Socialism: As Venezuelans prepare to be fingerprinted to buy bread, it bears noting that their country's transformation came with the late Hugo Chavez's promise of "a sea of happiness." Some happiness.
Fact is, socialism has made Venezuela the most miserable place on earth. But don't take our word for it. That's the result of objective research by Johns Hopkins University economist Steve Hanke.
He has created a "Global Misery Index" based on the original inflation-unemployment misery index of the late economist Arthur Okun and the interest rate and GDP per capita additions of Harvard economist Robert Barro. Put them all together and Venezuela tops the globe in misery with a figure of 79.9.
The misery in this case, as in so many others, is the product of socialism implemented in another purported but misguided effort to help the poor.
The fingerprints-for-bread requirement stems from 25% food shortages due to price and currency controls that lead to smuggling — with rationing instead of free markets the socialist answer. By year-end, Venezuelans must stand in line to be fingerprinted before buying 23 basic items including bread, sugar, toilet paper and other necessities in a system President Nicolas Maduro bills as "perfect."
"The whole thing is absurd," writes banker Miguel Octavio at his blog, The Devil's Excrement. "How much does this system cost? Who will run it? Who sells it? Who maintains it? Who profits from it? How do you implement it?" he writes. "Today it is fingerprint scanners, tomorrow it will be some different imaginary battle. But it will always be about attacking the consequences, not the causes."
But socialist failure extends beyond economics. On Monday, Gallup came out with a global perception survey showing Venezuela to be the most dangerous, crime-ridden hellhole on the face of the earth. It even topped all those Central American countries shipping illegal immigrants to the U.S. amid exaggerated tales of gang violence.
One of every 10 of Venezuela's 28 million people, according to a report in El Universal last week, has taken steps (not just contemplated, but taken actual steps) to emigrate. As this goes on, the U.S. embassy in Caracas warns that flights out of the country are severely curtailed, making Venezuela ever more like a prison.
Venezuela's Stefania Fernandez, a former Miss Universe, took her final catwalk from the pageant in 2010 waving a seven-starred Venezuelan flag in a veiled protest against crime. But she's a lot less subtle now, posing for a series of photos this week with a dirty bloody face, wearing her Miss Venezuela tiara.