PopeWatch: Global Venezuela

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Back during the Cold War there was a joke about what would happen if the Soviets conquered the Sahara.  Nothing for about fifty years and then there would be a shortage of sand.

That old joke came to mind with the latest news out of Venezuela:

 

.- Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis has hit the Church in a unique way: the production of Hosts fell 60 percent during the past month, affecting three states in the South American country.

Giovanni Luisio Mass, prior of the Order of Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Jerusalem, explained to local media that the shortage of unleavened wheat flour needed to make Hosts has been acute for a month now.

According to Caracol TV, the monthly production of Hosts has dropped from 80,000 to 30,000. This drop, Mass indicated, has affected every parish in three Venezuelan states. He added that they can only send 1,500 Hosts to the parishes in the north of the country, because there is no longer enough flour to make the 8,000 they have always needed.

Several parishes, along with the local communities, have organized to search for the wheat flour needed for the Hosts.

Venezuela is dealing with shortages including food, toilet paper, medicines, auto parts, chocolate, oil, and clothes irons. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, food prices went up 92 percent last year, and during the last ten years inflation has risen 1,250 percent.

According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, since 2003 the Venezuelan government has imposed price controls on 165 products, including cooking oil, soap, milk, flour, cereals, toilet paper , cleaning products, detergent, diapers, toothpaste, and sugar. The local currency has plummeted in value.

Go here to read the rest. The frightening thing is that the economy set up by the late kleptocrat in chief of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, heavy government control and regulation, all ostensibly done in the name of the poor, doesn’t seem all that different from the type of new economy Pope Francis is calling for:

The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.

The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home. This entails a commitment to care for that home and to the fitting distribution of its goods among all. It is not only about ensuring a supply of food or “decent sustenance”. Nor, although this is already a great step forward, is it to guarantee the three “L’s” of land, lodging and labor for which you are working. A truly communitarian economy, one might say an economy of Christian inspiration, must ensure peoples’ dignity and their “general, temporal welfare and prosperity”.[1] This includes the three “L’s”, but also access to education, health care, new technologies, artistic and cultural manifestations, communications, sports and recreation. A just economy must create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want, to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life. You, and other peoples as well, sum up this desire in a simple and beautiful expression: “to live well”.

Such an economy is not only desirable and necessary, but also possible. It is no utopia or chimera. It is an extremely realistic prospect. We can achieve it. The available resources in our world, the fruit of the intergenerational labors of peoples and the gifts of creation, more than suffice for the integral development of “each man and the whole man”.[2] The problem is of another kind. There exists a system with different aims. A system which, while irresponsibly accelerating the pace of production, while using industrial and agricultural methods which damage Mother Earth in the name of “productivity”, continues to deny many millions of our brothers and sisters their most elementary economic, social and cultural rights. This system runs counter to the plan of Jesus.

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption. It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself. Welfare programs geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary responses. They will never be able to replace true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work.

 

If the Pope were ever to get the global economy he wants, the entire world would soon be Venezuela writ large.  Good intentions are never a substitute for reality, and the Pope’s hatred for free markets, and his blind faith in government intervention, at least when a government is pretending that it is controlling the economy for  “the poor”, shows an indifference to economic reality bordering on both the comic and the tragic:  a comedy for those observing such farces from the outside, and a tragedy for those attempting to live within such cloud kookoo land economies.

 

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17 Comments

  1. Well said. I have the luxury of sitting back and knowing he will have no impact whatsoever on me. The “poor” folks ,though, who get stuck in a ‘Francis” economy are to be pitied. If it wouldn’t be so disasterous for others, I would almost want to see him try. Maybe then he wouldn’t be so spectacularly naive.

  2. Please, someone explain to me the difference between “just distribution” and “forced redistribution” when the pope calls for nations to institute and thus control such action.
    Then, there are those unanswered questions of Subsidiarity and the very dignity of man when charity becomes the sole prerogative of Caesar.

  3. Bernie Sanders wants to become President of the United States so that he may bring Hugo Chavez’s vision of socialist utopia to our country. On his Facebook page he often quotes and has memes of Pope Francis’ declarations on economics. Bernie Sanders, as far as I know, is ahead of Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket and Donald Trump remains a front runner on the Republican ticket. Maybe Pope Francis will get what he wants after all.

  4. So… the pope’s economic policies (if implemented) could very well lead to taking the sacrament away from the poor?

    I don’t have any way to express or measure the irony of that (since, as a filthy protestant, I thought the one obvious role of the church was as a sacrament delivery service).

    I can’t even think of a metaphor. It would be like if Santa Claus implemented a policy that lead to children giving HIM toys. There’s failing at your job, and then there’s… this!

  5. Of the tithe, ten percent of our earnings, five percent goes to the church. the other five percent goes to other charities. The fulfillment of our duty to God and man. This is all God asks. See Deut. 14: 22-29
    Charity and the virtue of charity is a free will offering in good conscience. With atheism imposed, conscience is not acknowledged, because conscience is part of the rational, human soul. The rational human soul is denied by atheism. The state becomes supreme instead of sovereign and loses its ability to govern in wisdom. The people become subjects and servants of the state. The state then imposes its judgement as to what the citizen must advance to the state, which is usually everything in the person’s possession. Atheism and communism are the same. Extortion, taxation without representation and usurpation by the government constituted by the sovereign personhood of the people; government of the people, for the people and by the people shall perish from the face of the earth…has perished from the face of the earth.

  6. I’m a bit nervous because my beloved pastor, this past weekend, announced that he just finished reading Laudato Si. He said it’s a beautiful document and his next 3 “Pastor’s Perspectives” (in the bulletin) will be about that. God HAS to have a plan for allowing such a strange “State over the individual” type of Pope, right?

  7. Bernie Sanders wants to become President of the United States so that he may bring Hugo Chavez’s vision of socialist utopia to our country.

    Earned or not, Sanders acquired a reputation when he was Mayor of Burlington as a detail oriented administrator and possessed of a certain accountants’ conservatism (running against the a property tax increase the Democratic establishment wanted at the time). I do not think Chavez is the analogue to Sanders. More Ben & Jerry with some Trotskyist warbles. I’m not sure the sort of municipal politics practiced by Sanders scales well, though, in part because that sort of politics benefits from the borrowing constraints municipal governments face.

  8. Pope Francis exhibits the typical utopian flaw of those who have been supported all their lives by the labor of others. The marvels and discipline of market based entrepreneurial economies are absolutely beyond his comprehension. Let us quote Soviet Russians who had full employment and a ‘right’ to housing and education, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” Before the US collapsed into the welfare state, the engine of our system was the fact that one must work to eat, as it happened in the garden of Eden. PF’s idealistic musings seem to defy any knowledge of the frailty and failings of human nature. Most people are hopeless slackers without a discipline of some sort as proven at Jamestown and wherever.

  9. “So… the pope’s economic policies (if implemented) could very well lead to taking the sacrament away from the poor?

    I don’t have any way to express or measure the irony of that (since, as a filthy protestant, I thought the one obvious role of the church was as a sacrament delivery service).

    I can’t even think of a metaphor. It would be like if Santa Claus implemented a policy that lead to children giving HIM toys. There’s failing at your job, and then there’s… this!”

    —————
    Liberal reasoning meets reality = NOT pretty

  10. “Good intentions are never a substitute for reality, and the Pope’s hatred for free markets, and his blind faith in government intervention, at least when a government is pretending that it is controlling the economy for  “the poor”, shows an indifference to economic reality bordering on both the comic and the tragic:  a comedy for those observing such farces from the outside, and a tragedy for those attempting to live within such cloud kookoo land economies.”

    I am going to have to save this exact wording somewhere where I shall not lose it–as it says exactly what I have thought in my mind without my actually being able to put it down in words–& can be applied with minor variations to a host of vacuous liberal thinking & such thinking’s results in the real world.

  11. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/shortages-in-venezuela-mean-priests-are-running-out-of-hosts-76481/

    In reading the rest of the linked article above I found the following:

    “Venezuela is dealing with shortages including food, toilet paper, medicines, auto parts, chocolate, oil, and clothes irons. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, food prices went up 92 percent last year, and during the last ten years inflation has risen 1,250 percent.”

    “According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, since 2003 the Venezuelan government has imposed price controls on 165 products, including cooking oil, soap, milk, flour, cereals, toilet paper , cleaning products, detergent, diapers, toothpaste, and sugar. The local currency has plummeted in value.”

    “The government has also instituted policies to control sales, such as distributing tickets for the purpose of taking turns at the supermarkets, and placing digital fingerprint readers in the stores to prevent people from exceeding the allotted amount of products they could buy.

    “According to the BBC, every day Venezuelans have to form long lines at the supermarkets, but often they do not find the products they need and have to get in another line.”

    Just some thoughts from having spent time in a Central American country in which the food prices had increased 300% in one year and where I experienced standing in long lines to get a govt set, small limit of milk, of orange juice, of eggs, & of cooking oil. Those items were not always available at the same time or at all–depending on the day & the govt rationing at the given time. I also had the experience if being given a slip of paper that could be traded for a given amount of a certain food item on a given day. Some medicines were available only in limited quantities if one had the cash on hand to pay for them. Some medicines were not available no matter how much money you could pay for it. Buying enough food to run a household required a daily trip at 5:00 a.m. Every morning to an open market and several trips during the day to multiple grocery stores in the city. Please note: We had dependable vehicles in which to make the trips & did not have to walk the distances or take limited public transportation to get food/medicine.

    I got to see first hand the impact on “the poor.” That impact was starvation, sickness, & disease.

    PF needs to go out and actually live with the poor under such conditions. It might open his eyes a little.

  12. “Back during the Cold War there was a joke about what would happen if the Soviets conquered the Sahara.  Nothing for about fifty years and then there would be a shortage of sand.”

    Interestingly enough, I have read that a similar quote was said by both Thomas Jefferson, Milton Friedmon, & even William F. Buckley.

    http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/12/09/sand/

  13. Perhaps the Pope thinks the way he does (free money for the poor) is that he himself gets everything for free along with all the clergy. Naturally it follows that if he gets everything free so should everyone else who needs stuff. I would like to imagine all of this would change if the clergy actually had to work–just like St. Paul making tents. Besides that if the clergy had jobs they wouldn’t have time to promote their progressive political ideas.

  14. Venezuela just might be another reason why Cuba is waving (but not throwing in) the towel.

    It must be horrible for the Cuban communists to watch an economy implode thanks to Marxist ideals and without a U.S. trade embargo to blame. Except for full blown Stalinism (and that is in the wings, but will likely fail), the Marxists have had their way in Venezuela, and the result is plain to see. Even oil exports, a luxury Cuba lacks, cannot save them. So another way out must be found.

    Unfortunately, the Venezuelan Marxists lack the panache (ahem, let me clear my throat) of the Castro brothers. They were elected, and so have no real revolutionary charisma. The Cubans can at least play that card, as the Sandanistas already have, in an attempt to move closer to Bernie Sanders style liberalism. The Venezuelans are screwed. They can only hang on until the uprising.

    It’s a shame Salvador Allende gained power during the Cold War. Had he done so today Chile would be left alone to its fate.

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