Time Travel: Want to Understand China of the early 1980s? Visit Venezuela Today!


Buying Spinach

An article in today’s Business Insider sounded eerily familiar. Venezuelans now have difficulty finding and buying toilet paper. And the article made references to shortages of soap and matches in the waning days of the Soviet Union.


For months in 1981 it drove me nuts that we were unable to find matches even though there was reportedly a factory in our city that made them. The shelves in state-run food stores were bare. People waited years to buy a bicycle. Centralized economic planning combined with corruption was a sure-fire recipe for consumer headaches.

Fast forward three decades. I chafe at income inequality in the United States, our regressive tax structure, and an increased reliance on contract workers who can be let go at a moment’s notice.

Moderation is about as unsexy as it gets, but the big lesson I’ve learned is neither capitalism nor socialism run amok serves its people well. We need to walk the tightrope between market forces and citizen protections.