Napoleon once said, “to understand the man you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty.”
That thought has stuck with me since the day I encountered it.
It is in our late teens and early twenties when most of us establish our characters, develop our passions, determine our identities and find our place in the world.
It is also during this time that most of us are truly challenged by life. When we are young, most of us are protected by our parents. In school, our teachers guide us. In sports, our coaches mentor us.
But when we grow old, then that level of protection is gone. Suddenly, life becomes a much more risky endeavor. We can be fired. We can get divorced. And eventually, it is no longer our parents’ job to protect us; it is our job to take care of them.
This is why, during this time of our lives, we also form our political beliefs. If this is the time we get to know ourselves truly, this is also the time we get to know and judge the world around us.
From my own experience, I can think of many instances in my late teens where I realized that I was firmly opposed to socialism and other kinds of authoritarianism.
In Venezuela, I experienced firsthand how socialism ruined literally millions of lives. I saw how people lost everything. I saw how entire families were broken. In a nutshell, I saw how unjust and destructive that ideology is.
For instance, I remember when I was 17 years old. It was late 2013. I remember being at home and hearing that the regime had implemented a new set of regulations to the economy. It was a new regulation that controlled the prices of every single business in the economy.
The inspiration behind this policy was to combat the country’s inflation rate, which had been increasing exponentially.
According to the Venezuelan regime, the country’s high inflation was caused by businessmen and their greed, in what the government called a plot against the revolution.
As many economists warned, the result of that policy was not the slowdown of the country’s inflation. The result was universal shortages of goods and services, which later became the main factor driving Venezuela’s unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
This happened as the price controls did not allow businessmen to commercialize their goods and earn a profit while doing so. In fact, they were losing money under the new law, as the earnings margin imposed by the law was lower than the rate of inflation.
This catastrophic policy incentivized me to read more about the way the economy works. I began to read economists like Hayek, who elaborated on the importance of the price mechanism in the economy. I also read economists like Friedman, who explained that inflation was always a monetary phenomenon. Ultimately, it motivated me to study economics in the United States at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University.
Right now, in the United States, I see many policymakers advocating for the implementation of price controls to lower the country’s inflation rate.
Just like Chavez a decade ago, now we have politicians like Elizabeth Warren saying that inflation is caused by “corporate greed,” which is not only a misleading idea but also a dangerous one.
Americans have never lived in a world where inflation rises and price controls become the norm. But I have lived in that world, which is why I think it is my duty to speak and write about it.
But I also want to learn from you about your experiences, so we can also discuss them here at Libertatio.
So, Leave us your stories in your comment section.
I was 20 in 1972 which was also the time of a Prices and Incomes policy and when the inflation of the 70s and 80s were just getting started. I don’t look upon that period as one which was crucial in forming my political views. I am proud I voted No in the referendum on membership of what became the EU, as a means of voting against the political establishment. But I took only a vague interest in Politics (despite taking a degree in it) and voted wishy-washy Left for the rest of the century. Perhaps strangely, the issue which radicalised me in the Noughties was realising the extent to which we have been lied to on global warming / climate change.