No, not me. I’m a monarchist and I need directions to Versailles. I’m talking about Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela. He’s the socialist who knows what he’s doing.
He pointed it out recently in a State of the Nation address he needn’t have given since everyone who lives in Venezuela already knows the State of the Nation and it is Excruciating.
News to Me
Still, it seemed to me a commanding reassurance: “I’m a socialist and I know what I’m doing.” The Venezuelan treasury is now free to issue notes bearing the motto E Non Sequitur Gloria, or “Out of that which makes no sense shall we stitch the fabric of our glory.” (It’s OK. I’m a Latinist and I know what I’m doing.)
It works with doctors. They do embarrassing things to embarrassing parts of you inflamed by embarrassing conditions and, if you look uncomfortable, may say with a smile, “It’s all right. I’m a doctor.”
Thus did President Maduro, with his own avuncular bedside manner, let his comrades know that he had seen many such ugly inflammations, having created them himself, and that there was no need for embarrassment or concern.
I am reminded of the amorous warning Booth Jonathan gives Marnie on the High Line in the first season of “Girls,” about what he intends to do to her in bed, noting that it might scare her, “because I’m a man and I know how to do things.”
So, what is Maduro doing, other than that?
To be fair, he is just trying to whip inflation. To that end, he has removed the finance minister from his post after the guy presided over a doubling of consumer prices to 56 percent during his nine-month tenure, which has to be a record. Ted Williams, on his hottest streak, raised inflation by only 48 percent.
Who is the new finance minister? An army brigadier general.
What unsuccessful effort at battling inflation did the government try two months ago? Troops.
Look, it seemed to make sense at the time. It’s a syllogism:
We want to fight inflation
(Wait for it)
Troops can fight inflation
Quod erat demonstrandum. (That’s on the other side of the nation’s 12 million-bolivar note.)
And the guy who failed to whip inflation as finance minister — what is his fate?
A. He has resigned in disgrace from public affairs.
B. He has fled the country in the dead of night, stopping only at Arby’s for an Ultimate Angus (19 million bolivars but that’s with fries).
C. He has dug a hidey hole, only deeper than Saddam’s.
D. He goes back to running the nation’s central bank.
For Maduro is a socialist, and he knows what he’s doing. That’s why he decreed that company profits can no longer exceed 30 percent. A comfortable operating environment for J.C. Penney, yes, but a solution?
Don’t be so skeptical. Things are under control. As the vice president (whose motto is I’m an oboist and I know when I’m squeaking) explained, “Our fundamental anchor is the dollar at 6.3 bolivars.” Just as the Titanic’s fundamental anchor was a rubber bath toy named Davey.
It’s a war on inflation, so give war a chance. Bloomberg’s Anatoly Kurmanaev and Corina Pons note that Venezuela’s military men are now in charge of finance, industry, defense, the interior, and air and aquatic transport (hence the anchor). That’s a lot of brains and brawn. Certainly a lot of brawn.
Nobody’s saying Mision Cumplida. There’s a lot of work to be done in Venezuela. Inflation is rampant. Goods are scarce. A giant zombie of Hugo Chavez roams the streets squashing cars and giving three-hour speeches. OK, that’s next week.
Life isn’t easy. But Nicolas Maduro is a socialist. And that’s saying something.
PETER JEFFREY ― GO.BLOOMBERG.COM