I've been hearing a lot about Venezuela in the news lately. And it seems there is a big debate over whether it was socialism or not, or whether it was implemented properly.

Is it safe to assume that it was indeed a socialist experiment?

What would make it not socialist?

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    Hmmm... The president is head of the United Socialist Party. Does the name of the ruling party count as evidence? Hmm... It's a poser. – puppetsock Sep 14 at 16:36
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    @puppetsock, of course not. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a kingdom, after all, and the United Kingdom is a democracy. – o.m. Sep 14 at 16:48
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    @Orangesandlemons, the juxtaposition was just too good to ignore. – o.m. Sep 14 at 17:02
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    @o.m. Nope. Norway and Sweden are kingdoms. They have KINGS. Korea is an area that consists of two sovereign states. None of which are kingdoms. They do not have kings. – svin83 Sep 14 at 17:56
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    Regarding the "implemented properly" debate, I would recommend referencing "No True Scottsman" fallacy description in a list of logical fallacies. People making that argument are mostly arguing using that fallacy. Socialism isn't a cookie recipe, where you can conclusively prove it was or wasn't followed "properly" - it is a broad and varied umbrella set of ideologies. – user4012 Sep 14 at 20:19

Venezuela's economy
Venezuela is a communist planned economy with an authoritarian government. It is, therefore, an example of Socialism. Under Chavez and Maduro, Venezuela's economy became a planned economy based on oil production, with few other industries, its oil industry has been nationalized since 1973, and there were significant petrol subsidies for its citizens.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuela
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Venezuela

In 1973, Venezuela voted to nationalize its oil industry outright, effective 1 January 1976, with Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) taking over and presiding over a number of holding companies; in subsequent years, Venezuela built a vast refining and marketing system in the U.S. and Europe.
Under the tenures of Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro, many businesses abandoned Venezuela. In 1999, there were 13,000 companies in the country. By 2016, less than a third of companies remained in Venezuela, with only 4,000 companies operating in the nation.
Venezuela has large energy subsidies. In 2015, the cost of petrol was just US$0.06 per gallon, costing 23% of government revenues.

Although Venezuela's economy was planned around a single industry, they are beginning to diversify.

A range of other natural resources, including iron ore, coal, bauxite, gold, nickel and diamonds, are in various stages of development and production. In April 2000, Venezuela's president decreed a new mining law and regulations were adopted to encourage greater private sector participation in mineral extraction.

Some reasons for the failure of Venezuela's economy:

At first, the economic decline was due to low oil prices, but it was fueled by the turmoil of the 2002 coup attempt and the 2002–2003 business strike. Other factors of the decline were an exodus of capital from the country and a reluctance of foreign investors.
The 1999 Vargas tragedy was a disaster that struck the Vargas State of Venezuela on 15 December 1999, when the torrential rains and the flash floods and debris flows that followed on December 14–16 that killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed thousands of homes, and led to the complete collapse of the state's infrastructure.

Venezuela as an example of failed Socialism in debate
A lot of internet conversations use Venezuela as an example of Socialism failing, and they often do it in response to discussions of Democratic Socialists in America, and the viability of Democratic Socialism at large. Undoubtedly, this argument is the main driver for the existence of this stackexchange question and quite a lot of other stackexchange questions about Venezuela. This attempt to associate Democratic Socialism with Authoritarian Socialism is a mistake for multiple reasons:

  • Although many political candidates in the United States are now self-identifying as "Democratic Socialist," they tend to model their principals after Nordic Model Social Democracy. Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism are somewhat close in many ways, but Social Democracy is a bit more like a well-taxed Capitalist economy with social benefits; whereas Democratic Socialism has more government control over the economy, property and institutions are more public than private, and there are more elements of a decentralized planned economy.
  • Democratic Socialism and Authoritarian Socialism are not the same thing and do not have equal track records.
    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_socialism
Democratic socialists oppose the Soviet economic model, rejecting the authoritarian form of governance and highly centralized command economy that took form in the Soviet Union in the early 20th century.

Authoritarian Socialism, as well as any Authoritarian government combined with any economic system, has a consistent track record of poor quality of life, weak civil rights, poor democracy, and sometimes a poor economy. Democratic Socialism (and other kinds of Social Democracies, democratic Mixed economies, and democratic Social Capitalism) offers many success stories of countries with good economies, strong democracy, strong quality of life, strong social progress, and good economic freedom (seriously, open up some of these rankings and go looking for Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, and Canada). If a politician says that they want to model the economy after Denmark, it is simply dishonest to say that the economy will instead turn out to be like Venezuela.

Here is a list of examples of Authoritarian countries, Socialist and otherwise.

  • Socialism itself has many economic flavors, creating a broad opening for weakly informed people to equate countries with very dissimilar economies.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and workers' self-management of the means of production as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, though social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms. Socialist economic systems can be divided into non-market and market forms. Non-market socialism involves the substitution of factor markets and money with engineering and technical criteria based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing an economic mechanism that functions according to different economic laws from those of capitalism. Non-market socialism aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system. By contrast, market socialism retains the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of socially owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm, or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend. The socialist calculation debate discusses the feasibility and methods of resource allocation for a socialist system.
  • Some people don't understand, or act like they don't understand, that national economies exist along a continuum. Economic systems are not binary. They are almost never entirely capitalist, and rarely entirely socialist. Most countries fall in the middle, and simple variances in tax rates, social benefits, or business regulations can subtly move a country along the continuum; not into an entirely different, discrete box. America's form of Welfare Capitalism and the Nordic Model's form of Social Democracy only vary mildly in terms of government regulation, tax rates, social programs, etc. This article even lists the United States alongside the Nordic countries as examples of welfare states. However, it seems that the small differences in tax rates and social programs between the United States and the Nordic countries were enough to create a large difference in their income inequalities.
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    Hmmm... Oil prices smacked Venezuela? macrotrends.net/1369/crude-oil-price-history-chart In 1973, oil was about $24/bbl. Briefly in 1998 is was below that. Most of the time since 1973 has been significantly above that. Today it is around $70/bbl. It seems odd that they could not cope. – puppetsock Sep 14 at 20:19
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    @puppetsock adjusting for inflation $24 in 1970 converted to 2018 dollars is $136.30. Source – lazarusL Sep 14 at 20:33
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    Heh heh! Adjusting for inflation in Venezuela, it's pocket lint. – puppetsock Sep 14 at 20:43
  • You say authoritarian government like that's a part of socialism. You also don't go into the nuances of what is and isn't a communist economy, which is where the debate actually lays. – tox123 Sep 15 at 3:28
  • +1 just for the last bullet. There are economic theories and there are real world practices. It is wildly simplistic to claim that one country subscribes to some economic theory and blame all the countries' economic troubles on the theory. I would claim no country has implemented an economic theory cleanly. One needs to do careful analysis to see how the claimed theory has influenced results, not just say the USA is capitalist, Venezuela is socialist, and the old USSR is communist. – Ross Millikan Sep 15 at 3:32

It does somewhat depend how you define Socialism, but it most definitely falls within the broader definition. This can be seen in various policy positions the people currently running the country take, especially economically. The thing that would not make it socialist is corruption and the near dictatorship, but these are general things that occur in various political systems, and seem especially present in more "pure" socialist systems (as opposed to what is increasingly referred to as democratic Socialism)

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