John Stossel: Lessons from Venezuela

Democrats say President Joe Biden won “a strong mandate.” His government can do all sorts of good things!

I don’t believe he has a mandate, but thanks to the selfishness of former President Donald Trump, Democrats control Congress, and that may give them power to shove their worst ideas down our throats. Those include:

No. 1: Hate speech laws.

No. 2: Expanding the Supreme Court.

No. 3: Gun control.

No. 4: Spending much more.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have noticed that these “reforms” were just tried in a country near us. My new video reveals how they worked out (spoiler alert: badly).

Venezuela became progressives “it” country when Hugo Chavez became president.

Celebrities like Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore showered him with praise. Sean Penn called him “one of the most important forces we’ve had on this planet.”

“You have to be blind to believe that,” responds Andres Guilarte of The Fund for American Studies.

Guilarte is one of many Venezuelans who risked his life to protest socialist rule. When the protests failed, he came to the United States as a refugee.

Today, protest is even riskier in Venezuela, because of progressive reform No. 1: the “Law Against Hatred.”

Half America’s Democrats support that, says a YouGov poll.

They should rethink what they want, says Guilarte, because “the ruling party … (gets to decide) what hate speech is.”

In Venezuela, critics of the government now face jail time.

No. 2: Some Democrats want to add four new justices to the Supreme Court. Sen. Ed Markey says the new justices would “restore balance” after years of Republican rule.

Chavez added justices to Venezuela’s Supreme Court.

He “changed it from 20 people to 32 people,” says Guilarte. After that, “the court never ruled against him.” It let him shut down opposition media and confiscate 1,000 private businesses.

No. 3: American Democrats want gun control.

In Venezuela now, only the army, police and certain favored groups may have guns. That made it even easier for officials to come to people’s homes and take their property.

“You’re just in your shop, selling shoes,” explains Guilarte. “Some government officer arrives and says, ‘We’re going to shut down your business.’ That would be completely different if that business owner had a gun.”

“But the government would just come in with bigger guns,” I suggest.

“If we had a culture like you have in the U.S.,” Guilarte responds, “It would have been incredibly difficult.”

Venezuela’s gun control didn’t even reduce crime. In fact, Venezuela’s murder rate rose. Venezuela now has the third-highest murder rate in the world.

“These laws never work,” says Guilarte. “Citizens don’t have guns. But the criminals have bigger guns!”

No. 4: The most important lesson from Venezuela is the idea that governments can fund whatever they want to do simply by printing more money.

“The Federal government can never run out of money,” says Modern Monetary Theory economist Stephanie Kelton. She’s convinced politicians that they can spend much more without worrying about inflation.

“Well, of course, John,” replies Guilarte, sarcastically. “That’s how the economy works. You just print money because money comes up from trees.”

Venezuela printed money and won praise from progressives by spending some on programs they said would help the poor. But the poor and the middle class were crushed by the inflation that followed: 20% … then 100% … 3,000% … 40,000%! This destroyed Venezuela.

Inflation in America has risen to 5.4%. Bad, but of course, nothing close to what happened in Venezuela.

“Doesn’t mean that it can’t happen!” warns Guilarte.

That, unfortunately, is true.

“We were the richest economy in Latin America,” he points out. “People from America came to Venezuela to build businesses.”

Now the country is in shambles.

“Everything can fall to the ground really quickly,” says Guilarte. “Inflation is like a cancer. You never know when it’s going to hit you.”

Let’s learn from socialism’s failures.

The idea that massive government spending and other progressive feel-good policies will help America, when these same ideas failed horribly elsewhere, is a dangerous myth.

PHOTO: Hugo Chavez. Photo by Valter Campanato. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). 

John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit