While on a long road trip, what economic system provided the goods and services I needed, when and where I wanted them?

How is it that services are available on the interstate highway system when and where I need them? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I took a road trip from the Los Angeles area to Williston last week. My wife and I drove there with our son and his family.

A few questions came to mind on the trip

Questions

1. What economic system provides a gas station within a few miles of the point that we decided we wanted to fill up the tank?

With four drivers in the car,  we were planning to drive on through the night. We were too tired to do that so we decided to stop for the night.

2. What economic system provides multiple hotels and motels half an hour down the road from where we changed our mind?

3. Furthermore, when we wanted to stop, what economic system provided motels at multiple price points so we could pick the one that fit our price range and taste?

4. Why is it that the motel we choose included a full breakfast for all of us in the price?

5. Why did the motel even have two upgraded lamps on the night stands each with 2 USB charging points and two electrical outlets on the base of each lamp?

Answers

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Bleak outlook for Venezuela

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

With the supreme court compromised, the president outmaneuvering the congress, all members of the military under the watchful eye of Cuban zampolits (political officers), and the most loyal members of the military allowed to enjoy the spoils, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for either a peaceful solution or near-term end to the massive, intentionally caused humanitarian suffering in Venezuela.

Here are two short comments on the escalating violence and a long discussion of a feature article on the collapse of democracy and the economy.

6/16/17 – AFP at Yahoo News – Venezuela mobs kick, burn thieves in lynching epidemic – What happens when governments take actions that prevent the economy from working and as a result people are starving? Thieves start robbing people of food at gunpoint (money isn’t worth stealing).

What happens when robberies get out control because there is so much disruption and the government can’t do anything to maintain peace and there is widespread suffering? Mobs start lynching robbers.

There were 20 reported mob driven lynchings in 2015, 126 in 2016, and 60 in the first five months of this year.

In one attack on an armed robber, the police were able to pull the near-unconscious man into a police car as the mob cheered having beaten him. Another reporter filmed a robber being set on fire.

As another indicator of the breakdown in the social contract, Venezuela has one of the highest rates of murder in the world. That merely 6 out of 100 murders results in jail time dangerously wears away at the idea of government being able (or willing) to maintain social order. That contributes to the vigilante justice.

In addition to the massive suffering due to shortages of food, medicine, and electricity, Venezuela is slipping into a life of vigilante justice.

6/22 – Al Jazera – One killed as Venezuelan Troops fire on protesters – Another day of protests.

Another day of protesters getting shot at point-blank range.

One died, two wounded.

Number of dead in the last three months is somewhere around 80.

(Yes, Al Jazera is pointing out the collapse of Venezuela.)

6/23/17 – Wall Street Journal – ”The Last Battle for Democracy in Venezuela” – Article provides an in depth description of the economic collapse, current political direction, how the country got into this horrible disaster, and the bleak prospects for an end to the suffering.

Shrinking opposition

Opposition to the destruction of the country is coming from the Congress and Attorney General. The government is working to get rid of the Atty. Gen. and has a plan to replace the Constitution and Congress.

The government has already taken over control of the Supreme Court. The military was purged in 2002 after an attempted coup and now appears to be completely controlled by the government. The Cubans took over indoctrination and training of the military after the coup.

Path forward to end democracy in the country

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Venezuelan government supported with cash from investment bank while support from military is weakening

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A New York investment bank bought bonds from the Venezuelan central bank at a steep discount and got a lot of heat for doing so. The military is applying more violence to protesters as support from the rank and file appears to be shrinking.

5/30 – Wall Street Journal – Goldman Sachs Under Fire for Venezuela Bond Deal – Goldman bought $2.8B of bonds issued by the government-owned oil company for $865M. That is 31% of face. If, and this is a big if, the bonds were to be paid in full, on-time, at face value that would produce a 40% return.

Goldman is in a PR mess because the bonds were held by the Venezuelan central bank, meaning Goldman essentially put almost a billion dollars into the government’s hand.

Article says Goldman has been increasing their holdings of Venezuelan debt over the last few months. Their play is that if government gets its finances in order, the bonds will soar in value and Goldman will make a huge profit.

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Why, oh why, did production of oil and food collapse in Venezuela? What could have caused this amount of human suffering?

Shipwreck standing on the beach with the sea in the background. Margarita Island. Venezuela. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Devastation in the oil industry and food supply chain in Venezuela is due to intentional government policies.

One article sees how the government caused the damage to the oil industry while another article sees the devastation in the food supply but cannot see any direct cause.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

5/7/17 – Forbes – How Venezuela Ruined Its Oil Industry – Here is a primer on how to destroy your oil industry when you have the world’s largest proven reserves of oil and are in the top 10 of world oil producers.

If you want to destroy your country, the article provides a how-to-guide, using Venezuela as the road map.

The high point of oil production in Venezuela was 3.5M bopd back in 1998, which not by coincidence was the year Hugo Chavez became president. Production then began to slip. How could that be?

After civil unrest in 2002 and 2003, Chavez fired much of the staff of the national oil company, letting go 19,000 experienced staff.

Let me translate that: 19,000 staff who knew how to produce extra-heavy oil were fired and replaced by people whose primary job skill was loyalty to the president.

Extra heavy oil takes specialized knowledge and is very expensive to produce on top of oil production already being capital-intensive.

To generate more revenue, Venezuela invited five of the oil majors to develop more oil production. The form of investment was a partnership. The five majors invested many billions of dollars in oil production.

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Ongoing violence in Venezuela against those who merely want to their children to eat

In Venezuela, above activity is sufficient to draw weapon fire or armored tanks. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The violence in Venezuela directed against those people who merely wish to keep their children from starving continues.

My previous comment: 4/19/17 – Washington Free Beacon – Socialist Venezuela Leader Steps up Arming of Supporters After Outlawing, Confiscating Civilian Guns – The government has spent the last five years confiscating guns from private citizens. That’s what authoritarian, totalitarians, and other bad governments do.

Why? So they can’t defend themselves.

From what might individuals need to defend themselves from?

How about 400,000 loyalists who are going to be armed by the government. (more…)

“Magic without wizards”, or, why is your favorite bread on the shelf when you want it?

Consider merely the way that your favorite bread is always available, usually from many bakeries. And at the time you want. The bakery doesn’t know whether you will stop in on your way to work, during lunch, or after having dinner.

How can it be that several bakeries know to have your choice of bread available, whether sourdough loafs, whole wheat biscuits, rye rolls, croissants, or cranberry bagels? How did they know to order enough yeast, oil, and flour? How did they know what mix to bake before the sun came up?

How did the wholesalers know enough to deliver the right amount of flour to all the pizzerias, bakeries, and pastry shops?

How did the farmers know enough to plant the right amount of wheat, oats, barley, and rye last spring to harvest enough this fall to satisfy all those bakers?

Hmm. What could be getting all those people working together to make sure my favorite and your favorite bread is available when you or I want it?

Ponder these and many more questions just in terms of having bread on the shelf in this video, called “It’s a wonderful loaf:”

 

 

The answer of how all that happens is readily available for all who want to find it.

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Freedom continues to evaporate in Venezuela as misery continues to increase. Hmm. Why do those two trends typically seem to accompany each other?

What economic system produces this result? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Ponder what economic system produced this suffering, misery, and loss of freedom. (cross-post from Outrun Change.)

4/19/17 – Wall Street Journal – Venezuela Antigovernment Protests Turn Deadly – Teargas and gunfire broke up widespread protests on Wednesday.

The death toll rises. Two dead on Wednesday with many more surviving gunshots they received. Seven dead in the last month. Forty-two dead in 2014.

Shooting protesters after stealing all their guns is just how authoritarians and totalitarians tend to roll:

4/19/17 – Washington Free Beacon – Socialist Venezuela Leader Steps up Arming of Supporters After Outlawing, Confiscating Civilian Guns – The government has spent the last five years confiscating guns from private citizens. That’s what authoritarian, totalitarians, and other bad governments do.

Why?

So they can’t defend themselves.

From what might individuals need to defend themselves from?

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Venezuelan Supreme Court usurps all power of the nation’s legislature

Where the Venezuelan Supreme Court filed that part of their constitution defining the legislative branch. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled that it will take over all of the powers of the Congress. That essentially suspends the Congress and removes the remaining power center in the country that is not under the complete control of the president.

Since the president controls the supreme court and obviously now controls the legislature, there is no organized structure that can oppose him.

That’s a major step.

(Cross post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

For more info, check out any of the following articles.

For entertainment, consider the spin some headline writers put into their work:

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Now gasoline shortages in the country with the world’s largest amount of proven oil reserves. What economic system could possibly create this mess?

In Venezuela, that sign is needed at hospital pharmacies, bakeries, and now  at gasoline stations. Image Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The shortages and suffering in Venezuela continues. Your homework for the day: what economic system provides this level of suffering?

  • Foreign reserves are shrinking
  • Bakeries threatened if they bake too many sweets and not enough price-controlled bread
  • Pregnant women are leaving the country to deliver their babies
  • Gasoline shortages appear

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

3/1/17 – CNN Money – Venezuela is down to its last $10 billion – The country’s foreign reserves are down to $10.5B, from $20B in 2015, and $30B in 2011. That info in sourced to the Central Bank of Venezuela.

Article says inflation is expected to hit 1660% this year and 2880% in 2018.

3/13 – PanamPost – Venezuelan Regime Threatens to Expropriate bBakeries, Jeopardizing Bread – In addition to price controls and currency controls, the government is going to impose output requirements on bakeries. If they don’t produce bread all day at the government limited price, they are subject to take over by the government. Left out of their miscalculation is that the government has stopped importing wheat flour.

If bakeries don’t bake enough bread, the government will close the shops.

3/16/17 – Yahoo News – Venezuela arrests brownie and croissant bakers in ‘bread war’ – Well, that didn’t take long.

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Updates on continuing suffering in Venezuela – #20

Venezuela doesn't have enough money to get tankers out to international waters. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Venezuela doesn’t have enough money to scrub down hulls of tankers so they can enter international waters. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The suffering continues without a break. One of the more ominous articles describes that Venezuela is so short of currency that the national oil company cannot afford to scrub down the hull of oil tankers, which is required before they enter international waters – the country cannot even get the oil in those loaded tankers to market.

1/6 – Wall Street Journal – Venezuela Tees Up Its Next Dictator – The Venezuelan president faces a recall election this year. It looks like in anticipation of losing the election, a new vice president has been appointed. Under the country’s rules, if the president lost a recall before the end of 2016, there would have been a new election. If he is voted out after the first of 2017, the VP will take over.

The editorial points out the new VP will likely continue the present policies. He was previously a follower of the previous president. WSJ reporting indicates while the new VP was governor of a state, there were two Iranian companies (owned by the Iranian military) who had joint ventures with military in that state. More info in the editorial pointing to the new guy won’t be a change in direction.

Thus the opposition needs to decide which dictator they wish to rule them.

1/9 – International Business Times – Nicolas Maduro raises minimum wage in Venezuela by 50%(more…)

Largest denomination Venezuelan currency in circulation voided without any larger bills to replace them. #18

The poor living in those houses in Caracas are suffering greatly as a result of intentional government policies. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The poor living in those houses in Caracas are suffering greatly as a result of intentional government policies. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The devastation in Venezuela would be funny if this was a make-believe movie or some hair brained dystopian novel. Sadly, we are watching live as millions of real people suffer from deliberate government policies.

The current 100 Bolivar note has been voided while the higher denomination bills have not been put into circulation. Sounds like a good plan to make hungry people hungrier.

12/13 – Fusion – Venezuelans fight to protect their savings as government pulls bills from circulation – After the government gave short notice that the largest bill, the 100 Bolivar note, will be pulled from circulation, people across the country have gone into panic mode to get their currency deposited in a bank.

Anyone who can’t get their money deposited by today, Wednesday, has 10 days to exchange the bills at a government location.

Only problem with that concept?

The government hasn’t announced any authorized exchange locations.

12/16 – Bloomberg – Venezuelan Odyssey for Cash Endures With Delay of New Bills – Surprise, surprise! The new bills, up to a 20,000 Bolivar note, weren’t available on Thursday.

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Another round of intentionally caused suffering in Venezuela as government makes largest denomination bill illegal- #17

One graph illustrates the inflation rate in Venezuela and the other represents economic performance. Image courtesy of Adobe stock.

One graph illustrates the inflation rate in Venezuela and the other represents economic performance. Image courtesy of Adobe stock.

Government will withdraw all 100 Bolivar notes from circulation after Wednesday, tomorrow. The level of suffering will increase even further.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

12/4 – AP – Venezuela to issue larger bill as currency continues to melt – Article says the central bank has announced they will issue bills in the 500 to 20,000 Bolivar range. This follows up on previous reports saying they were planning to do so.

The exchange rate is now 4,587 Bolivars to the dollar.

Article says that is a deterioration by a factor of five in the last year.

The official exchange rates are 10 and 663 to the dollar.

12/10 – BBC News – Venezuela seizes Christmas toys to distribute to poor(more…)

Continuing devastation in Venezuela – #16

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

You know things are horribly bad when the New York Times and Washington Post are frequently reporting on the economic devastation in the socialist paradise of Venezuela.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

11/25 – New York Times – Venezuelans Flee in Boats to Escape Economic Collapse – Mass numbers of people are fleeing Venezuela by foot, air, and now on rickety boats. The lack of food, water, electricity, and medical care is driving  people away, reminiscent of the flood of people paddling away from Cuba on tied-together inner tubes.

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“Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire” infographic

Silver Roman denarius. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Silver Roman denarius. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Telling the tale of the collapse of the Roman Empire is a challenge even in a full length book. Presenting one slice of the story in an easily read and understood infographic is even more of a challenge.

The Money Project is a blog run by Visual Capitalist which focuses on illustrating complex ideas. Their infographic Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire does a great job of describing how debasement of the currency and the resulting inflation made trade more difficult which in turn contributed to the collapse.

Oh, used with permission of Visual Capitalist. (Cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

A great story with many lessons to be learned for anyone willing to think for a while:

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Government decisions helped take down the Roman economy

Roman Colosseum. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Roman Colosseum. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I’ll have two posts describing how bad decisions by Roman Emperors contributed to the economic deterioration in the Empire by their intentional decisions.

First, check out Richard Ebeling on 10/5/16 at Foundation for Economic Freedom – How Roman Central Planners Destroyed Their Economy.

In 58 B.C. (yes, I know that was shortly before the move from a republic to an empire), the Roman government started giving wheat to citizens of Rome for free. As expected, this resulted in masters letting their slaves go free so the government was responsible for their subsistence. In 45 B.C. Julius Caesar figured out that one-third of Roman citizens were getting their food from the government.

Farmers fled to the city to get food for free instead of breaking their back all year long in order to barely have enough to eat. Slave owners turned their slaves free so the central government could feed them instead.

Move forward a few hundred years to see the destruction from debasing the currency along with price controls.

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