The Berlin Wall was demolished by joyful Europeans throwing off the chains of collectivism nearly a quarter century ago. The Soviet Union, its fraudulent promise of a "workers' paradise" long since proved a bitter delusion, fell soon after. But the idea that government control over the economy can improve the lives of ordinary people, particularly the poor, does not die.
Hugo Chavez clawed his way to total power the way other demagogues and thugs -- from Lenin to Peron to Castro to Correa -- have done, by promising to redistribute the nation's wealth (Lenin and Castro also used guns). Like them, Chavez maintained power by crippling the democratic institutions of his nation.
American "useful idiots" are undisturbed by thuggish repression, like shutting down newspapers and opposition television and radio stations, jailing "dissidents," harassing minorities (the Jews, in Chavez's case) and giving aid to narco-terrorists and murdering dictators (as Chavez did with Ahmadinejad, Castro and Assad), so long as he redistributes wealth, sows class hatred, and condemns the United States. Jimmy Carter, cementing his status as the most shameful former president in U.S. history, praised Chavez's "commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen." Rep. Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, tweeted "Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President." An assortment of Hollywood dunces -- Sean Penn, Danny Glover and Oliver Stone -- have at various times paid tribute to the fulminating despot.
With its huge supply of oil and an educated and urbanized middle class, Venezuela ought to be among the wealthiest countries in the world. Yet since Chavez took power 14 years ago, Venezuela's economy has been ravaged. Even with the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuela's growth has lagged behind other Latin American nations. Because Chavez nationalized, expropriated or destroyed other industries, Venezuela's exports now consist almost entirely of oil, whereas pre-Chavez, oil accounted for 77 percent of exports.