Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, August 05, 2005


Probably against my better judgment, I have a sneaking admiration for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. I respect a guy who is willing to hurl down the gauntlet against a world order that he believes is unjust. Also, he seems to be fairly generous with Venezuela's oil money. Courageous defiance of an unjust order and generosity towards foreigners with his country's resources are also the virtues for which I most admire George W. Bush.

There's plenty that's disturbing in this Weekly Standard article about him. The regime seems to be spurring a new anti-Semitism at home, and abroad, the company Chavez keeps doesn't do him much credit. He's tight with totalitarians: right now he is on great terms with Iran, Syria, Libya and Cuba; earlier he visited Saddam and embraced him as a "brother." What's intriguing is that most of these ties go across civilizational lines; Chavez leads a Latin and Catholic country, yet he is forging bonds with Islamofascists.

Chavez expresses solidarity with terrorists and tyrants, but as far as I know he himself hasn't committed any atrocities. In view of that, his solidarity with bad guys may be forgivable. It's a combination of being charitable-- a sort of weird application of "judge not that ye be not judged"-- and of an opinion that the "rogues" of this world are both lesser evils and enemies of an unjust order.

And it is an unjust order. American and European workers enjoy far higher wages, in large part because we shut our borders to foreign workers, preventing the benign forces of migration and arbitrage from bringing about a more equitable world. That injustice alone is more than enough to warrant all of Chavez's anger.

Also, Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. Whereas property in the US is based largely on work and merit, in Latin America it is based on privilege. I don't expect the likes of Chavez to be able to do much to improve the lot of the poor in Latin America. But I respect him and his "Bolivarian revolution," even if only for shaking his fist at it.

And we have one more thing to thank Chavez for: the menace he poses to US influence in Latin America helped to motivate the passage of CAFTA as a "national security vote" to keep Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala in the democratic column. If only Chavez would inspire Congress to deprive him of another ally by lifting the embargo on Cuba!


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