Why I’m Glad to See Lower Gold Prices
It’s probably Milton Friedman’s most famous saying: “Put government in charge of the Sahara desert and in five years you’ll have a shortage of sand.”
What sand is to the Sahara, petroleum is to Venezuela. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. More even than Saudi Arabia. It has proved reserves of 297 billion barrels.
But now Venezuela, an oil exporter for almost a century, can’t even meet its domestic oil needs.
Venezuela has begun importing oil.
It’s a familiar story. Like most states, Venezuela is a stranger to fiscal and monetary prudence. It has failed to make the necessary capital investments in its oil industry. Having nationalized the industry and seized the assets of joint venture partners like ExxonMobil and Conoco, Venezuela now finds that others are unwilling risk investing in production deals there.
So now Venezuela has to import oil from places like Algeria and Russia. The money to pay them for oil to make an exportable crude blend will soon run out, too. Then gasoline will join the list of Venezuela’s other shortages like soap and shampoo, rice and milk, coffee and sugar, and even toilet paper.
I write occasionally about events in places like Venezuela and Argentina because they are like laboratory experiments in crazy statist policies and crackpot economic theories.
Despite the consequences there for all to see, we are busily implementing variations of the same policies here.
What does it mean to “put government in charge” of the Sahara’s desert sand or of Venezuela’s oil? It means central economic planning by boards and bureaucrats. It means price interference and controls by politicians. It means cronyism.
Just like putting government in charge of American health care.