Socialism vs. ‘the Person’

Staff Columnist

AMERICAS, By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 22, 2019) “Catholic Venezuela would do well to rediscover a central idea of the faith.”

This week Roman Catholics mark the octive of Easter, a time when the glory of the Resurrection fills believers with anticipation of good things to come    if not in this life then in the next

But hope is hard to come by in Catholic Venezuela these days.  The nation is racked despair as it faces privation so extreme that families eat garbage from dumpsters.  Millions have fled, often with only what they can carry.

Venezuela was once the richest country in South America.  Now It’s a place of malnourished children, starving adults and pullulating disease.  Yet its corrupt and cruel military dictatorship clings to power.

The world looks on in horror as Venezuelans are helpless to combat this evil.  Inside and outside the country the refrain is the same:  How could this have happened?

Venezuela’s abundant supplies of petroleum reserves played a role in corrupting the nation.  But the real problem is ideological , and it’s a lesson for Americans.

Venezuela’s intelligentsia spent much of the 20th century inculcating the population with socialist pap.  If you’re not sure what that means, listen to Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. AlexandriaOcasio-Cortez.  They spout the same nonsense.

Intellectuals, educators and politicians promised that sticking it to the rich was the path to socialist paradise.  As government intervention in the economy     particularly through price and exchange controls    damaged  living standards, Venezuelans voted for more of it.  Little did they know that by targeting the rights of successful entrepreneurs in the name of social justice, they were setting up the country to fail.

Venezuelan socialism fomented envy and deep distrust of business.  This destroyed respect for persons who dared to be creative and build wealth.  Poverty and dystopia were inevitable.

Climbing out of this hole will take more than removing dictator Nicholas Maduro.  The country is devastated , but Venezuelans haven’t abandoned the collectivist cause. Many popular opposition politicians still call themselves socialists, unwilling to defend the creative class and its members’ right to the fruits of their labor.

Venezuela needs an ideas revolution that recognizes business as an endeavor of the unit spirit.  Socialists pose as humanitarians  and sometimes even as Christians but their system strangles the person who is at the heart of Catholic teaching .  Catholic University of America research fellow Father John McNerney, author of ‘Wealth of Persons’ (2016), describes the ‘real wellspring’ of human progress as emanating from ‘the unique, irreplaceable and unrepeatable . . . reality of the individual acting in relation to his neighbor.’

We are more than simply individuals, because it is in relation with one another ‘as persons’ that we discover ourselves, Father McNerney told me (Ms. O’Grady) by email  last week. “  More from Ms. O’Grady here:  “Economists understand that the profit motive is integral to entrepreneurship.  But it is about much more than material gains.”

(O’Grady describes a truth that has been  all but lost in Venezuela.)  “where despite the depths of their misery many still yield the moral high ground to socialism.  Can the country ever recover without embracing the creative entrepreneurial spirit and its success?

It is doubtful, even in this season of great hope.”    


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