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Caracas, Tuesday May 24 , 2005  
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The Way It is
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The institutionalization of theft -kleptocracy- is why Venezuela's market democracy has collapsed. Theft is institutionalized by monopoly plus discretion minus accountability -the equation for corruption.  This is the way it is.

Monopoly over capital and production in the economy, plus monopoly over participation and information in the democracy, is a fact of life. Monopoly does not tolerate separation of powers, checks and balances, or independent actors in either political or economic life. Monopoly eschews competition, and this is why the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the military, the police, opposition political parties, private property, the news media, education, and the Church have been or are scheduled to be squashed.

Discretion is the practice of monopoly. Unfettered discretion is unilateral by nature, and does not tolerate relationships. There are no true partners to any constitution, agreement, treaty, law or understanding, domestic or foreign for he who enjoys absolute discretion. Everything is subject to the unilateral discretion of the sovereign, and the sovereign is not the people, it is he who controls the monopoly. External challenge to the discretion of the sovereign is a crime, as is clearly stated in the Penal Code. The only appeal to discretion is subservience. Human rights are neither inherent nor self-evident, but granted at the discretion of the sovereign, to whom one owes respect, the lack of which is also a crime.

Accountability is an invention for those who do not enjoy monopoly and discretion. The facts about crimes, deaths, history, scandals, conspiracies, war, missions or even banal matters such as the number of barrels of oil being produced, or the names on the voter registry, are the private business of the sovereign, and need no accounting to anyone else. Reporting the sovereign's business can put the reporter in jail, as has happened.

Kleptocracy is not new - it is the way it was in tribal life for everyone on earth for thousands of years. In recent centuries, kleptocracy was reformed by democracy, law, and markets - while global development soared as a result. But in Venezuela, where forms of it have existed from Bolivar's time, kleptocracy is being applied as a reform of market democracy, while poverty and corruption increase. A twist of irony has sealed the nation's fate.

Rowan's column is published every Tuesday.

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