Chávez in Context

I was all set for a long post on Chávez and our dumb discussions thereof, but this Chris Hayes segment did it better:

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As Chris noted, it is obnoxious how the only authoritarians who get put into the evil dictator box are the anti-US ones, and as Matt Yglesias noted last week this is obviously driven by US pretensions to worldwide military hegemony.

To add a small point, it’s also striking how discussions of Chávez’s legacy get stripped of all historical context. Here’s Megan McArdle with a piece entitled “Why Chávez was bad for Venezuela.” And sure, probably Norway has done a better job of investing their oil wealth in the foundations of long-term prosperity.

And if we want an example of a leader of a poor country who actually managed proper investment of resource wealth the best by far is Botswana’s Seretse Khama.

But the place to start with Venezuela ought to be the fact it was part of the vicious, genocidal Spanish colonialism which poisoned the political atmosphere of the entire region. A second place might be the fact that discoveries of huge endowments of natural wealth in countries with weak institutions tend to lead to galloping corruption with most of the money skimmed by the elite. (This confluence of factors has nearly destroyed Nigeria, for example.) Any look at how Chávez fared ought to consider the yawning abyss of the alternatives.

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.