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The Up-Side of Brain Drains

July 4th, 2009 by Chuck · 3 Comments · Foreign Affairs

A couple of people on the Harry Binswanger List linked to an article about the Bolivarian Brain Drain.  It details the exodus of the best and the brightest under way in Venezuela and those Latin American nations that are modelling themselves on Hugo Chavez’ “21st century socialism.”   To rational and freedom loving people, such a brain drain would be looked upon as an awful event.  But to a dictator, or would-be dictator, it is an unalloyed blessing.  Chavez isn’t after happiness, or progress, or a higher standard of living.  He is only after power, and the fewer brains in the country, the easier it is to maintain his power.  So there is a definite up-side to brain drains—for dictators.

But there is a fly in the ointment.  It used to be that such a talent emigration would head directly for America, the land of freedom and opportunity.  That land exists no more.  Where can freedom loving people go now?  They are left to shuffle about from one semi-free state to another, looking desperately for the last, fading beacon lights of freedom in a darkening world.

 Objectivism can relight the world.  The question is when.

3 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew Dalton

    “Chavez isn’t after happiness, or progress, or a higher standard of living. He is only after power, and the fewer brains in the country, the easier it is to maintain his power.”

    In one sense, yes. But Chavez has also built his plans for power upon the assumption of ever-increasing oil revenue — with the idea that no matter how much money Chavez wastes or gives away to his cronies throughout Latin America (via discounted oil prices), the cash will keep pouring in.

    But Venezuelan oil production has been falling according to this article from last October. The cause is political interference by Chavez.

    “The [state oil] company [PDVSA] now grows food after Mr Chavez’s price controls emptied supermarket shelves of products like milk and eggs. Another branch produces furniture and domestic appliances in an effort to stem the flow of imports. What PDVSA seems unable to do is produce more oil.”

  • Mike

    “The [state oil] company [PDVSA] now grows food after Mr Chavez’s price controls emptied supermarket shelves of products like milk and eggs. Another branch produces furniture and domestic appliances in an effort to stem the flow of imports. What PDVSA seems unable to do is produce more oil.”

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic: are we to imagine that Chavez really *didn’t know* that this was going to be the result? As Hank Rearden would say, “What exactly is [Chavez] counting on?”

  • Chuck

    Andrew, you’re right he could use all the money he’s losing from his nationalizing the oil industry. But, dictators are pragmatists. He still has a few time honored options dictators have always been willing to avail themselves of.

    One, he could just get subsidies from Russia. The recession probably lessens the possibility of that, however.

    Two, he could simply find some other industry to plunder, or failing that, some nearby country to despoil.

    Or three, the most likely option, he can simply order his citizen-slaves to tighten their belts, and not put their own selfish needs before the good of the state. Total, abject poverty is perfectly consistent with collectivist nations. And one need look no further than the Khmer Rouge for a fine example of the ultimate, gleefully deliberate, brain drain.