Venezuelan Democracy, RIP

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Hugo Chavez is trying to prove Hayek right. For years he managed to ram through economic reforms while maintaining the integrity of Venezuelan democracy. But democracy appears to be too inconvenient for him now.

Venezuela’s congress approved a request by President Hugo Chavez for the power to make law by decree for 18 months, opening the way for an overhaul of the country’s economic and political life.

Lawmakers unanimously approved the request in a televised vote.

Chavez has pledged to use his new power to nationalize “strategic” companies in the telephone, electricity and oil industries, establish new taxes on second houses, boats and luxury goods, and eliminate more than 100 municipalities.

The more time passes, the more Chavez looks like a mongrel hybrid of John Birch, George W. Bush, and Rudy Giuliani. He has Birch’s paranoia, Giuliani’s autocratic personality, and Bush’s respect for democratic institutions. A long time ago, I was disturbed enough by his rhetoric alone to compare him to Argentina’s Juan Perón. At the time, the people I was talking to told me it was nonsense because Perón was never a democrat, while Chavez was. My record of being right on Iraq in 2003, Lebanon in 2006, and now Venezuela in 2007 makes me scared that I’m also right about the entire world in 2020-21.

8 Responses to Venezuelan Democracy, RIP

  1. Hmm, this does not seem new. Apparently, Chavez previously had a 1 year rule by decree, and previous Venezuelan heads also had similar powers.

    There’s alternative views on Venezuelanalysis and BoRev.

    As I’m not a Venezeulan citizen (but rather a US citizen), I personally have little opinion on this matter.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    The Wikipedia article you link to says that Chavez is asking Congress to approve a more sweeping enabling act, with a laxer time limit than before. Even when Chavez did have decree power, he only used it toward the end, whereas this time he’s poised to use it more.

  3. SLC says:

    Re John Birch

    Mr. Levy, as usual, appears to be somewhat uninformed about an individual. John Birch was an American missionary in China who was murdered by the Chinese Comunists shortly after they took power, some 58 years ago. I suspect that Mr. Levy is really referring to an anti-communist organization known as the John Birch Society which was started up by an individual named Robert Welch and named after the aformentioned Birch. Mr. Welch is best known for his comment that, “there can be no doubt that Dwight David Eisenhower is a conscious communist conspirator.” This organization had a number of whackjobs, such as a University of Illinois professor, Revilo Oliver, a notorious anti-semite, and a former US Army general, Edwin G. “Ted” Walker, who commanded troops in Korea after the war and was cashiered for shooting off his mouth. Interestingly enough, Kennedy assassin G. Harvey Oswald unsuccessfully tried to assassinate Walker prior to his more successful endeavor against Kennedy.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Yes, I did in fact mean the John Birch Society. For some reason I thought it was named after an individual who shared its views (presumably, Patrick Henry was also a Dominionist because of Patrick Henry College…).

  5. presumably, Patrick Henry was also a Dominionist because of Patrick Henry College…

    My irony meter might need a bit of calibration here, but I think it is quite fair to say that Pat Henry’s views were in line with modern American theocrats, as were John Jay’s and several other founding statesmen and revolutionaries.

  6. SLC says:

    Re John Birch

    Being as how Mr. Birch was a missionary, he probably did share most of the views held by the organization named after him. However, he was murdered long before that organization was formed.

  7. jdinunci says:

    This conclusion is premature:

    * The enabling law is allowed by current (and past) venezuelan constitution
    * The congress authorized it
    * It is limited in time
    * It is limited in scope: Only certain laws can be approved
    * It is not supraconstitutional. It can’t be used to alter the constitution
    * Chavez received an enablig law before. That didn’t make him a dictator then
    * Before Chavez, three venezuelan presidents received enabling laws

    Have you ever read a new about your area of knoledgement and found big mistakes and simplifications? Maybe this is one of those cases. You could complement your vision of Venezuela and his president looking for alternative coverage. I recommend Mark Weisbrot

  8. Alon Levy says:

    Every enabling act begins as limited in time and scope. The one the Reichstag passed in 1933 was fairly limited: it was only for, if I remember correctly, four years; it still required Reichstag approval, and merely delegated the Chancellor the power to execute laws in a way conflicting with the German bill of rights; it was passed by a far greater margin than the two-thirds majority required; and even before 1933, the Chancellor and the President ruled largely by decree, exploiting a loophole in the Weimar constitution that allowed rule by decree in state of emergencies.

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