A truly Orwellian op-ed piece in The New York Times of May 6, says of Bolivia’s nationalization of the natural gas industry in its territory:
Nor is this a classic nationalization in the sense of the confiscations that took place in the region in the 50′s and 70′s. In those days, Latin American governments expropriated everything and kicked out the companies the next day. This time Bolivia will exert greater control over the companies, including significantly higher taxes and 50 percent-plus-one state ownership, but Mr. Morales has pledged to create an environment conducive to private profit-making, and the government has repeatedly stated that it is a “nationalization without confiscation,” with no expulsion of foreign companies nor expropriation of their assets.
So, raising taxes and grabbing 51 percent ownership, in return for nothing, is not confiscation. No. It’s a policy “to create an environment conducive to private profit-making.”
To the Times’ writer, these mind-boggling contradictions are so self-evident and reassuring that he feels a need to explain why the Bolivian army was used to impose this “nationalization without confiscation” that is profitable to its victims. Not being a real confiscation, but a source of profit to its victims, the use of the army and the presence of its deadly weapons was necessary merely as a show “to placate masses of radicalized Bolivians who demand `confiscation without compensation’ to the companies.” This last, of course, is a policy very different from that of Mr. Morales, who merely takes property in exchange for nothing.
This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.