State-sponsored starvation, violence, and economic collapse in today’s Venezuela are a clear warning sign to Americans about the perils of centralized control of our economy.

2,000,000 Bolivars – that’s how much a cup of coffee now costs in Venezuela, according to Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche Index.

What’s more, the International Monetary Fund is now projecting an inflation rate of more than 1 million percent in Venezuela in 2018. The IMF is comparing this financial crisis to some of the worst in world history – including 1920’s Germany. This is a chilling prospect.

So what’s to blame for this economic decimation? Socialism.

The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez drove his once-prosperous nation directly into the ground with policies of strict centralized government control of the economy, enforced by violence – a legacy that lives on through the continued suffering and starvation of his people.

Throughout history, socialism has never worked. Today’s Venezuela is just another tragic example of the violence and desperation created by this fatally-flawed theory of governance.

Americans should heed this lesson. With talk of socialism creeping into mainstream political discourse, we must remember what has made America the greatest example of freedom and opportunity the world has ever known – a commitment to free-market economic principles and limited government.

If we don’t heed this lesson, the consequences would be severe. As Kevin D. Williamson notes in National Review Online:

No one yet knows how many deaths Venezuelan socialism will inflict on Venezuela. But it is a fact that children are starving to death in what was, not so long ago, South America’s wealthiest country. In the 1950s, Venezuela’s GDP per capita was about the same as West Germany’s. (Some of you younger readers may want to read up on why there was such a thing as West Germany. That’s another chapter in the annals of socialism.) Being rich is no prophylactic against tyranny or anarchy.

That’s because being rich is temporary. Countries, like families, can go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves — and it need not take three generations. As the Scots say: “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.” A nation that is not building is on its way to begging. Venezuela is already there.

America is exceptional, but there is no guarantee we will pass on our freedom and prosperity to the next generation. A recent poll showed nearly half of American millennials would prefer to live under socialism instead of capitalism. We would be wise to remember that without vigilance, our liberty can evaporate more quickly than we might imagine.

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