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My girlfriend is from Venezuela. Her mom, Clara, who still unfortunately lives there, recently told us a pretty insane story about her (forced) shopping habits:

If Clara needs basic products -- say milk, sugar, laundry detergent, toilet paper -- she is only allowed to buy them on Tuesdays; that is, if the supermarkets happen to have them in stock that day. Why? Because the last number on her Venezuelan ID card is a “2”, and Venezuelan citizens whose ID cards end with the number 2 have the privilege of shopping for basic goods on Tuesdays. This government regulation of the marketplace is part of Venezuela’s fight against “inequality”.

Among many questions I had about this arrangement, I wondered what would happen if Clara -- a law-abiding middle-class woman in Caracas, about the equivalent of my mom living here in Orange County -- decided to go shopping on a day other than Tuesday? It seems there are scanners now as a check against such “selfish” attempts to thwart the (explicitly Socialist) system, and there are always armed military men on the streets to “prevent disorder”.

(Incidentally, when Venezuelan shoppers legally arrive to local supermercados on their designated day, they can’t always just walk right in. Often what await them are enormous outdoor queues packed with hundreds of people -- arms literally marked with numbers recording their place in line. [See picture.] And if/when they eventually get inside after potentially hours of waiting, again there is no guarantee that high-demand products, such as toiletries like soap, will actually be on the shelves.)

I was thinking about all of this in relation to Memorial Day coming up, and how even someone who loves liberty like I do can take for granted my daily experience of that liberty. In this case, the simple act of going to a grocery store any time I choose -- and without someone telling me it’s my turn. I then began to imagine what it would be like if I were not living in America, but rather trying to live in Venezuela, like Clara. So I took out my own (California) ID to see, to kind of pretend for a moment. I would be an “8”.


Despite issues I have with modern America (related here, with our mixed economy), I am glad to have been born in a country founded on the idea that men are individuals -- naturally endowed to make our own decisions -- and not numbers on an ID card waiting to be given (shopping) orders. Going into this Memorial Day weekend, I am grateful to all of those American soldiers who died defending this nation, for they helped make possible the little daily pleasures of living life as a free man. Cheers to them!


Jesse McCarthy is the founder of jemslife, an educational resource offering personalized teacher and parent coaching.


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