2006 December 01 Friday
Corruption Surges In Venezuela

Writing for the libertarian Cato Institute Gustavo Coronel says Hugo Chavez's government in Venezuela is very corrupt.

Gustavo Coronel was a member of the Board of Directors of Petróleos de Venezuela (1976–79) and, as president of Agrupación Pro Calidad de Vida, was the Venezuelan representative to Transparency International (1996–2000).

Executive Summary

Corruption has existed in Venezuela since at least 1821, when it gained independence. In the 19thand 20th centuries, the level of corruption fluctuated, depending on the government in power. During the government of President Hugo Chávez, however, corruption has exploded to unprecedented levels. Billions of dollars are being stolen or are otherwise unaccounted for, squandering Venezuelan resources and enriching high-level officials and their cronies.

The windfall of oil revenues has encouraged the rise in corruption. In the approximately eight years Chávez has been in power, his government has received between $175 billion and $225 billion from oil and new debt. Along with the increase in revenues has come a simultaneous reduction in transparency. For example, the state-owned oil company ceased publishing its consolidated annual financial statements in 2003, and Chávez has created new state-run financial institutions, whose operations are also opaque, that spend funds at the discretion of the executive.

Corruption now permeates all levels of Venezuelan society. Bureaucrats now rarely follow existing bidding regulations, and ordinary citizens must pay bribes to accomplish bureaucratic transactions and have to suffer rampant neglect of basic government services. All this has been encouraged by a general environment of impunity: officers implicated in major corruption scandals have sometimes been removed from their posts, but they have not otherwise been held legally accountable.

The dramatic rise in corruption under Chávez is ironic since he came to power largely on an anti-corruption campaign platform. To truly fight corruption, the government needs to increase the transparency of its institutions and reduce its extensive involvement in the economy, something that has placed Venezuela among the least economically free countries in the world.

Chávez was democratically elected by Amerinds voting against Spaniards. Neoconservatives and liberals who extol democracy as a cure for what ails societies around the world need to take a hard look at Venezuela. How can a democratically government be such a disaster? Could it be that some electorates are incapable of the minimum wisdom needed to make democracy work? Could desire to support those who share a common ethnic identity trump the need to vote for the most competent and most honest?

You can read the full report (PDF format).

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 01 07:41 PM  Democracy Failure


Comments
Stephen said at December 1, 2006 9:27 PM:

Randall said: "Neoconservatives and liberals who extol democracy as a cure for what ails societies..."

See below the definitions of 'liberal' taken from Google Define - observe that there's not much reference to 'extolling democracy as a cure for what ails societies':


* broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions"
* having political or social views favoring reform and progress
* tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition
* a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties
* big: given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather"
* a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets
* free: not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem"
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

* The Liberal Party was one of the two major British political parties from the early 19th century until the 1920s, and a third party of varying strength and importance up to 1988, when it merged with the Social Democratic Party to form a new party which would become known as the Liberal Democrats.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_(UK)

* Liberalism is a political current embracing several historical and present-day ideologies that claim defense of individual liberty as the purpose of government. It typically favors the right to dissent from orthodox tenets or established authorities in political or religious matters. In this respect, it is sometimes held in contrast to conservatism. ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_(politics)

* people who generally like to reform current conditions. Liberals are often referred to as the left wing.
www.enchantedlearning.com/election/glossary.shtml

* In the US political spectrum, “liberals” are said to be slightly left-of-center or somewhat left-of-center. Of the two main political parties, the Democrats are thought to be more liberal, as the term is currently defined. ...
www.uta.fi/FAST/GC/poliglos.html

* When referring to trade policy, relatively free of import controls or restraints and/or exhibiting a preference for reducing existing barriers to trade, often contrasted with the protectionist preference for retaining or raising selected barriers to imports.
www.giagroup.com/terms-of-trade-l.cfm

* The British Liberal Party developed from the Whigs. In the 50 years after the Reform Bill of 1832 was the dominant party. Leaders included Gladstone. Became divided over Home Rule for Ireland. Its decline was also partly because many of the reforms on its programme had been carried out, and the rise of the Labour Party which supplanted it as the official opposition in 1922. In the early 1980s it aligned itself with the newly formed Social Democratic Party. [RE]
www.embassy.org.nz/encycl/l3encyc.htm

* Political viewpoint with origins in Western Europe during the 19th century; stressed limited state interference in individual life, representation of propertied people in government; urged importance of constitutional rule and parliaments. (p. 702)
occawlonline.pearsoned.com/bookbind/pubbooks/stearns_awl/medialib/glossary/gloss_L.html

* Political view that supports gradual change and government spending to assist lower classes in society.
www.cyberlearning-world.com/nhhs/html/vocansw.htm

* A liberal is a person who supports moderate social progress and reform.
www.tomgreengop.org/politicalterms.htm

* In 1872 the opponents of Gen. Grant for a second term met in convention at Cincinnati to adopt a platform, and make a nomination. It was composed of representative men of both parties, disaffected Republicans being in the majority. The name taken was Liberal. It relegated the tariff question to the several congressional districts, and made the reconciliation of North and South in an era of fellowship paramount. Horace Greeley was nominated for President, B. ...
www.people.virginia.edu/~rmf8a/gaskell/poldict.htm

* political or social views that put a great emphasis on creating new social patterns or values, often with the help of direct government action. (Contrast with conservative views, which put more emphasis on the importance of traditional values and social patterns.) Liberals view society as something that can be easily reshaped to meet changing conditions. They believe that many existing social patterns, including marriage, gender roles, and race relations are severely flawed and unfair. ...
www.fasttrackteaching.com/termsmodern.html

* Traditionally, the word liberal means to be open to new ideas and tolerant of others. To be liberal politically, is to emphasize political and economic freedom. They tend to favor gradual changes in society and promote government programs to solve problems.
warrensburg.k12.mo.us/iadventure/allamerican/glossary.html

* Giving or generous, or broad minded, tolerant of other ideals, nontraditional.
www.godonthe.net/dictionary/l.html

Bob Badour said at December 2, 2006 7:39 AM:
Liberals view society as something that can be easily reshaped to meet changing conditions.

Stephen, I suggest you consider the subtitle of this site. One of the things that Randall does that I find particularly valuable is he analyzes and exposes the assumptions underlying various positions. What do you suppose are the underlying assumptions that lead one to believe society is easily reshaped?

Randall Parker said at December 2, 2006 10:56 AM:

Stephen,

That definition does not spell out many positions that liberals take. That does not mean that liberals do not take those positions.

Also, American liberalism from an earlier era had no place for a welfare state. Yet modern liberals in the United States embrace it and defend it.

If we polled self-identified socialists, liberals, moderates neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, and evolutionary conservatives and asked them whether all the peoples of the world are smart enough to make democracy work how do you suppose those poll results would come back? My guess is that in the order I gave there'd be a descending percentage answering in the affirmative and that the vast majority of liberals would answer in the affirmative.

Similarly, if we asked whether Islam is incompatible with democracy we'd get a descending percentage in the order given answering in the affirmative.

Yor faction is unrealistic. It deludes self and other. Some in your faction know they are lying when they spout delusions. Others actually are foolish and irrational enough to believe their rhetoric.

The reason liberals can't mount an effective criticism of Bush's war in Iraq is that they won't admit that the Iraqis lack essential qualities needed to make democracy work. They are going to continue to push for US withdrawal without stating why our mission is futile. So the war will on longer and liberal myths will be to blame. Your myths kill. Stop believing them.

dougjnn said at December 2, 2006 3:10 PM:

Stephen quotes definitions of liberals in part thus:

* broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions"
* having political or social views favoring reform and progress
* tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition

The modern understanding of the term 'liberalism' in America was formed by New Deal Democrats and their media and other supporters applying (or hijacking) the liberal label, up to then popularly understood to mean support for the attractive and successful (and it turned out not so radical) late 19th and early 20th century reforms of market competition also called Progressivism (e.g. the Trust/monopoly busters like Teddy Roosevelt and food fraud and other reformers like Upton Sinclair). The term 'liberal' was 'broadened' (or hijacked) by leftists in the 1930's to encompass the wide range of leftist (Marxist or Marxist inspired) change that was popular among intellectuals then. FDR and the New Deal was NOT dangerously socialist or Marxist or leftist as his Republican opponents argued, instead the New Deal was merely a continuation of liberalism. In fact there was much truth to that, or anyway about the parts of the New Deal that survived review by the Supreme Court. It was emphatically NOT true that many of the intellectuals on the left who supported the New Deal as (regrettably) the furtherest left they could YET get government to go in the US, were liberals. Yet they and the NY Times and others used the term as a shield against charges that such leftists were radicals or Marxists or fellow travelers with Communists. Even today the NY Times (and others in the MSM) will only apply the term "left wing" or "leftists" to those on the far far left, usually only to self described Marxists of a violence supporting cast of mind. Democratic Socialists rarely qualify for that label. In contrast "Right Wing" is often used to describe any and all of those on the right who aren't the very most centrist. Most of the US right are thus described as "right wing". Only the very furtherest left are described by the MSM as "left wing". The rest of the left are "liberals" -- though now the terms "progressive" or "activist" are become preferred as the public has caught on that 'liberal' = leftist. (Who could be against progress? You could be against actively working for what you believe in? But of course these are neutral terms, rather than squid ink euphemisms.)

By today the transformation of the term 'liberal' has been so successful in the US, that those advocating equality before the law, liberty from extensive governmental control whatever its motives, fair and regulated competition in the marketplace, and openness to the fair competition of ideas instead of insisting on anyone's unchallenged traditions, but opposing the attempted social engineering of individual and group equalization (=leveling) that is advocated to one degree or another by today's "liberals", are seen as center right. I guess they are in today's political world. However, it's supporters of that libertarian style center right that are in fact liberals. Those called liberals today are usually leftists = neo-Marxists, whether of a more moderate and gradualist disposition (center left) or more demanding of rapid change no matter how disruptive or risky (far left).

Doubters can read the historical record. They can also reflect on why it is that the United States is just about the only country in the world that applies “Liberal” to broad groups of socialists who advocate more and more government direction of the economy. In most of the rest of the world “liberalism” or “neo-liberalism” means advocating market economies and worldwide free trade (heightened competition and also variety and efficiency) and less government direction of either economic activity (though with efficient govt regulation) or personal lives, as opposed to socialism and protectionist policies. (Acceptance of some government regulation of market economics is never the side that those charging ‘neo-liberalism’ are complaining about).

Early and formative battles of liberals were against English Royal Patents (monopolies not justified by encouraging invention) and merchantalist closed trading universes (e.g. the European closed colonial trading systems) instead of freer world trade. Liberalism means stimulating openness and competition – not just economic competition but also the competition of ideas. The idea that all cultural practices should automatically be thought to be equally effective or desirable regardless of how well they do competitively, rather than the better replacing the more benighted, is central to multiculturalism but deeply foreign to liberalism.

Stephen said at December 2, 2006 5:55 PM:

Randall presumed: Yor faction is unrealistic. It deludes self and other. Some in your faction know they are lying when they spout delusions. Others actually are foolish and irrational enough to believe their rhetoric.

...while dougjnn sensibly said:

Liberalism means stimulating openness and competition – not just economic competition but also the competition of ideas. The idea that all cultural practices should automatically be thought to be equally effective or desirable regardless of how well they do competitively, rather than the better replacing the more benighted, is central to multiculturalism but deeply foreign to liberalism.

Of course, balance in all things.

Stephen said at December 2, 2006 6:12 PM:

Bob asked: What do you suppose are the underlying assumptions that lead one to believe society is easily reshaped?

Its not an assumption, its an observation - take a snapshot of any western country 50 yrs ago, and compare it to a snapshot taken today. Society will be significantly different. Go back in time another 50yrs and the social delta will be greater.

Bob Badour said at December 2, 2006 9:21 PM:

Are you suggesting the social engineering that went on was easy? Are you suggesting the social engineering accomplished anything good?

Stephen said at December 2, 2006 10:38 PM:

Easy in the sense that it happens reasonably frequently, or easy in the sense of the blood and tears spilled? I think its clear that society changes easily (ie it seems to be malleable), but its never easy on those caught up in a particular change.

As to whether social change has accomplished anything good, I think on balance that the answer is yes. Feudalism ended, mass production started, constraints on personal opportunity significantly lessened, major redistribution of wealth, scientific age begun, religion relegated to a personal philosophy rather than a State requirement. Yep, social change did create some good things.

Randall Parker said at December 3, 2006 8:57 AM:

Stephen,

People who call themselves liberals are the major sources of unrealistic taboos about human nature. The commissars who enforce the lies fancy themselves liberals and so do most people who call themselves liberals.

Now, is there an older and rather different definition of liberalism? Sure. But it isn't embraced by most people who call themselves liberals in America in 2006.

Stephen,

Sure, societies can intentionally be reshaped. The Great Society architects of the 1960s set out to reshape American society. But here's the rub: They changed society a great deal, but not in the ways they intended. Crime rates shot up. Illegitimate births shot up. Lots of measures of societal health decayed.

Blacks were at least theoretically freed from oppression but a much larger fraction of black males are in jail and their labor market participation rate has been declining since the early 1970s.

You can see big differences from 50 years ago. But how many of those changes were not caused by technological advances? I'm guessing the overwhelming majority of the changes were the result of technology and not the result of social engineering by liberals.

I also suspect most of the changes wrought by liberal social engineers were bad. For example, unionized schools (supported by liberals of course) and liberal demands that the teachers leave the kids alone (discipline is oppression) resulted in lazy teachers and unruly environments where less got taught.

Randall Parker said at December 3, 2006 9:03 AM:

Stephen,

More basically: Some types of societal change are possible. But other types of change are not compatible with human nature. It has been the big mistake of the liberal elites to believe that impossible changes are possible. They've aimed to produce certain outcomes and have made things worse in many cases. So the observation that societies changes is not an argument for the liberal agenda.

Stephen said at December 3, 2006 5:05 PM:

Randall said: Now, is there an older and rather different definition of liberalism? Sure. But it isn't embraced by most people who call themselves liberals in America in 2006.

I'm Australian...

Randall Parker said at December 3, 2006 7:14 PM:

Stephen,

I had no idea. No wonder we are talking past each other. We aren't even speaking the same language. ;>

Be aware that you aren't using the term "liberal" in the say way self-professed liberals use that term in the United States today. People have created new terms (e.g. libertarian) to describe what used to be describable using the term "liberal" in the United States. But the libertarians aren't the same as the old fashioned liberals.

At the same time, similar problems have arisen on the Right. The neoconservatives, for example, are not conservatives. They aren't Tories. They aren't Burkeans. The first wave of neoconservatives were ex-lefties who decided either that they disagreed with Left's opposition to the Cold War or they were social scientists who decided that the evidence was against the welfare state. But the second wave was more ideological and less empirical. They wanted the Right's greater willingness to use military force. But they weren't promoting a strong military for reasons of US national interests narrowly defined. They were (are) utopian and hence very unconservative. Plus, some were just trying to use US military might for Israel.

Austin Bramwell has written a few essays recently for The American Conservative where he dissects what is wrong with what is left of the conservative movement, describes libertarianism's flaws, and reviews the ascent and descent of liberalism. These essays are all worth reading IMO.

From What is Left? What is Right?

Of course, Burke does still have the power to scandalize. His interlocutors, believing in the justice of the Revolution, could not imagine that their schemes would come to grief. Burke, by contrast, asking what the actual consequences of their actions would be, exposed truths about the nature of the state that many would still prefer not to hear: that peace depends on unconscious obedience and acceptance of authority; that men can never have equal political power; that hierarchy is inevitable. (To this day, whenever the legitimacy of the state comes into doubt—as in Iraq or in the debate in America over the role of the courts—we ignore Burke at our peril.) Burke mastered, in short, what Max Weber called the “ethic of responsibility,” namely, the demand that no matter how noble our aims, we always give an account of the foreseeable results of our actions.

From Defining Conservatism Down

The story of liberalism’s decline is often rehearsed these days, by rueful liberals and gleeful conservatives alike. Few, however, tell the more interesting story of liberalism’s ascendance. The vague sense still prevails that liberalism grew naturally out of 19th-century progressivism before culminating in the New Deal and reaching apogee in the Kennedy administration. This view owes less to history, however, than to liberals’ conceit that theirs is the crowning American ideology.

Liberalism began not as an outgrowth of progressivism but as a reaction to it. The progressive movement, born out of fear of the centralizing tendencies of the Industrial Revolution, lacked intellectual foundations. Its leaders favored a farrago of policies that pitted the farmer against the urban sophisticate, the common man against the plutocrat, the native American versus the immigrant, and traditional religion against modern corruption. Progressives spoke the language of evangelical revival, famously exemplified by William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech. Often literally, they called on their fellow citizens to repent and return to the Lord.

As the Progressive Era waned, liberals viewed these populist enthusiasms with dismay. The people, in their view, remained stubbornly benighted, saw political problems in naïve moralistic terms, and could not carry out the project of reform. Accordingly, liberalism’s leading intellects began to fashion a new ideology that called for elite social scientists, rather than a virtuous populace, to address the problems of the modern world.

From Good-bye to All That.

For all their philippics, disgruntled conservatives remain decidedly of the movement, if not in it, for they share with the mainstream the fundamental conceit that conservatism exists to advance some core set of beliefs or principles. Like a soul animating a body, these principles allegedly guide, smooth or grim, all the movement’s institutions, programs, publications, alliances, tactical feints, and shifting positions. Hence, even those outside the mainstream keep the faith that the movement will not stray forever. Conservatism, in this view, can no more betray its principles than the God of Abraham can betray His covenant with Israel.

But “conservatism” has no mystical essence. Rather than a magisterium handed down from apostolic times, it is an ideology whose contours are largely arbitrary and accidental. By ideology, I mean precisely what Orwell depicted in 1984. I do not mean, of course, that conservatism is totalitarian. Taken as prophecy, 1984 has little merit. Taken as a description of the world we actually live in, however, it is indispensable. 1984 reveals not the horrors of the future but the quotidian realities of ideology in mass democracy. Conservatism exemplifies them all.

Bob Badour said at December 7, 2006 7:04 AM:

Stephen,

Your reply to me suggests you confuse 'easily' with 'inevitably'. Societies are dynamic systems, which means they will change all on their own. The liberal doctrine holds that they can be changed, which is something entirely different.

The liberal doctrine holds that some central influence can easily direct the change. While ideologies can affect the direction of change, the resulting direction is just as unpredictable as without the influence--only in a different direction.

What's more, dynamic systems--over long periods of time--find stable equilibria. Perturbing those systems makes them unstable. The socialists and their various social engineering projects prove this just as clearly as the Army Corps of Engineers' levy projects along the Mississippi do.


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