Cheering For A Venezuelan Coup

In the comments to Doug’s last post, and in the comments on Reddit, people seem shocked that Doug would advocate a military coup to overthrow Chavez.

They’re shocked, of course, because a site called the Liberty Papers would suggest that a military coup to overthrow a quasi-democratically elected president. The key, of course, is that they equate liberty and democracy. Only they’re not equal. Chavez’ propensity to nationalize sectors of his economy and his desire to destroy personal wealth through monetary inflation make him a distinct threat to liberty. To me, it doesn’t matter if he was democratically elected or not.

You see, there are two definitions of democracy. One is the correct definition, and that is rule through elections. However, that definition is not in common parlance. The second definition is a state where many of the levers of power are controlled through a democratic manner, in a state which also protects individual rights through the rule of law. The first definition leads, quite commonly, to tyranny. The second definition is generally a pretty liberty-friendly society.

You see, here at The Liberty Papers, we have little love for democracy for democracy’s sake. We are interested in outcomes which support liberty. The first definition of democracy doesn’t usually do so, as Chavez and Venezuela are pointing out. The second definition of democracy usually does support liberty, but Chavez has been ruling by decree, not by law, nationalizing the economy, and destroying the currency, so Venezuela doesn’t meet the second definition.

Whether Chavez was elected democratically or not, he is acting as a dictator in ways to fundamentally destroy the liberties of the people of Venezuela. Thus, it is my position that he should be removed from power, for the good of the Venezuelan people. Now, I’m not advocating that this be something the United States get involved with. After all, while Chavez is a loudmouth, he doesn’t threaten the United States. However, should he be overthrown from within by forces who will restore the liberties of the Venezuelan people, I’ll be raising my glass in support.

UPDATE: It appears that commenter “lifeofliberty” is willing to allow anyone who is democratically elected to do whatever they like. I would assume, then, that he supports President Bush choosing what portions of laws he will or will not enforce through “signing statements”? I would assume he wouldn’t have a problem with our Congress giving him near-dictatorial power for 18 months? I would assume he’s in favor of domestic wiretapping, and the suspension of habeas corpus, and Guantanamo bay? Because even though Bush was democratically elected, I find those things deplorable and think they are anti-liberty. I guess “lifeofliberty” believes that because “the people” voted for Bush, all these things are just fine?

  • Doug Mataconis


    Fabulous, just a fabulous post.

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  • lifeofliberty

    Shitty, absolutely shitty post.

    What an idiot. You reveal yourself. “To me, it doesn’t matter if he was democratically elected or not.” and “We are interested in outcomes which support liberty.”

    So the end justifies the means. Even if it means assassination, or a military coup.

    The people of Venezuela don’t feel the same way, fortunately, as this “freedom loving” moron.

    And quite frankly, it’s none of American’s goddamned business what goes on in Venezuela.

    Liberty lovers that claim to love liberty, but support a military coup are liars.

  • Adam Selene

    Shitty, absolutely shitty comment. Democracy is nothing special. In fact, democracy has been used far more often in the world to create tyranny rather than create liberty. You might know that if you bothered studying history. Democracy, in fact, is generally the worst possible form of government you can choose. Or haven’t you paid attention to what happened in Athens and Rome, Germany and Russia, Italy, Iraq, and a multitude of other countries that were “democracies”?

  • mike

    “I guess “lifeofliberty” believes that because “the people” voted for Bush, all these things are just fine?”

    See, that’s your mistake Brad. President Bush wasn’t elected. He came to power through his daddy’s cronies. In fact, every right leaning leader in the world ever who has been “elected” actually somehow stole or otherwise secured his office illegally.

    Of course, left leaning leaders are always legally elected with the full consent of the people. Granted, there might only be one name on the ballot, and you might get a late night visit from some men with guns if you try and vote for a different guy, but still…they were ELECTED, dammit.

    Sarcasm aside, as someone who has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, if a President like Chavez was elected in this country, I would have absolutely no problem in attempting to remove him from power. None.

  • tarran

    Brad, I must disagree with you based on personal experience.

    I was born in Turkey, which has a long tradition of the military staging coups when the civilian leadership strays too far off the line. The odd hting about the Turkish military is that they tend to reestablish civilian government without too much of a fuss, making them a pretty special case. In fact, it is safe to say that Turkish coups have tended to be the most enlightened types of coups.

    Yet, if you look at the nuts and bolts, coups generally are accomplished with many innocent victims. During the time of military rule, saying the wrong thing could get yourself arrested. It could get you tortured. It could even get you killed.

    A coup is, at its basic level, an armed gang siezing control over a territory, and announcing that anybody who does not act the way they want will be attacked. They are inherently illiberal. It does not matter if the coup plotters are intent in restoring the rule of law, and protecting private property. In the end, it is a step backward for civil society.

    For liberty to flourish, for a free society to function, a cultural love of peace is vital. The vast majority of people must desire to live peacefully with their neighbors. This circumstance is not advanced during a coup. Rather, it is retarded. Now, it is possible that the coup can restore the outward impression of peace on a chaotic society riven by violence. The number of people killed in the streets may be reduced. The number of over thefts may be reduced. However, in the end, the coup will benefit those who are members of the ruling clique at the expense of those out of favor.

    Now a couple of coments to lifeofliberty. :)

    1) Democracies tend to be some of the most vicious governments out there. From the time of Athens, when a majority of citizens could vote to exile someone just for the hell of it, to England’s nanny state, democracies have always taken the form of demogouges and their friends enriching by plunder made legal by the mobs they incite. In some cases, like the Paris commune in the aftermath of the French Revolution, democracies have become capricious death machines that seek to kill a man one day, elevate him the next, and sign his death warant the day after that.

    A dictator can grow bored. An oligarch cannot help but focus his energies on a small portion of society, a king might seek to leave his heirs a kingdom that will be the goose that lays the golden egg. The mob never sleeps, it never plans ahead, it is all appetite and emotion, and when one demogauge falls out of favor, they will immediately leap to the beck and call of another.

    Huga Chavez is a thief. Yes, he shares his plunder far and wide, and yes, many of the people that he is robbing are thieves themselves. In the end though, he is inciting the mob with his lies of free medical care, lies about free education, and free wlfare. Every for every 10 coins he gives out, he has to steal 11 or 12. Rather than create wealth and have it stolen, people hide what little they have and try not to be noticed. The few entrepeneurs who will flourish are ones who are connected with MR Chavez, the political entrepeneurs. They will seek to divert the plunder into their coffers, not to create, but to take.

    In the end, Hugo Chavez will destroy what little wealth the Vanezuelans have, he will promote a culture of political war; where people seek to plunder each other; and he will drive away the productive ones.

    Far worse, as production falls, and plunder becomes harder and hard er to find, Mr Chavez will have to turn to more and more brutal collection efforts. Eventually he will be shooting “hoarders” and “speculators” out of hand. The logical conclusion of his policies can be seen in the barren famines of North Korea, the utter collapse into autarcy of Zimbabwe, and the decay and stagnation of Cuba.

    If someone were to blow Mr Chavez’s brains out, it would bother me no more than if someone were to blow the brains out of another dangerous thief

  • Mike In WNY

    Liberty does not mean a majority of 51% makes the rules for the 49% minority, that is democracy. Liberty was fairly well defined by the limited powers in the Constitution that have been interpreted and legislated away over time.

  • Sean

    I know the schools do a horrible job at teaching Latin American history – I used to teach Spanish at one, until I got sick of threatening kids – but military coups in South America don’t bring freedom. They bring Argentina’s Dirty War and Pinochet in Chile. They replace one dictator with another, and they usually make it worse. Question the new government’s use of torture or indiscriminate arrests without trial or brutalities or the distractionary war to retake a small island held by England or to intimidate the press… well, you must be a Communist and it’s time you disappear. But then, what do you expect from a paternalistic, condescending attitude toward democracy?

  • mike

    No one’s disputing that Pinochet was not a nice guy. But compare Chile today to Cuba or Venezuela.

    I know where I would rather live.

    The end doesn’t necessarily justify the means, but better a positive end than the abomination of Cuba (which is where Venezuela is rapidly heading.)

  • VP Cosmicum

    I assume that most of your readers view “the protection of private property” as something divine and holy but undefinable, like “freedom” or “peace” to a Bush supporter.
    Otherwise, none of the posts or comments make sense. Venezuela, to the average Venezuelan, is more free and democratic now than at any time since European settlement. The majority of Venezuelans appear to want Chavez to continue his policies. Why do you insist on prescribing a different course on their behalf?

  • Brad Warbiany

    Why? Perhaps because Chavez’ price controls have made it such that the best meat Venezuelans were getting for a short time was chicken feet.

    Chavez is in the early stages of socialist semi-dictatorship. Right now, with the oil wealth of Venezuela, he’s doling out government largesse as he sees fit, and actually making some people happy in the process. But he’s headed down a path that ends badly.

    With the capital flight, the nationalization of industries, the destruction of individual wealth through inflation, the price controls, and the removal of checks on his own power, the Venezuela of 5 or 10 years down the road will be an ugly place. Like Cuba or Zimbabwe.

    Every month, the stories about what is going on in Venezuela get worse and worse. It is my opinion that it will continue to get worse, not better, until the entire nation is impoverished. I base that opinion on the history of socialist dictatorships like Cuba and Zimbabwe, as well as the history of post-WWI Germany (see the inflation examples) and socialist Russia. Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but I doubt it. And I think the Venezuelan people deserve better.

  • Sean

    So you’re actually saying that a generation of brutal repression and tens of thousands of dead and disappeared is a net positive? I venture to say that Chile would be a much better place had Salvador Allende lived and his policies been challenged in the political ring rather than by force of arms. Seems to me a libertarian should be very much against BOTH right-wing tyranny AND left-wing tyranny, both military dictatorship AND Communism. At least while Venezuela has some semblance of democracy, peaceable redress of Chavez’s handiwork is possible. Under a military coup, it takes decades and gallons of blood.

  • Brad Warbiany


    It may be early enough to do that. Chavez hasn’t cemented himself into power sufficiently enough, yet, to remove all hope of a peaceful solution.

    But what happens if he stays (or if Allende had stayed)? Would it stop decades of oppression and gallons of blood from being shed? Or will Chavez eventually reach the point of being the prime cause of bloodshed?

  • Sean

    All I know is, exchanging masters is never the solution. Communism wasn’t a solution for tsarism, and the Reign of Terror wasn’t a solution to absolute monarchy. I honestly don’t understand how your first thought isn’t something like, “I hope the people storm the walls and bring back a limited republic.” No, your first thought was, “I hope there’s a military coup.”

  • mike

    I can’t speak for Brad, but I know the thought process with myself went something along the lines of the fact that in many countries in today’s world, the military is the only one who has the capability to overthrow the leader. I know I would certainly prefer a popular revolution similar to the one that founded the United States, but I also know this is simply not an option in much of the world.

    Another commenter brought up the example of Turkey. As he says, they are probably the most enlightened example of military coups. Even then, during the time of military rule, it still sucks considerably. However, when compared to the alternative of what would have happened without the coup, in Turkey’s case anyway, the coup is preferable in the long run to not taking any action.

  • Brad Warbiany


    I see where you’re headed with this… FYI, my post was in response to Doug’s post, which suggested that a good option would be a military coup. I’m not necessarily suggesting that a military coup would be the ideal option. But I would point out that storming the Bastille happened a mere few years before the Reign of Terror, so it’s not like storming the walls always leads to good things either.

    Here’s what I see:

    1. The people who don’t like the Chavez government are fleeing the country.

    2. The “poor masses” are currently being bought off by Chavez and are unlikely to overthrow him.

    3. As Chavez cements his control, eventually it will be too late for the “poor masses” to fight back, although they’ll desperately want to.

    So my end goal would be an end to the Chavez regime. Considering the level to which he has already gained control, and due to the fact that he’s buying off the poor with oil wealth, I don’t see it occurring by peaceful means or a popular revolution. Thus the only possible way for it to occur might be a coup.

    Yet as someone pointed out in the comments to Doug’s post, it’s likely that Chavez has already cemented his position against a military coup, since he’s a military guy and rose to power through a coup.

    So we’ll probably have to sit back and watch the nation of Venezuela implode.