Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ellsworth Toohey, I mean, Hugo Chavez could not be more from an Ayn Rand novel


Chavez's rise and sustained power shows you the manipulatability of people and the oppression that results from desperation. Desperation causes all sorts of irrational behaviors and if combined with certain psychological/influence techniques can lead to lollapalooza effects.

In that sense, Hugo Chavez is a brilliant practitioner of manipulation and control. Here is his latest bit of evil genius. These 26 Decrees are so Randian, it is remarkable. It's fascinating that one of the most frequent criticisms of Rand's works is how improbable the behaviors of the antagonists are, but here we are watching it happen in real time.

From our perspective here in the US, we look at what is happening in Venezuela and say, "wow, that's crazy. That would never happen here." I hope that sentiment is correct. But I always note that Germans are not so different from traditional Americans. Wiemar Germany operated with a constitution and some semblance of a democracy. The damning cost of "reparations" and the ensuing hyper-inflation met head on with the encroachment of communists and socialists and within 15 years, one of the most glorious countries in the world with a historically proud, strong people succumbed to mental and emotional collapse setting the stage for the rise of Hitler. It certainly does not seem beyond the realm of possibility that it could happen here.

I always think about Munger's boiling frog metaphor (if you put a frog in boiling hot water, it will jump out instantly, but if you put a frog in room-temperature watch and then slowly heat it, it will boil and die). While I'm not sure that's actually true about a frog, the point is obviously incremental changes are hard to track and negative incremental changes can lead to stealthily horrible outcomes (e.g., being boiled). We see things like the suspension of habeus corpus for terrorist suspects, torture being justified in certain situations, preemptive wars, mass federal wire tapping, the socialization of credit risk, the specter of tax increases, and the mass push for government driven social/entitlement programs and I cannot help but wonder what the temperature of the water is.

Having property in New Zealand as an insurance policy against what I refer to as Hotel Rwanda outcomes continues to seem like a good idea.

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