Kevin tackles some whining about Chavez, in which Chavez is characterized as “the latest in a long tradition of South American populist thugs like Allende and Lula.” Kevin offers his thoughts:

In a recent comment thread, troutsky asked for my opinion of Chavez. OK, here it is: he’s certainly not especially market-friendly, as Latin American pols go. But he’s certainly no more market-unfriendly than the corporate mercantilists who use gunboat diplomacy to make the world safe for corporate rule, and then profane the words “free market” and “free trade” with their stinking pie-holes.

I don’t believe Chavez’s intervention on behalf of the cooperative economy and local counter-institutions is sustainable in the long run. In the end, these institutions must be able to survive in a free market without state inputs if they are to be viable. But the practical effect of Chavez’s current state intervention is merely to countervail the previous fifty years of intervention against peasant proprietorship, and against economic institutions controlled by ordinary people, and thus to partially cancel out the legacy benefits currently enjoyed by the giant transnationals. So while I can’t applaud his statism, I can’t exactly work up much moral outrage over the poor, picked-on corporations that are squealing so much about his “thuggery” and enmity toward “free markets.”

If Chavez and Lula are “thugs,” then so were the political leaders installed by the transnational corporations over the past fifty years. And equally thugs, likewise, have been the corporations which profited from the rule of those thugs this past half century, and which now seek to regain power by coup if necessary to keep their statist corporate welfare gravy train from being cut off.