“Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic

Venezuela's Economic Crisis Caused by SocialismIf you want an online socialist to feel exasperated, one of the best ways is to ask them “so, what do you think about Venezuela? Then — before they type a response — say checkmate! That will usually do the trick. Any socialist or leftist with enough patience take up the cause on the interwebs has surely run into the “what-about-Venezuela” fallacy at some point and it’s a reliable red-flag ( pun intended ) that a discussion is about to get reactionary. Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or even Thanksgiving with the extended family — no public forum, social network, or comment section is safe.

Socialism Collapsed Venezuela's Economy, Says Right-Wing Forums on Reddit
Pulled from the first few pages of search results for “Venezuela” on Reddit (6/21/2017). A majority of these types of posts come from /r/The_Donald & /r/Libertarian

These comments, articles, & memes make the argument that Venezuela’s current economic trouble somehow proves that socialism will never work. Since the Venezuelan crisis is truly heart-breaking, right-wing bloggers often try to persuade people ( & themselves ) that it “exposes” socialism by using deeply flawed — but sadly effective — emotional arguments. To help clean up our shared digital environment, here are a few of the clearer & quicker ways to dismantle a what-about-Venezuela argument with a bit of logic & critical thinking…

Weapons of Mass Instruction:
Does the Venezuelan Crisis “Disprove” Socialism? Logic Says No

Venezuela's "Descent Into Chaos"

The ad Venezuelum fallacy wears many different masks but they are all the same once you remove the packaging. Whether it’s a meme or some fancy-pants article in the National Review, the implied reasoning is: if economies fail as a result of bad economic ideas & if Venezuela’s economy is failing, then socialism is a bad idea. Here it is in its basic logical form:

ArgumentReasoningSyllogismSet Theory
Major PremiseSince economies fail as a result of bad economic ideas…Failing economies are the result of a nation’s economic ideasAll M is Ps(A) ⊆ s(B)
Minor PremiseAnd if Venezuela’s economy is failing…Venezuela’s economic crisis is a failing economyAll S is Ms(C) ⊆ s(A)
ConclusionThen Venezuela’s economic idea, called socialism, must be a bad economic ideaVenezuela’s economic crisis is the result of their nation’s economic ideasAll S is Ps(C) ⊆ s(B)

It may be awkward but that is one way to turn an argument into formal logic and the cool thing about formal logic is it’s a lot like math ( math is cool, right guys? ), which lets us grade their work. Formal logic is either true, false, or invalid, just like math — 2 + 2 is definitely 4 and dividing by zero is invalid ( unless you want to torture a calculator ). Formulas like E=mc² prove things in physics and syllogisms are like formulas to prove things in logic. Like E=mc², a valid syllogism must give the right answer — the numbers change but the formula must always work or its wrong. Make sense?

So, if the major premise is true ( failing economies are the results of bad economic ideas ) then we will see bad economic ideas wherever we see a failing economy — like Zimbabwe in the ’90s.

If the Major Premise Is True, Capitalism Also Fails

Venezuela Socialism Right-Wing Memes
And here we see the ad Venezuelum fallacy in meme form…

In 1992, Zimbabwe — a capitalist country — watched as its manufacturing output dropped by half, dragging real wages with it. After cutting social spending, privatizing public infrastructure, & opening their markets to foreign capital, Zimbabwe’s inflation skyrocketed while growth stagnated. By ’98, their economy went into free fall & their currency devalued by over 80%. By 2002, 60-70% were under the poverty line, life expectancy dropped to 37 years, interest rates ran at 70%, & millions could no longer afford to eat.

According to the reactionaries’ own argument, capitalism must also be considered a bad economic idea since the logic applies to Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, as you can see below:

ArgumentReasoningSyllogismSet Theory
Major PremiseSince economies fail as a result of bad economic ideas…Failing economies are the result of a nation’s economic ideasAll M is Ps(A) ⊆ s(B)
Minor PremiseAnd if Venezuela’s Zimbabwe’s economy is failing…Venezuela’s Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is a failing economyAll S is Ms(C) ⊆ s(A)
ConclusionThen Venezuela’s Zimbabwe’s economic idea, socialism capitalism, must be a bad economic ideaVenezuela’s Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is the result of their nation’s economic ideasAll S is Ps(C) ⊆ s(B)

If the reasoning is correct , we could make the same argument against capitalism using the great depression in Argentina from 1998 – 2002. Or the the United States after the “Roarin’ Twenties” when stocks crashed by 90%, production fell by half, 1/4th were unemployed, & 50% of children underfed, while those in Appalachia were so hungry that folks had to stop them from chewing their own hands.

Even if their argument was correct, the reactionary logic still puts the two modes of production on equal footing — which means the whole thing is pretty much useless. As they say — those who live in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.

We Should Wish Venezuela Luck
Instead of Reveling in Their Misfortune

Child in the US, During the Great Depression
US child protesting the failure of capitalism in the ’30s

The science of the production & distribution of wealth in society — economics — is complex. Even well-thought out policies can go awry & good systems run by smart folks can fail when you consider shortages, trade, war, natural disaster, climate, luck, & the actions of others — things nobody can control. Instead of gloating over the suffering of other nations with different ideas, it would be better to study & understand the real causes so that humans can avoid them in the future.

Besides, the best human innovations are often the ones which we tried & failed at the most. As an analogy, look at the attempts to engineer a working airplane before the first successful flight-test of an airplane, from Da Vinci to Orville Wright. In the year 1900, just a bit before the first successful test-flights,  the idea of of an airplane had been around for some time but — so far — each attempt to build a working one failed. Do we want to be remembered as the ones who dismissed the idea of a vehicle which uses the principle of lift to achieve flight — just because 1 attempt went down in spectacular flames? We do not. And, for the same reason, every one of us ought to be rooting for Venezuela’s success — not using their plight to reinforce our faith in our aging ideologies….

In solidarity,
John Laurits

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Kate
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Kate

How can all the arguments about the collapse of Venezuela fail to mention all the hard work (snerk) of the US agents of mass destruction? They couldn’t succeed in their coup attempts against Chavez until he was dead and a mediocre successor in his place.

Leonardo Varuzza
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Leonardo Varuzza

Yes, this is true. Uncle Sam worked with Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to destroy what would be a paradise on earth because we now they are all evil.

Jbones
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Jbones

Yes,we all know the CIA just sits at home twiddling their thumbs all day. They would never interfere with the economy of an oil rich foreign nation, especially not a country that nationalized its most precious natural resources.

Rob-bear
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Rob-bear
I think you covered some of the important points in the downfall of Venezuela. The logic of your article seems reasonable. But I’m an ethicist and historian by training, not a logician. Sadly, you omitted the central element — the activity of the US Central Intelligence Agency. Kate rightly describes its people as “the US agents of mass destruction.” 1. Most people have forgotten how the democratically-elected government of Chile was overthrown in 1973. They have forgotten the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet — the murders, the disappearances, the torture. The handiwork of the CIA. 2. They have forgotten the Shah of Iran, installed by the British and Russians,… Read more »
Leon Stephens
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Those here (and everywhere) who rail against socialism are implicitly supporting a notion that capitalism is above criticism, that the US . To be sure, isms usually result in disaster because they are the practical fruits of rigid ideologies which define the world in a certain way, so that their committed followers are not permitted by their devotion to observe reality and adapt practice to perception. But whether one “works” better than another is a question that contains, in itself, a deception: the question always assumes a common goal, the efficient working of society to the benefit of all, that is, everyone who is willing to participate according… Read more »
Leon Stephens
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[end of truncated first sentence in first post: is the greatest country in the world, etc.] [continuation from last sentence of first post:] So, capitalism always works perfectly: it aims to put the greater part of the available property, goods and money in the hands of a “successful” minority and impoverish a sufficient portion of the population to insure a steady supply of cheap labor, and it has succeeded admirably from its beginnings until today. In fact, from this point of view we can say it is at the pinnacle of its success, because with globalization it has a worldwide supply of virtual slaves (unless you consider fifty… Read more »
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