Venezuelans will “enjoy” an extended Easter holiday next week as a worsening electricity shortage has forced the government to shut down the country for five days.
President Nicolas Maduro granted everyone an extra three days off work next week, making the typically two-day Easter holiday five days long. The goal is to ease demand on Venezuela’s power grid.
William Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C., has studied centrally planned societies, recently writing a book called “Utopian Road to Hell: Enslaving America and the World with Central Planning.” He believes he knows what the real problem is.
“The reason that there’s an electricity shortage, a power shortage, in Venezuela is because power in Venezuela is supplied in the same way that Bernie Sanders wants to supply education and medicine in the United States – free of charge,” Murray told WND. “There is no charge for electricity in Venezuela.”
According to Bloomberg, the Venezuelan government has rationed electricity and water for months and encouraged citizens to avoid waste. Venezuela is in the midst of a prolonged drought that has reduced output at hydroelectric dams, which supply the majority of the country’s power.
But rationing is pointless if electricity is freely available, Murray noted.
“It is considered a right of the people to get power, and because of that, there’s no way to ration it other than for the government to cut it off and tell people they can’t have it,” he said. “If you don’t pay for something, if you have no skin in the game, if you have absolutely no money coming out of your pocket for the price of the goods you’re receiving, you’re not going to limit yourself in what you’re going to receive.”
Venezuela indeed has taken drastic measures to try and limit the amount of electricity the population uses. Last month, the government ordered more than 250 shopping malls to eschew electrical power from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the next three months. Most malls, unable to find an alternate power source, have been closing down during those time slots.
Yahoo News reported Venezuelan companies are largely unable to import the necessary equipment to generate their own power because the government enforces strict capital controls that have led to a shortage of foreign currency.
Electricity rationing is nothing new to Venezuela. In April 2015 the government implemented a rationing plan to try and counter a surge in demand due to rising temperatures. Officials cut the workday for public officials to six hours, asked private companies to increase energy efficiency and inspected malls and factories to ensure they met reduced power consumption goals.
An article in the Guardian written at the time admitted, “The country’s average annual consumption per household is 5,878 kilowatt-hours, double the average of the region owing largely to sizable subsidies that allow consumers to run air conditioners with little regard to cost.”
That’s the problem with a socialist system, according to Murray.
“When you have a subsidized government such as this where things are centrally planned and they decide what the people need and how much the people should pay rather than it being determined by how much the product cost to produce, this is the problem that you have,” he said.
Naturally, the socialist regime in Venezuela has blamed the electricity crisis on changing weather patterns that caused a drought and on “sabotage” by political enemies. Critics, meanwhile, have blamed Maduro’s administration for failing to anticipate the problem and not investing enough in the country’s power grid.
Murray believes the critics are closer to the truth.
“The true problem here is that there’s no money to build the infrastructure because they don’t charge for the product,” Murray explained. “That’s the problem, and they can blame weather patterns, they can blame whatever they want, but the thing is they have been forced to cut off power now for more than a decade because the infrastructure’s collapsing, nothing new is being built, nothing is being repaired.”
As Murray alluded, Venezuela has suffered a number of electricity crises over the past several years. In 2010, for example, then-President Hugo Chavez added three days to the Easter week holiday to try and conserve power, just like Maduro did this year. Three years later, widespread blackouts led to numerous complaints and protests around the country.
The solution to these frequent crises is simple, according to Murray, and it involves embracing the free market.
“If they want to fix the power situation in Venezuela, all they need to do is charge for it,” he reasoned. “Now I know that seems like an unusual or extreme thing, but we have cities in this country, and Detroit is an example, where they’re saying people should not have to pay their water bills, that this is a right and if they’re behind on their water bill, that doesn’t mean they should have to pay for it, that somehow they should be able to have this free. And you cannot have consumable products delivered for free. The resources simply aren’t there, and people are not – are not – going to limit themselves in what they get.”
Murray said electricity crises are not nearly as frequent in the United States because the free enterprise system is more flexible than socialism.
“The free enterprise system can produce more of something when there’s a shortage, and a socialist system can’t because they have to produce these plans of a few individuals who think what’s going to be needed, and very rarely are they correct,” he said.