David R. Henderson  

Forced Labor in Venezuela

Reasoning from a price change,... Boris Johnson, consistency and...

Well, Venezuela's government has now taken the next step--to forced labor.

Here's Richard Washington, "Venezuela calls for mandatory labor in farm sector," on CNBC:

A Venezuelan ministry last week announced Resolution No. 9855, which calls for the establishment of a "transitory labor regime" in order to relaunch the agricultural and food sector. The decree says that the government must do what is "necessary to achieve strategic levels of self-sufficiency," and states that workers can be forcefully moved from their jobs to work in farm fields or elsewhere in the agricultural sector for periods of 60 days.

Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, stated:
Trying to tackle Venezuela's severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg with a band aid.

Good for her for pointing out the futility of the measure but her analogy is inexact because it understates the damage done by the forced-labor measure. A band aid is low-cost. Shifting labor out of its current uses is potentially high-cost.

Here's a better analogy although it's inexact in the opposite direction:

Trying to tackle Venezuela's severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg by breaking one's arm.

This gets right the damage done to the non-food sector because labor used in agriculture cannot be used elsewhere. It may slightly understate the benefit to the ag sector because, while breaking an arm does nothing for the broken leg, shifting non-ag labor to the ag sector may increase agricultural output somewhat. But not by much because the non-ag labor is not particularly good at ag labor, which is one reason it's not in ag labor.

But the whole thing--both her analogy and mine--ignores the horror of the situation. One of the biggest accomplishments of the last two centuries has been the elimination of slavery, much of which was used in agriculture--in most of the Western world. Venezuela's government has taken a further step back to that horrible institution.

At long last, Nicolas Maduro, have you no sense of decency? Have you no shame?

HT2 Instapundit.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (9 to date)
RAD writes:

... Is like forcing someone with a broken leg to walk around on their hands.

Carl Folke Henschen Edman writes:

Am I the only one who gets the impression that the Chevez-Maduro regime has carefully studied The Road to Serfdom (literally) but taken it as a how-to guide?

Here comes my liberal, tolerant side. I guess Maduro has a sense of decency and can feel shame. I propose that he's just poorly educated, the same as anybody who believes that if X needs to be done then of course government should try to do X. He's poorly educated, that is, the same as most Democrats and many Republicans in the US.

It could be indecent and shameful (in this poorly educated view) not to try to use the tools at your disposal. Those tools naturally include government coercion for "public servants" in politics.

Khodge writes:

Venezuela has a couple of state-owned or supported news outlets (such as telesur). It has been fascinating reading their analyses. I'm looking forward to seeing how the new ag workers are doing this willingly.

Is the next step five-year plans?

JK Brown writes:

I've found this excerpt for a very good essay to be the succinct description of socialism. Although, it doesn't address what is happening now in Venezuela with the "delay" in "the increase in wealth to be expected from the operation of the socialist methods of production"*

First, what is the best the socialists, in their writings, can offer us? What do the most optimistic of them say? That our subsistence will be guaranteed, while we work; that some of us, the best of us, may earn a surplus above what is actually necessary for our subsistence; and that surplus, like a good child, we may "keep to spend." We may not use it to better our condition, we may not, if a fisherman, buy another boat with it, if a farmer, another field ; we may not invest it, or use it productively ; but we can spend it like the good child, on candy — on something we consume, or waste it, or throw it away.

Could not the African slave do as much? In fact, is not this whole position exactly that of the negro slave? He, too, was guaranteed his sustenance; he, too, was allowed to keep and spend the extra money he made by working overtime; but he was not allowed to better his condition, to engage in trade, to invest it, to change his lot in life. Precisely what makes a slave is that he is allowed no use of productive capital to make wealth on his own account. The only difference is that under socialism, I may not be compelled to labor (I don't even know as to that — socialists differ on the point), actually compelled, by the lash, or any other force than hunger. And the only other difference is that the negro slave was under the orders of one man, while the subject of socialism will be under the orders of a committee of ward heelers. You will say, the slave could not choose his master, but we shall elect the ward politician. So we do now. Will that help much? Suppose the man with a grievance didn't vote for him?
--Socialism; a speech delivered in Faneuil hall, February 7th, 1903, by Frederic J. Stimson

*"Socialism, in the sense in which Stalin has lately used the term, is moving towards communism, but is in itself not yet communism. Socialism will turn into communism as soon as the increase in wealth to be expected from the operation of the socialist methods of production has raised the lower standard of living of the Russian masses to the higher standard which the distinguished holders of important offices enjoy in present-day Russia."

von Mises, Ludwig (1947). Planned Chaos

Blackbeard writes:

All this could be an object and terrifying lesson in the horrors of socialism but, of course, our utterly corrupt media is largely ignoring this tragedy. If they mention it at all they ascribe it to "bad luck" such as drought or falling oil prices. Meanwhile, back here, a majority or Millennials reportedly prefer socialism to capitalism.

Why do we even have colleges if this is what they teach?

hanmeng writes:

The government should've claimed it was voluntary, à la "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Joseph writes:

It's like trying to fix a chair's broken leg by replacing it with one of the chair's other legs.

Brian Richard Allen writes:

.... Meanwhile ... a majority of "millennials" reportedly prefers socialism to Capitalism ....

To that extent, then, the Marxist Institute/Frankfurt School been/is effective.

But not even America's is "magic dirt" -- and they will, soon enough, be all out of other peoples' great, great, great, great, great, great-grandchildren's money. And what then?

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