Archive for September 10th, 2014

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Like watching your sister’s kids go to pot

September 10, 2014

The more news I read from Venezuela, the more anti-socialist (or anti-statist, to be clearer) object lessons I see.

To set the scene, Venezuela is a member of OPEC – that’s the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. And Venezuela used to export a fair amount of oil. But here’s a graph of its production for the last 50 years — which is down by about 1/3 in the last 15 — so now Venezuela’s ready to start importing oil.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’ll recall that el señor Chávez was first elected in 1999.

oil-production-venezuela
(Graph from EnergyInsights.net.)

Venezuela Set To Import Oil

The management acumen of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro continues to amaze. Reuters:

Algeria is in talks to export crude oil to fellow OPEC member Venezuela, Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi said on Tuesday, confirming a Reuters report. […]

“Yes, we are in talks,” Yousfi told Reuters when asked whether Algeria was planning to export crude oil to Venezuela. He declined to provide details.

More details come care of the Miami Herald:

It turns out that Venezuela’s own production of light crudes has plummeted since the late President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, and the country desperately needs light crudes to blend with its Orinoco Basin extra heavy crude oils. Without such a blend, the Orinoco Basin’s extra heavy crude is too dense to be transported through pipelines to Venezuelan ports and exported abroad.

Venezuela’s oil production, which accounts for 95 percent of the country’s export earnings, should be used in world classrooms as a textbook case of what happens when a populist government starts distributing a country’s wealth in cash subsidies, without investing in maintenance and innovation. Much like happened with Cuba’s once flourishing sugar industry, Venezuela’s Chávez-inspired populism has destroyed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

In 1999, when Chávez took office, PDVSA had 51,000 employees and produced 63 barrels of crude a day per employee. Fifteen years later, PDVSA had 140,000 employees, and produced 20 barrels of crude a day per employee, according to an Aug. 14 report by the France Press news agency. […]

There was a popular riddle bandied about the Soviet Union back in communist days that went something like this: Question: if the Soviet Union conquered the Sahara, what would happen? Answer: nothing for 50 years, then a shortage of sand.

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Present-day highwaymen is what I’d call them

September 10, 2014

The Institute for Justice has been running a campaign to end civil forfeiture — a topic I mentioned recently with the video about the ‘forfeiture machine’ in Philadelphia.

The IJ contributed to a three-part series in The Washington Post titled Stop and seize. The first installment is a long article but the thing that jumped out at me was this bit (fairly early on).

A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing “trophy shots” of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.

“All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,” Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt.

Hain’s book calls for “turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.”

Evidently we’re all fair game now, according to Deputy Hain.

Here are Part 2 and Part 3.

As I often say, RTWT.

And when you have time, pay a visit to the IJ’s EndForfeiture site.


Update (9/22/14):

Here’s an editorial by John Yoder and Brad Cates (both former directors of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office) that appeared in The Washington Post on September 18th. My emphasis below.

Government self-interest corrupted a crime-fighting tool into an evil

Last week, The Post published a series of in-depth articles about the abuses spawned by the law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture. As two people who were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department in the 1980s, we find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.

Asset forfeiture was conceived as a way to cut into the profit motive that fueled rampant drug trafficking by cartels and other criminal enterprises, in order to fight the social evils of drug dealing and abuse. Over time, however, the tactic has turned into an evil itself, with the corruption it engendered among government and law enforcement coming to clearly outweigh any benefits.

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