feeding people into the millstones of high house prices below and falling real wages from above .
    Somebody asks about the provision of toilet rolls : the British state deliberately makes sure that house prices are too high for people to live in. In England you can own your toilet roll but not your own toilet. Priorities?
    Roll on the Scots kicking our sorry arse out of the United Kingdom.

  16. Funnily enough, I live not far from Cirencester. It’s in the EU. I also own my own loo(s).

    ‘(T)he British state deliberately makes sure that house prices are too high for people to live in.’

    No, it doesn’t; home ownsership is bigger now than it ever was.

    Despite that, I agree that house prices are rendered artificially high by the actions of the State… but I thought you were a big State, lots of regulation, anti-free market kind of guy?

  17. ‘In England you can own your toilet roll but not your own toilet. Priorities?’

    By the way, even if this were true, which it plainly isn’t, in your Communist utopias you couldn’t own your own bog *and* there was no bog roll.

  18. If the Scots vote for independence then Labour will be finished in England. And there will then be a chance to get stuck into the dross of BluLabour such as never existed before because most voted for them out of fear of Labour.

    Bring it on.

  19. My mate’s mother lives in Northampton, I’ve been there. Its a shithole. More full of chav benefit types than anything else. I’d hazard a guess if you opened a factory there you’d struggle to get decent honest hard working locals to work in it. Chances are you’d end up with mostly Eastern Europeans. They’re the only ones prepared to do any work these days.

  20. Equality:

    Expectation: everyone lives like the rich do.
    Reality: the rich are removed/liquidated/expelled/depleted.

  21. Just by coincidence I was on the Timken site today. My dad’s flat is there. In the early 70s he worked there, too, inspecting the bearings. It was mainly roller bearings but they did balls for helicopters, so he tells me.

    Was getting his new PC set up. Windows 8. Dear God, that Metro interface is the worst exciting new idea since Communism. You try explaining to somebody in their 80s who is used to XP the difference between “apps” and the desktop, and where the good old start menu has gone.

    Anyway, there’s an office and industrial development going on the old Timken car park, so apparently some of us left in Northampton aren’t benefit scrounging chavs like Jim’s mate’s mother.

  22. Interested
    February 21, 2014 at 10:44 am
    @DBC Reed

    ‘Providing a sufficiency of the basics is what the Communist states did’

    Fuck off! Did you ever travel behind the Iron Curtain? I did, albeit only in the very last year or two before it all imploded (and in some cases the populace hauled the dictators out and shot them summarily, the ungrateful bastards).

    No, it’s true, they did provide all those things, I read it in Pravda.

  23. An update from the “Caracas Chronicles” blog:

    “Dear International Editor:

    Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.

    What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.

    Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.

    People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street.

    And that’s just what came out in real time, over Twitter and YouTube, before any real investigation is carried out. Online media is next, a city of 645,000 inhabitants has been taken off the internet amid mounting repression, and this blog itself has been the object of a Facebook “block” campaign.

    What we saw were not “street clashes”, what we saw is a state-hatched offensive to suppress and terrorize its opponents.

    Here at Caracas Chronicles we’re doing what it can to document the crisis, but there’s only so much one tiny, zero-budget blog can do.

    After the major crackdown on the streets of large (and small) Venezuelan cities last night, I expected some kind of response in the major international news outlets this morning. I understand that with an even bigger and more photogenic freakout ongoing in an even more strategically important country, we weren’t going to be front-page-above-the-fold, but I’m staggered this morning to wake up, scan the press and find…

    Nothing.

    As of 11 a.m. this morning, the New York Times World Section has…nothing.”

    Socialism in action–got owt to say now Reed?,.

  24. Firstly

    Anyone, even those who won’t go to Murphy’s blog on principle, has to make an exception to read the exchange between Ironman and the Lord High (Fair) Tax (Mark) Denouncer on Tim’s alleged role in UKIP’s tax policy,which is just too hilarious for words, ending with the famous quote:

    ‘There is no debate’

    As to DBC Reed – is this the famous ‘Arnald’ posting under a pseudonym? The same derangment, the same total absence of historical understanding or Appreciation of nuance in debate. I’d say it’s surprising that someone can think like this in 2014, but as his idol George Galloway would say, sadly ,’he’s not the Only one’

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    Does anyone else think that DBC Reed is actually TW?

    You know, every time viewing numbers are down, he slips into character and posts something so unbelievably and yet deliberately stupid that you just have to reply to it?

    On a scale of one to ten, this one has to be at least 9 Reeds. And he does it just as the experiment in socialism that was Chavismo is collapsing. A real person can’t be so stupid, surely? Reed must be fake. It must be a troll.

  26. SMFS

    Maybe Tim needs to have a post entitled, without irony ‘A quiet word with the Trolls’ – albeit this might be tricky given his blog is ‘one of the most objectionable on the web’ and the man himself is a ‘Troll cheerleader’…..

  27. “a sufficiency of the basics”

    Hence the “Scarcity Index” produced by the Venezuelan government – who have an incentive to understate the numbers – is currently at 28%.

  28. SMFS is right for once. I do more for TW’s viewing figures than he does; rabbiting on about Murphy (who cares?) and making excuses for not paying tax, while not mentioning that he is a SECRET LAND TAXER and worse a proponent of Citizen’s Income.He is actually more extreme than I but gives the I’m alright Jack my house is worth more than I am mob all the bullshit they love, by failing to point out that they are being subsidised(by state guaranteed house prices) much more than the poor.

  29. So Much for Subtlety

    DBC Reed – “SMFS is right for once. I do more for TW’s viewing figures than he does”

    Yeah but the twenty point drop in average IQ points ain’t worth it.

    I should apologise to TW. In retrospect he could do a much better troll. Maybe he just has a very poor agent.

  30. I think I’ll ask my Venezuelan friend when I see him later on today how his family is getting on back in Caracas and whether they’re having fun dodging the colectivos shooting up the joint.

    I hope they put Maduro up against a wall and machine-gun him till he explodes.

  31. I asked Reed if he had anything to say about developments in Venezuela and he came back with some bollocks about Tim Worstall. Socialism on the job–some of them busy beating, torturing and killing –while the cheering section pretend it isn’t happening.

    Piss on them all.

  32. As I said here before re. Ho Chi Milne, these people aren’t apologists for socialist barbarity. They’re celebrants of it. They don’t care whether there’s an omelette at the end as long as the right eggs get broken.

    My Venezuelan friend says his family is OK, or at least “as OK as can be given the circumstances” (his words). I have no idea how much further down the road to civil war Venezuela will go.

  33. DBC reminds me of the American communists who were on the same trip of the USSR with PJ O’Rourke. “These were people who believed everything about the Soviet Union was perfect, but they were bringing their own toilet paper.”

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