Socialism has become a hot topic in America with an increasing number of people supporting the ideology, particularly in colleges and universities. Growing up in Venezuela, I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of these policies that lead a nation once among the wealthiest countries in the hemisphere to be among Syria and Ukraine as one of the three largest refugee crises in the world with an estimated 7 million refugees.
Unlike those nations, Venezuela has not experienced war, only the consequences of socialism.
Now living in the United States, I am shocked to see that many individuals here support similar ideologies. It is surprising to me that people are advocating for policies that have already been proven to be detrimental. Venezuela serves as a warning of what can happen when the government takes control of the economy in the name of giving back to the people.
Venezuela is a country with abundant oil resources, once a thriving economy and a well-educated population that was considered a model for other countries in the region. However, all of that changed with the rise of a socialist leader who promised to use the country’s oil wealth to uplift the poor.
The government took control of industries, such as oil and electricity, and implemented price controls and other policies aimed at making basic goods and services more affordable for the poor. This led to shortages of basic necessities like food, medicine and toilet paper. Many cheered these decisions at the time, while others who opposed them were fired or publicly exposed as ‘traitors.’ The regime continued to spend recklessly, using the country’s oil wealth to finance populist policies and buy political support with the purpose of gaining more power.
The American people must understand that the government takeover of businesses and industries is not a solution. The government’s interference in the economy leads to inefficiencies and corruption. The more the government controls, the less freedom citizens have to make choices for themselves. The result is a loss of individual liberty and a decrease in the standard of living for all.
Many fellow college students who support socialism don’t seem to understand the outcomes of what they’re advocating for. Americans don’t want to lose their power to choose their preferred product brands, sources of entertainment, or the quality and quantity of their purchases. These policies go against America’s essence. They choose to believe socialism is a way for all to access food, housing and health care.
In reality, these policies lead to shortages, hunger and tyranny.
The government’s attempts to control the prices of goods only lead to the disappearance of essential items from store shelves. The rationing system in Venezuela is a constant reminder of who is in control of every aspect of life, from what to buy and when to eat. The regime expropriated private businesses and converted them into state-run companies which are, by definition, inherently inefficient, which furthered the scarcity. As the economy collapsed, crime skyrocketed and political persecution became the norm.
A rising support for censorship is another worrying trend among Americans today. The desire to silence differing viewpoints is typical of totalitarian regimes and has no place in a free and democratic society. It is concerning to see individuals call for the firing of those who do not align with their views and demand the suppression of free speech. An ideology that (to gain power) establishes a rhetoric of hostility toward any contrary opinion or denounces a sector of the population as the sole factor responsible for today’s problems is a recipe for disaster.
Americans must resist the urge to support policies that lead to government control and intervention, and instead support policies that promote economic and personal freedom. Years ago, those who warned that Venezuela could end up as a failed state were dismissed as people thought that, with our abundant natural resources, it could not happen. It turns out that there seems to be no boundary to the damages socialism can cause.
We must understand that socialism and a prosperous, free society cannot coexist.
We must protect the values that made the United States a prosperous nation.
Mario Rosas is a Goodnight Scholar at NC State majoring in electrical engineering.