Hollywood remains just full of useful idiots
DESPOTS attract useful idiots, and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had his share.
He could always count on sycophants from the naive American left to help him foster an image of himself as a man of the people and a socialist reformer.
Consider some of the eulogies out of Hollywood:
Danny Glover called Chavez a "social champion."
Oliver Stone, who made a movie about Chavez, called him a great hero, adding, "My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned."
Michael Moore credited Chavez with using the country's oil reserves to eliminate 75 percent of the extreme poverty in his country.
Sean Penn said, "Poor people around the world have lost a champion."
And one member of Congress, Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., praised Chavez as "a leader who understood the needs of the poor."
Ah, the romantic notions of "the revolution" are intoxicating, particularly for those willing to suspend disbelief about Chavez's true record during 14 years of his version of socialism.
The Financial Times says during Chavez's aggressive misrule, Venezuela's government has become "increasingly cash-strapped and disorganized."
"He leaves behind a country of state-owned steel mills that do not produce steel, state-owned electric utilities that cannot keep the lights on, and state-owned supermarkets where you may be able to find a chicken, coffee or toilet paper, but rarely at the same time," said the Financial Times.
Oil production, which financed Chavez's revolution, is now one third lower than it was 10 years ago, with the decline blamed on inefficient state operation.
The currency has been devalued and inflation is running five times higher than the average for South American countries.
The New York Times says Chavez's socialist policies, which grew increasingly random and always left room for profiteering associates, have contributed to a significant brain drain.
"Private investors, unhinged over Mr. Chavez's nationalization and exportation threats, halted projects. Hundreds of thousands of scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs and others in the middle class left Venezuela."
He manipulated a repressed and restricted media to cultivate his image as a populist, but according to Human Rights Watch, Chavez used the government to "intimidate, censor and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda."
Human Rights Watch says Chavez packed the country's Supreme Court with cronies and, in one infamous incident, had a judge thrown in jail after she released a government critic from prison where he had spent three years awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, Venezuela devolved into one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The crime rate rose steadily. The 2011 murder rate was higher than Colombia. The capital, Caracas, is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world, where corrupt police supplement their income through kidnappings.
But the focus on Chavez misses a larger point about the failure of socialism.
As Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal Thursday, "No nation can create the wealth necessary to truly make a difference in the lives of the poor without property rights, free markets, sound money and the rule of law. These virtues are incompatible with absolute power."
Economist Milton Friedman liked to remind his audiences that wherever socialism has been tried, it has failed.
If Friedman were alive today, he would have one more example to bolster an argument that trumps the drivel of the useful idiots.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.