Friday, April 11, 2014

Deseando no lo hace

Stanford Phd candidate Dorothy Kronick will not make Paul Krugman any happier with Nate Silver's 538;
One year after the death of former president Hugo Chávez, these six weeks of protest reveal a country still profoundly split over Chávez’s political project. On one side are those protesting his successor, Nicolás Maduro, who narrowly won last year’s presidential election; on the other are government supporters who see no viable alternative to Chavismo. Asking, “If not this, then what?” Venezuelans cannot find a common answer.
Because some are looking backwards, some are looking to the future.
Many government supporters measure life under Bolivarian socialism — as Chávez called his political program — against life under Chávez’s immediate predecessors. Mismanagement of Venezuela’s 1970s oil boom and of the ensuing collapse made the 1980s and 1990s one long economic nightmare. Severe deprivations led to riots, multiple coup attempts and, eventually, to the election of Chávez, then a political outsider. Relative to the foregoing disaster, Venezuelans did fare well under Bolivarian socialism.... 
But a large part of that improvement was revenue from oil.
Venezuela is an oil economy, and oil prices in the 1980s and 1990s hovered around $10 per barrel.1 For reasons that have little to do with Chávez’s decisions, the price of Venezuelan oil began to rise as soon as he took office, rocketing to more than $80 per barrel in 2008 .... Saying that the Venezuelan economy fared better under Chávez than it did before him is like saying that gardens grow better with water than without.
Now that that has changed, the inherent contradictions of socialism are being felt.
A more useful benchmark — the one employed by the mainstream of Venezuela’s political opposition — is the economic health of Chávez’s Latin American neighbors, many of whom also benefitted from the recent natural resource price boom. As Harvard’s Francisco Monaldi has suggested, we can compare Bolivarian socialism with Latin American alternatives on standard economic indicators such as gross domestic product growth and inflation. We can also compare Chavismo with the rest of the region on the outcomes that Chávez emphasized: poverty, inequality, health and education. “What good is macroeconomic stability if, in the end, there is more poverty and hunger?” Chávez asked in a speech early in his presidency (my translation). “How many kids are going to school? How is infant mortality? Those are the big questions.”
On all these metrics, Bolivarian socialism underperformed. Nature handed Chávez by far the biggest resource windfall in Latin America (Figure 4), yet compared with its less-lucky neighbors, Venezuela experienced slow economic growth (Figure 5) and high inflation (Figure 6). Nor did Venezuela eclipse many of its neighbors in lowering infant mortality (Figure 7), slashing poverty, reducing inequality or improving school attainment during Chávez’s tenure. 
Considering the two opposing views, it's hard to see a peaceful resolution of this situation.

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