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Job Security - President for Life

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted January 24, 2007

I'd like to introduce you to our latest addition to the Wealth Daily editorial team. His name is Ned Humphrey.

Ned was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and raised in Baltimore. He attended Amherst College and the University of Tübingen, Germany, where he majored in German Language and Literature. Fluent in German and with a working knowledge of French, Russian and Latin, Ned was a freelance translator for 15 years.

Ned spent most of the 1980s in Germany and has traveled extensively throughout Europe, including the former East Germany while it was under communism.

The Nederator has lived in Baltimore for the last 17 years, working at Agora Publishing between 2001 and 2006.

Ned's experience living abroad gives him a unique perspective on geopolitics lost to most Americans.

Today, Ned is going delve into Venezuela's democratically-elected president for life, Hugo Chavez... and how Chavez's rhetoric is eerily similar to that of another dictator we once had to deal with.

Take it away, Ned.

 

- Brian Hicks

 


 

Job Security - President for Life

By Ned Humphrey 

The news that Venezuela's national assembly is shortly expected to pass an "enabling law" giving the country's outspoken and virulently anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, broad powers to pass laws by decree for a period of eighteen months should have democratically-minded persons of whatever political persuasion on high alert.

Chavez has already announced his intention to have the constitution changed to permit him to run for a third term in 2012. Currently, any Venezuelan president is limited to two consecutive six-year terms.

The two steps, taken together, bode ill for any opposition parties in the country. In fact, it looks as if Chavez is well on his way to becoming president for life, in emulation of his friend and hero, Fidel Castro.

Chavez has already nationalized the country's oil companies, and the grant of such broad powers to the hard-core socialist executive should raise reds flags in boardrooms around the world.

Speaking of the "enabling law," any student of history must prick up his ears at the term. It was just such a law that solidified Adolf Hitler's power in Germany in 1933, putting an end to the Weimar Republic's democratic constitution by giving him the power to rule by decree.

The full name of the act by which German democracy committed suicide and gave itself over to the hands of a dictator was the "Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Empire," but it was universally referred to as the Ermächtigungsgesetz or Enabling Law.

With it, Hitler freed himself from all constraint by the Reichstag or national assembly. He could henceforth decree that day was night and night was day, or anything else he chose to do, including naming himself the supreme leader and military commander of the German Reich and giving himself the power of life and death over his subjects. He thus united in his person the executive, legislative and (in effect) judicial powers of the state.

While Venezuela's enabling law is theoretically limited to eighteen months, this should not be any comfort to those who would oppose the policies of Hugo Chavez. The power to rule by decree for that length of time could well be used to extend that very power beyond the set time period. And even if he does allow the law to lapse a year and a half from now, the amount of "damage by decree" that can be done in that time is still incalculable.

Nationalization of large swaths of the economy is a top priority for Chavez. Naturally, if you're holding any assets in Venezuelan companies, now would be the time to dump them, if necessary at a loss. Shareholder value is the last thing on Chavez's mind in his march toward full implementation of his socialist agenda.

And according Wikipedia, the law would give the president "the ability to rule by decree over certain economic, social, territorial, defense, and scientific matters as well as control over transportation, regulations for popular participation, and rules for governing state institutions." (Scientific matters? One shudders to think of what that means. The Soviet Union tried to run science by decree, too, with predictably disastrous results.)

It pays to remember that the actual name of the Nazi Party was "the National Socialist German Workers' Party." Chavez may not immediately abolish Venezuela's national assembly altogether, and I doubt he will start to round up whatever Jewish community exists in that country-he doesn't seem wired that way.

Nevertheless, anyone with an interest in free markets and democracy should be watching these developments with grave concern, especially since Chavez is the role model for new leftist presidents in Peru and Ecuador.

There is a fresh wave of socialism sweeping through Central and South America. We may indeed end up with the ironic situation where Cuba heads toward democracy following the imminent demise of Castro at the same time as large sections of the Spanish-speaking world succumb to Cuban-style political ideology.

Again, if you have any interests in these newly left-leaning countries, now would be the time to divest yourself of them and head for more market-oriented lands.

- Ned Humphrey 

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