In 1992, when free-lance writer Jim Wilson arrived in Venezuela, that country was among Latin America’s richest countries, with the world’s largest oil reserves. Now, after 24 years, he says, “ I am leaving the disaster Venezuela has become.”

In his recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, he says that people kept asking him the same question, “You can leave this disaster, why don’t you?” He says that he did not want to leave, but the signs of a collapsing country were all around him; extreme poverty (minimum wage at $20/month); rationing of almost everything from electricity to medicine (“aspirin has become a luxury”); government corruption; political repression; crime; and a vast exodus by anyone who had any other place to go. He lays the blame for this national collapse on the Hugo Chavez’s socialism programs begun in the late 1990’s.

It is a story that has played out multiple times across the globe. In the nescient beginnings of a country’s experience with socialism all seems well, and for some, things initially get better. But at its heart socialism is not a “building” economic system. It is a
“Now-Moment-Only” system. It is constantly in the business of liquidating assets to pay for current expenses. It is a “cut flower” system which survives initially on assets it did not produce, and inherently cannot replace.  Eventually, as Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, socialism “runs out of other people’s money”. What is left is bankruptcy.

The proponents of this system are willfully ignorant of the results and claim that it is not the fallacies inherent in the system that are the problem.  David Horowitz, one of the leaders of the New Left in the 1960’s, disagrees. In his book,” The Black Book of the American Left”, he states:

In practice, socialism didn’t work. But socialism could never have worked because it is based on false premises about human psychology and society, and gross ignorance of human economy.

A national economic system built on “false premises“, and “gross ignorance” can spell misery for a nation. But, in America today it is believed that a National Ethic can be built on the false premise and moral ignorance of secularism. It is best described, not in the combative stance that there is no God, but rather a life pattern that says that no God is needed. Os Guinness expresses this in his book, Impossible People:

It doesn’t say, for example, ‘No faith allowed here’ but  ‘No faith is needed here’. Contrary to Jesus and the Torah, modernity claims that man can now live ‘by bread alone, or rather by science, technology, management and marketing alone.

The falseness of secularism begins with the fact that it draws from a system that is outside of itself. As surely as socialism cannibalizes pre-existing assets, secularism has a parasitic relationship to morals.  Guinness again:

modern liberal secular societies have themselves risen from and still depend on philosophical and ethical traditions that come from outside themselves.  As a matter of simple, historical record, most of the indispensable foundations of the sanctity of life, the dignity of a person, freedom, justice, equality, and virtue are pre-political and religious in character.

In other words, secularism survives initially on moral assets it did not produce and cannot replace. It is a “cut flower” ethical system that uses a vocabulary that is not its own. Eventually, it will, like its economic equivalent, reach a moral tipping point and produce ethical bankruptcy.

There may be a time when outside investors will bring money back into Venezuela. Others may come to its economic rescue.  An economy is one thing, but where does a nation find recovery when its moral treasures have been despoiled?




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