Hugo Chávez is consolidating and increasing the state’s dominance in Venezuela. He is threatening "to take over any private schools refusing to submit to the oversight of his socialist government," according to a recent Associated Press article.
Chávez is taking Venezuela down the totalitarian drain, and this is a shame. We have seen this great evil happen before in many countries, in Cuba, in Russia, in Germany, in too many countries to list. The state’s takeover of a country’s people and society is the rule, not the exception. It is the ever-present danger. It is the trend of any state. It is the state’s raison d’être. The state can only be turned aside from this, its evil mission, by the counter-action of those whom it rules. They must not only know vividly what the evil is that threatens them, but they must stand up against it or else lose the dignity of their lives and possibly their lives. Indifference brings defeat. Defeat is giving unchecked power to an evil minority. There is strength in numbers, but only if those numbers know what is good and what is evil and seek the good.
Ignorance of what the state is and does is a weapon in the state’s hands. The persons who wrote this AP article do not realize that socialist government in the U.S. has, in its own despotic way, been subjecting U.S. schools to its oversight. I have never seen an AP article that characterized the U.S. government as "socialist," despotic, or tyrannical, even though it is, and even though the trend toward greater tyranny cannot be mistaken. The tyrannies of the West disguise and entrench themselves well. They disguise their unchecked power under the mantle of voting, idealistic goals, and democracy.
Chávez has made earlier moves to rewrite the constitution, to centralize national power over the regional governments, and to take over the central bank and control the country’s money supply. He, his party, and the state are expanding their power. The Venezuelan government closed down the broadcast operations of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) on May 27, 2007 and seized its property. Riots resulted.
Chávez claims the revolution is the ticket to freeing Venezuelans from their chains of capitalism and imperialism. This is a big lie. To free Venezuelans from what he and socialists call capitalism and imperialism, Chávez did not have to augment and centralize his and the state’s powers as he has done and continues to do. If he knew who and what the truly coercive antagonists were, as he claims to, he and the state could have easily neutralized them by dismantling the legal supports of their coercion. He could long ago have created a free society. Libertarians could have sent him a 60-day plan. Even some ex-Chicago gang graduates might have made themselves available. No, the intention of Chávez is not to free Venezuelans. His generic off-the-shelf anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolutionary rhetoric is not driven by a love for freedom and free markets. His aim is to institute an anti-free market tyranny, under the name of a socialist revolution that remakes (dominates and controls) society from top to bottom. Every move that Chávez makes reveals this despotic intention.
What is power for if not to be used? As night follows day, when the powers of a government are increased and utilized, the degree of tyranny in the country increases. Power moves inversely to individual freedom, justice, private property, and economic growth.
Parallel power-centralizing events have been engineered in the history of the United States. The original constitution (1787) centralized power at the national level as compared with the prior Articles of Confederation. Subsequent amendments and Supreme Court interpretations further centralized national power. Within the nation, the two-party system has monopolized power. U.S. presidents have assumed enormous powers. The U.S. established its central bank, the Federal Reserve System, in 1913. These innovations were cunningly and falsely advertised as overcoming various purported grievances, but the state itself caused or exaggerated the events that triggered its own despotic increases in power.
The U.S., at its own slower pace and in its own devious ways, like Venezuela has also trended toward increased state power, that is, tyranny and despotism. It is a cause for wonder and study how such a despotism is brought about and maintained in a country like ours right before our eyes. The Venezuelan events, sad as they are and will be for Venezuelans unless the politics shift, provide us with a clear mirror to our own reality if we will but turn away from other diversions long enough to look into it.
My knowledge of how the people of Venezuela are taking Chávez’ moves is no more than what anyone can obtain by searching the internet. I do not know the ins and outs of who is resisting him or how he is dealing with the resistance. I do not know what political alternatives people have. I’ve never been to Venezuela. I do not know its history, its culture, its people, or its language. I do not read its newspapers. I could not tell you about its geography, economy, or politics.
But if I had lived in 1932 and seen the moves made by Hitler or in 1918 and seen the moves made by Lenin, would I have needed to know all these sorts of details to know that these rulers were bad actors and doing badly by the people of their countries? What we need to make these judgments, without knowing countless details (which no one ever does), is a decent model in our minds of what constitutes good and evil when it comes to the political and social actions of powerful political figures. That model need not be complicated. In a good society, individuals and groups acting in decentralized and free fashion cultivate their own welfare. They associate freely. They secure their property. They act responsibly. In an evil society, centralized governments constantly increase their power while they suppress and control local governments. They interfere with business and property. They regulate the details of life. They suppress speech, control education, control money, levy high taxes, redistribute wealth, build up strong military establishments, threaten their neighbors, suppress religious and other groups within their own countries, spread propaganda, build up charismatic leaders, etc. All of these are clear signs of evil; they are the outcroppings of the central evil. The central political and social evil is excessive and unchecked power that is used to dominate and control people. There are many, many more signs of it, such as abridgment of civil liberties, justice denied and perverted, informers, wiretapping, unreasonable searches and seizures, arbitrary arrests, people disappearing, internments and imprisonments, rigged trials, identity cards, etc.
While this is not rocket science, it is also not the common knowledge that it should be; or at least we do not routinely encounter the appropriate condemnation of these evils as symptoms of the central evil of dominating power.
In a democracy, we ourselves instigate, support, and tolerate the evils of the state even when we know they are evils. The state’s evils are not common knowledge because, wanting them, we suppress the knowledge of them. We do not teach the state’s evils in home, school, and church because we are perpetuating the evils ourselves; and because our youngsters would realize that we are supporting an evil system and that our own government is engaged in pervasive evil.
The democratic state controls and influences us using its unbridled and improper power, but we also influence it. The traffic runs on a deadly two-way street. We create the evil, and the state’s evils in some measure reflect who we are. Conversely, the state uses its evil power against us and others.
The fact that children become adults who do not clearly know and also suppress the knowledge of the difference between good and evil acts when it comes to government actions, and who fail to do much about them when they do recognize them, means that the education of children fails to convey the right social ethics.
Education will always be controlled by adults. But through what institutions? Who will be the educators and what will they teach? In the AP article, Chávez justified his threats about education by noting "that a state role in regulating education is internationally accepted in countries from Germany to the United States." Evil knows how to justify itself by its presence elsewhere. State control over education is a very great evil.
Reads the article: "All Venezuelan schools, both public and private, must submit to state inspectors enforcing the new educational system. Those that refuse will be closed and nationalized, Chávez said." According to Chávez’ brother, who is education minister, there will be new textbooks and a new curriculum. Official syllabi in Venezuela are now peppered with readings from Das Kapital (Karl Marx), the speeches of Fidel Castro, and quotations of Chávez. The little red book of quotations of Mao Tse Tung appeared in Communist China in 1966.
Given the state’s ever-consuming drive to maintain and increase its own power, it will use education to further these aims if it can. It usually can, through budget control, taxation, and laws controlling schooling. But state-controlled education is a recipe for eliminating, blurring, and inverting the distinctions between good and evil acts. It is a recipe for supplying state-controlled, state-manufactured, and state-glorifying memes. The same basic process has occurred in the U.S. as is occurring in Venezuela.
The goal noised about for Venezuelan and world consumption is that of spreading the socialist ideology and/or creating a new collective ideology, while rooting out what is labeled as capitalist ideology such as Columbus and Superman. Young people will be taught "critical reflection, dialogue, and volunteer work." The purported goal is to create "the new citizen."
But while Chávez recycles twentieth-century slogans, his real intent is to manipulate the psychology and incentives of the population so as to produce compliance and docility. Control is the aim and the only aim of state-led measures that put control in place, both in Venezuela and the U.S.
Control is not a means to an end. It is the end.
George Orwell made this clear in his novel about totalitarianism, 1984: "u2018You understand well enough how the party maintains itself in power. Now tell me why we cling to power. What is our motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak,’ he added as Winston remained silent…"
"Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?"
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.