Venezuela: Why We Must “Assign Blame”

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In his latest column for Townhall, John Stossel writes about the pushback he’s gotten from the left for criticizing those celebrities—like Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, and Noam Chomsky—who praised Venezuela’s socialistic policies.

Chomsky, in particular, demanded “an abject apology” for what Stossel had written in his prior column. In polite fashion, Stossel simply states that no such apology will be forthcoming, and then he proceeds to the topic of his present column, which is focused on an appeal for Venezuela to “try capitalism.” But it’s the way that Stossel transitions from talking about the animosity of socialists, like Chomsky, to the topic of “trying capitalism” that I want to focus on. His transition is just a small sentence, and I don’t think he meant much by it, but it is suggestive of a grave issue which advocates of capitalism ought not dismiss. It reads, “But assigning blame matters less than what should be done now.”

Does it? Does assigning blame for mass poverty and starvation matter less than what should be done after the fact? There’s one very obvious answer to that: of course assigning blame matters less than fixing the problem. But moving onto to fix the problem assumes that we all agree on what the problem is. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in this situation. The advocates of socialism couldn’t disagree more with Stossel about what the problem is and how to fix it. And so long as those advocates of socialism hold the kind of sway over public opinion that they do, “moving on” to fix the problem is not really an option. Before the problem can truly be fixed, the general public needs to be aware of its cause. In other words, before we move on and hope that capitalism will be tried, we must “assign blame” for the woes of socialism. And we must do so as loudly and publicly as possible.

This is the missing element in the contemporary fight for capitalism: a strong sense of morality and justice. Socialists win because they’ve convinced themselves, and most of humanity, that they occupy the moral high ground. This is evidenced by the fact that Chomsky—the man who “provided cover for a regime where 11,500 infants died from lack of medical care1has the gall to demand an apology from Stossel for pointing it out. Stossel does well not to apologize, but dropping the subject is the next worst thing to an apology. It allows Chomsky, and all of the envy-ridden socialist-sympathizers around the world, to breathe a sigh of relief and convince themselves that they aren’t truly to blame.

I understand the impulse not to want to “rub it in.” Capitalists, to their credit, tend to have a benevolent view of men, even of their enemies, which drives them to assume that those enemies will recognize their own mistakes without having their noses rubbed in their mess. Sadly, that benevolence has proved far too generous. We often chastise the socialists for not learning from historybut have we? When will we learn that they aren’t simply misguided; that one more empirical proof of its failure won’t quench their love for socialism? It’s time for us capitalists to wake up and realize that the socialists aren’t fighting an economic, or even political, battlebut a moral one. And we must meet them on that field.

They count on us not to assign blame for the atrocities of their policies. They count on us not to blame them for the millions murdered under regimes like those of Stalin and Mao, for mass starvation, and for reducing moderately wealthy nations to poverty-ridden chaos. They are counting on our moral silence, and we must not give it to them. Until and unless the socialist sympathizers are driven to issue abject apologies of their own, for the rampant death and utter desolation which their ideologies have unleashed upon the world, assigning blame not only matters more than moving on to the solution. It is a prerequisite for the solution. Until then, assigning blame, loudly and publicly, for the atrocities of socialism is the practicaland the moralresponsibility of capitalists, and of all lovers of freedom.

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1 Quote by Thor Halversson, a Venezuelan filmmaker; as quoted by Stossel.