“We Will Guarantee Everyone Has a Plasma Television”

Posted on December 16, 2013 by

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The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has told his people that a major appliance retailer in his country is unfairly selling televisions at high prices. His response was to send in troops to take over stores and auction off items at much lower prices. In particular, he believes that his supporters should have plasma televisions. It is hard not to snicker at such boldfaced vote buying. To his credit, he applied a thin veneer of Socialist rhetoric to try and develop some type of rationale for this unprecedented move, but Venezuelans don’t seem to mind. They are just happy to get a cheap TV.

The audacity aside, the phraseology is reminiscent of American political rhetoric stemming from Herbert Hoover’s bid for the presidency in 1928. Hoover’s campaign promised Americans “A chicken in every pot.”  The difference, however, between that promise and Maduro’s is rather startling. Hoover meant that the policies of the Republicans in the 1920s had produced unparalleled prosperity so that Americans were blessed with the necessities of life plus more. The concept of one earning something as opposed to the government coming in and simply making it available to some at reduced cost or no cost at all is remarkably different. In Maduro’s case, He tried a similar move with automobiles in his country and the result was the collapse of the new car market, a significant rise in the cost of used cars, and a failed attempt to bring in Iranian technology to build a domestic car in his country. Maduro provides a case study in what I have argued in this blog in previous submissions. First, the government cannot provide everything we want. When it attempts to, it damages the economy’s ability to produce wealth and everyone is made poorer. Second, the process of politicians pandering like this is not only unbecoming, it simply undermines the democratic process making it untenable. The common good is lost, and individualism run amok is not conducive to producing good government.

As a Christian, I see another lesson here that the Bible is very clear in presenting. Man is fallen and inherently evil. In most cases, he will not seek the good of others. Rather, he will selfishly seek his own gain. It is easy for a politician to pander to the baser side of man, and offer to give him his heart’s desire. One does not have to ponder this long, however, to conclude that such a politician is not who we should want running government. It is easy for such a person to dip into the public till to gratify his or her constituents’ lust for more, but no one would confuse that with good government. Now, you may say, “Well, no U.S. politician would offer something as audacious as a plasma TV!” Perhaps, but how far down the road is it? Huey Long offered Americans a home, a car, a college education and a guaranteed income back in the 1930s. For over 200 years we did not believe the government should provide us with healthcare, and look how quickly we have changed our minds. Perhaps we need to return to the lessons of Judeo-Christian thought. Man needs government to restrain evil, but not much more. When we give government the opportunity to meet our wants or even our needs, we are creating a recipe for disaster.

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