August 6, 2006


The End of Chávez: History's Against Him (Francis Fukuyama, August 6, 2006, Washington Post)

Early on in Hugo Chávez's political career, the Venezuelan president attacked my notion that liberal democracy together with a market economy represents the ultimate evolutionary direction for modern societies -- the "end of history." When asked what lay beyond the end of history, he offered a one-word reply: "Chavismo."

The idea that contemporary Venezuela represents a social model superior to liberal democracy is absurd. In his eight years as president, Chávez has capitalized on his country's oil wealth to take control of congress, the courts, trade unions, electoral commissions and the state oil company. Proposed legislation that would limit foreign funding could soon constrain nongovernmental organizations as well. And people who signed a recall petition against Chávez in the run-up to a 2004 referendum on his rule later found their names posted on the Web site of a pro-Chávez legislator; if they worked for the government or wanted to do business with it, they were out of a job and out of luck.

Chávez's success in attracting attention -- cozying up to Fidel Castro's Cuba, signing an arms deal with Russia, visiting Iran and incessantly criticizing the United States -- has popularized the notion that Chavismo embodies a new future for Latin America. By preserving some freedoms, including a relatively free press and pseudo-democratic elections, Chávez has developed what some observers call a postmodern dictatorship, neither fully democratic nor fully totalitarian, a left-wing hybrid that enjoys a legitimacy never reached in Castro's Cuba or in the Soviet Union.

Latin America has indeed witnessed a turn to this postmodern left in some countries, including in Bolivia, where Evo Morales, Chávez's kindred spirit, won the presidency last year. Nonetheless, the dominant trends in the hemisphere are largely positive: Democracy is strengthening and the political and economic reforms now being undertaken augur well for the future. Venezuela is not a model for the region; rather, its path is unique, the product of a natural resource curse that makes it more comparable to Iran or Russia than any of its Latin American neighbors. Chavismo is not Latin America's future -- if anything, it is its past.

How did Venezuela end up at such a pass? The answer is oil, oil, oil.

Denying dictators the ability to rely on its revenues is jjust one of the many goods that follows from breaking our own dependence on oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 6, 2006 3:50 PM

breaking our own dependence on oil.

Okay, but how do we get the other countries to eliminate their dependence on oil?

After all, we get about 15% of our oil from the Middle East, none from Iran. We could, with some difficulty, eliminate that entirely. But it would be still be a vital area for our economy since our trading partners are so dependent on those resources.

Chavez will still get his money from someone.


Posted by: SteveMG at August 6, 2006 7:53 PM

They'll adopt whatever new technology we do.

Posted by: oj at August 6, 2006 8:42 PM


Sounds like something Cheech Marin would say.

Posted by: ratbert at August 6, 2006 11:13 PM

Damn. The last thing we need is Fukuyama saying he's shot. Given his track record, that means Chavez will probably be around for the next 3 decades, at least. I mean, in Fukyama's reasoning, it's not like Chabvez is on the clock or anything. Sort of like Castre. "Oh, it's just a 55+ year abnormality..."

Posted by: ken at August 7, 2006 1:19 AM

If the U.S. didn't import any oil, the other developed nations would follow suite, if they could. Many of them are even more dependent on imported oil than is America.

The rest of the world would still use oil, but it would sell for $ 7/bbl. That would have negative consequences as well as positive ones.

For instance, Russia depends on oil and natural gas exports.

Posted by: Abner Hathaway at August 7, 2006 5:21 AM

Why would VZ be any different than the rest of the world?

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2006 7:48 AM

Why should we worry about the rest of the world. Let's get our own house in order, build nuclear plants (but pls. let's call them something else, so few of our presidents can pronounce 'nuclear' correctly. BTW- Giuliani is okay with it), exploit our own resources, etc.

I think there's a big surprise coming from Cuba. Both Castro's are either dead or in seriously diminished capacity and the delay it announcing it is to get Fidel's billions into safe hands after which it's possible Chavez will announce that he's taken control until elections can be held. I hope he does it for no other reason that it would make for an interesting scramble in the U.N. to find a reason to condone it.

Posted by: erp at August 7, 2006 9:08 AM

They'll adopt whatever new technology we do

Please don't tell me that it only runs using sand.

Back to Square One.



Posted by: SteveMG at August 7, 2006 8:47 PM
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