Living Atlas Shrugged in Venezuela

This sounds so much like the latter stages of Atlas Shrugged, when one by one Colorado businesses shut down, worsening shortages across he country.  The government tries to come in and restart each factory, but there is no confidence that the government can actually do the job and within months the whole thing has imploded forever.

Over the weekend, Kimberly-Clark said that the South American nation’s deteriorating economic situation had made “it impossible to continue our business at this time."  The company had made a number of hard-to-find staples in Venezuela such as diapers and face tissues.

As Bloomberg adds, the decision will likely to add to shortages that have gripped Venezuela for the past few years after the ruling socialists capped the price on many consumer basics below production costs." As we have documented repeatedly, desperate shoppers now routinely spend long hours in front of stores to purchase essential products ranging from toilet paper to rice. At the same time, companies face hefty losses on price-controlled goods, while the products are often flipped on the black market for many times their sticker price.

So in retaliation, Venezuela's government announced it had seized the factory.  Labor Minister Owaldo Vera said Monday that the socialist government took the action at the request of the 971 workers at the factory that the company decided to shutter. The seizure follows a similar takeover from 2014 when Clorox announced it was closing its doors.

"Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all of the Venezuelans," Vera said in a televised statement from the factory surrounded by workers chanting pro-government slogans. That statement was not exactly true: former workers of the company would continue producing under the observation of government management. We doubt this "forced restructring" will survive more than a few months.

I have written this before, but I interpret Atlas Shrugged a bit differently than most.  There is much criticism of the one-dimensional characters and limited character development in the book.  But I have always thought this beside the point.  The main character in Atlas Shrugged is the world itself, and the main story arc is the decline and fall of the world under the increasing influence of socialism.  All the human characters are just props to this main drama.

In this interpretation, the climax of the book is when the hobo Jeff Allen tells the story of 20th Century Motors to Dagny on the train.  This story shows the final death throws of a group of people attempting to pursue socialism in its purest form.  It's a statement of the end towards which everything else is quickly heading.  After this point in the book, we immediately are in Galt's Gulch and end up with Rand's Utopian vision, which from a literary standpoint is awkward and boring.  That's because utopian novels are always dull as dirt.  Rand's triumph in that book was that she was absolutely prescient about how socialism plays out, which we are seeing today in Venezuela.


  1. DaveK:

    The estimate that they can keep the K-C tissue factory open for "a few months" is wildly optimistic.

  2. bigfire:

    For starter, raw materials, electricity, paying workers. All of those are mana from heaven that Hugo Chavez will surely provide for.

  3. Tanuki Man:

    Death throes, not "throws."

  4. jdgalt:

    AS was about the state seizing people's creative ideas and trying to make them work with government appointed bureaucrats running the companies. What you say about socialism is true, but toilet paper and diapers aren't exactly new inventions. The Soviet Union would make a better parallel here than AS.

  5. mlhouse:

    Socialist believe that the law of supply and demand is just a suggestion.

  6. Andrew_M_Garland:

    Our Dear Leader has thrown out the greedy, capitalist dogs who have owned the wealth rightfully belonging to the people. He has given us these plantations for direct operation by the People's Cooperatives. Comrades, who of you knows Excel?

  7. jdgalt:

    Check out, Comrade!

  8. Matthew Slyfield:

    The best comparison of capitalism and communism I have ever read: In a capitalist society, goods wait in the store for shoppers. In a communist system shoppers wait in the store for goods.

  9. Todd Ramsey:

    Wednesday WSJ headline: "Venezuela Army to Control Food"

  10. DirtyJobsGuy:

    The most riveting part of Atlas Shrugged is the story of the automobile company that gradually fails due to socialist management. Rand experienced this in Soviet Russia and here her writing is spot on and well written. She explains how to "give according to their needs" rather than by their merits turns the firm into a mass of special pleaders and rent seekers. The central state exists to control and cannot allow any deviation. It would be humorous except that in Venezuela patients die in hospitals waiting for unavailable drugs. The productive citizens already left years ago for other oil patches like Canada. There are Venezuelan football clubs in Ft McMurry Alberta of all places.

  11. Jason Calley:

    Old joke from the USSR:
    Question: "What has a hundred legs and lives on cabbage?"
    Answer: "The line in front of a Russian meat market."

  12. Ann_In_Illinois:

    Terminology is everything. They don't spend, they "invest". They don't rig the market, they simply "manage" it. They say that they believe in the market, and in competition and supply and demand. It's just that it has to be managed.

  13. Loog Moog:

    obamma voters rejoice ! another triumph for socialism !
    now, lets all vote for Queen Hillary !

  14. Al Kenny:

    Actually rereading Atlas Shrugged right now....I agree with your metaphor about it being how society and industry breaks down sliding to socialism but I think the worst part of her writing are the romantic pieces. They are so cringe inducing that I just skip them totally :)