Milton Friedman and the Sahara, Caracas and water

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz | May 7th, 2014

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Milton Friedman and the Sahara, Caracas and water

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Back in the day, Mil­ton Fried­man said,

If you put the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a short­age of sand.”

The U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment is not in charge of the Sahara, but the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment is in charge of the country’s water supply.

Small won­der water is now in short sup­ply, along with many other basic goods:
Cara­cas to begin four months of water rationing

Water use in Cara­cas will be rationed for at least four months due to drought, author­i­ties said Tues­day, as Venezuela grap­ples with short­ages of basic goods which have spurred mas­sive anti-​government protests.

One in every four goods includ­ing basic food, hygiene prod­ucts, med­i­cine and auto parts, how­ever, have already become dif­fi­cult to find, result­ing in long, lengthy lines.

The irony is that Venezuela has the high­est water resources and great­est hydro­elec­tric capac­ity (except for Brazil) in South Amer­ica. The coun­try has a dry sea­son and a rainy sea­son, but what’s impor­tant is this:

Even when fully oper­at­ing and unaf­fected by drought, water sup­ply lev­els in the cap­i­tal area are below inter­na­tional stan­dards, capa­ble of pro­vid­ing 340 liters per per­son per day, which is suf­fi­cient for house­hold con­sump­tion but falls short of com­mer­cial and indus­trial demands.

The dete­ri­o­ra­tion of Venezuela’s infra­struc­ture is noth­ing new. Back in 2011, The Econ­o­mist had an arti­cle about the dis­as­trous results of Hugo Chavez’s nation­al­iza­tion pro­gram:

After oppo­si­tion can­di­dates were elected to many state gov­er­nor­ships in 2008, the pres­i­dent re-​centralised many pub­lic ser­vices, tak­ing them out of the hands of the states. These included roads, ports and air­ports, all of which have expe­ri­enced accel­er­ated dete­ri­o­ra­tion ever since.

faustaAs we in the U.S. are fac­ing ever-​increasing fed­eral gov­ern­ment intru­sion into all aspects of the econ­omy (includ­ing the pro­posed fed­eral tolls on inter­state high­ways), remem­ber Milton’s immor­tal words.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and cul­ture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Back in the day, Milton Friedman said,

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

The U.S. federal government is not in charge of the Sahara, but the Venezuelan government is in charge of the country’s water supply.

Small wonder water is now in short supply, along with many other basic goods:
Caracas to begin four months of water rationing

Water use in Caracas will be rationed for at least four months due to drought, authorities said Tuesday, as Venezuela grapples with shortages of basic goods which have spurred massive anti-government protests.

One in every four goods including basic food, hygiene products, medicine and auto parts, however, have already become difficult to find, resulting in long, lengthy lines.

The irony is that Venezuela has the highest water resources and greatest hydroelectric capacity (except for Brazil) in South America. The country has a dry season and a rainy season, but what’s important is this:

Even when fully operating and unaffected by drought, water supply levels in the capital area are below international standards, capable of providing 340 liters per person per day, which is sufficient for household consumption but falls short of commercial and industrial demands.

The deterioration of Venezuela’s infrastructure is nothing new. Back in 2011, The Economist had an article about the disastrous results of Hugo Chavez’s nationalization program:

After opposition candidates were elected to many state governorships in 2008, the president re-centralised many public services, taking them out of the hands of the states. These included roads, ports and airports, all of which have experienced accelerated deterioration ever since.

faustaAs we in the U.S. are facing ever-increasing federal government intrusion into all aspects of the economy (including the proposed federal tolls on interstate highways), remember Milton’s immortal words.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

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