Chávez is not a social activist, a leader shaped by social struggles or the academy. Chávez is a lucky conspirator, just a man of great daring and, it's true, a man with great political instincts. Unfortunately for us, he reaches power without knowing what to do with it: without a program, without life experience, without real knowledge of the country and its problems. Later, when he starts to try out solutions, his Utopian side starts to come out, though fortunately his is not a bloodthirsty utopianism, at least not so far. He's a Utopian who doesn't think it's necessary to chop off the girl's toes to make them fit into cindarella's glass slipper. Instead, he goes about applying his ideas - which almost always fail - without jailing his adversaries.Much of the piece riffs on the theme of Chávez-as-atypical-latin-lefty. The whole thing is worth a read.
Now, why can we have a non-bloodthirsty utopian? Because he has a hell of a lot of money. Our non-bloodthirsty utopian can afford these kinds of experiments in Venezuela because he has the kind of money nobody else has. We're a country of 27 million that's set, this year, to take in $70 billion from oil exports. Man, who gets to live like that?! Chávez can't think up ways to spend the money fast enough: he can feed all of his fantasies.