Joel Belz: The Venezuelan irony

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, March 13th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. WORLD founder Joel Belz now on the stability of nations.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: If the socialist government of Venezuela topples sometime during these winter months, a question will loom: Who gets to shape the government of Venezuela’s future?

It’s not a binary choice. Every student of foreign affairs should know the disappearance of one bad dude doesn’t mean a good dude will replace him.

For a very different example, go back 30 years to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. At the time I asked a question in my WORLD Magazine column: “What if hundreds of thousands of people from communism’s eastern bloc, pressed and bruised for generations by an iron heel, dash to the wall’s free side only to discover nothing ultimately worthy of so dramatic a journey?”

A possible key is in the word “ultimately.” Certainly, refugees from one bankrupt totalitarian state will find much in the free world’s storehouse of riches to make them accept what are often long waiting periods.

And they will discover a variety of freedoms they never dreamed of—a commodity far more important than having a chicken in every pot: The right to decide what they want in that pot.

But after the Venezuelans restock their supermarkets and begin to digest the richness of a free market, what then? Will they find a substance deeper than that of some exotic perfume they’ve never breathed before? Will they find the struggle was worth it?

The issue is not really whether Marxist communism, or a watered down substitute called socialism, can survive. We already know it can’t. The issue is instead whether what replaces those communistic and socialistic governments are ultimately any more durable.

Abraham Lincoln asked a more profound question in his Gettysburg address, when he noted that the ongoing war was to test “whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” The Civil War ended, and in it, the U.S. passed one notable test.

But the test of which Lincoln spoke remains immeasurably bigger. It is finally a test whether government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”—fallen people, mind you—can survive on planet Earth.

If some kind of constitutional democracy comes in the weeks and months just ahead to Venezuela, we should all rejoice. But after all these years of unruliness from the top down, it will be interesting to see whether the people cooperate from the bottom up.

Here in the U.S., we’ve been blessed for more than two centuries with a rugged Constitution to balance the whims and fancies of a popular democracy.

Venezuela—with its incredible natural resources—has nothing remotely like the U.S. Constitution. No such restraints are in place. And there’s no such model for the nation’s new leaders to follow.

Which means Abraham Lincoln would probably be asking the very same questions.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano) Supporters of National Assembly President Juan Guaido run to join him as he arrives for a meeting with supporters in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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