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A new Venezuelan ID, created with China's ZTE, tracks citizen behavior (reuters.com)
253 points by kawera 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 211 comments

Please no.

> The technology Daquin and colleagues learned about in Shenzhen underpinned what would become China’s “Social Credit System.” The still-evolving system, part of which uses “smart citizen cards” developed by ZTE, grades citizens based on behavior including financial solvency and political activity. Good behavior can earn citizens discounts on utilities or loans. Bad marks can get them banned from public transport or their kids blocked from top schools.

Here is a good PM podcast episode on the 'Social Credit System' as well for some further information: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/10/09/655921710/chin...

So...when does this get implemented here in the US?

> Good behavior can earn citizens discounts on utilities or loans. Bad marks can get them banned from public transport or their kids blocked from top schools.

Whatever it takes to herd the cattle.

"First they came ..." is a poem written by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt and responsibility.

The best-known versions of the speech are the poems that began circulating by the 1950s.[1] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum quotes the following text as one of the many poetic versions of the speech:[2][3]

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


How is this different from credit scores?

Credit scores are also a non-consentual rating that a bit more than half of Americans have. Just because it exists doesn't make it just or right, consent was never requested or considered.

Worse yet, credit scores are weak proxies for their primary duty (rating whether someone is likely to default on a loan) and are based on SSNs issued by the IRS, who (from my reading) is not working with the credit bureas to ensure accuracy of SSNs to names/addresses.

it seems you two are agreeing.

Credit scores aren't based on your political activity or used to deny you from boarding transit.

China didn't ban all the transit boarding for those with low credit, just planes and first class HSR. You can take the normal train, which is still quicker than most countries.

No planes though. Planes are considered a luxury.

In May, enforcement of China’s social credit system spread to the travel industry, restricting millions of Chinese citizens with low social credit scores from purchasing plane and train tickets.


Incorrect. See child comment for details.



Please don't do this here.

You must be fun at parties

Personal attacks will get you banned here. Please don't do it again.


Sorry, point taken.

zaru27 3 months ago [flagged]

To be fair, he's probably more fun at parties than the socially-challenged antifa squad downvoting me

We've banned this account for ideological battle, flamewars and trolling—the trifecta of what this site is not for.

Modern national ID cards are invariably designed for surveillance. Consider the case of Aadhaar (the Indian national ID card). No words can better describe the kind of services it has enabled than what is illustrated in this image -- https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DnWQpoTW4AARm2t.jpg (The image illustrates an app that claims to provide personal information about a random individual by way of facial recognition made possible by use of Aadhaar APIs.)

What about Estonia? Their nation ID card seems pretty secure and privacy-concious

Quite recent story: Estonia sues Gemalto for €152M over ID card flaws:https://www.reuters.com/article/estonia-gemalto/estonia-sues...

HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18104861


They suspended almost immediately the public key common to the 750 000 flawed cards, disabling them, and they issued an update a few months later. That seems like a pretty good reaction. I don't see what they could have done better, apart from making the cards themselves.

Pretty sure Belgian eID's are also by Gemalto, which prompts a bunch of questions:

1) are the private keys in Belgian eID's also similarily not randomly generated on-chip, and in whose hands does this happen?

2) if we face the same issue as Estonia, why is no one in Belgium discussing this?

3) if Belgium is not affected, why is Gemalto having 2 systems? doesn't it seem more efficient to use the same private key generation mechanism for both customer nations? why would Gemalto go out of its way to have separate codebases etc regarding "on chip" private key generation? this all seems to suggest that Belgium too is similarily affected

The Portuguese ID is also similar to Estonia, when it was introduced here in Portugal there was considerable talk about being able to interop with Estonia.

Nothing about this flaw in the local news afaik.

I would like to reply to the dead comment:

These eIDs are replaced every few years, so it still matters to a lot of people.

How do we expect "deviants" to improve if we don't even allow feedback towards the "deviant" ?

estonia has the rigth idea. their card is about empowering and giving control to the citizen. Last I checked, it migth have shift since then.

US credit score/CN socia score/RU degrees of separation from putin (ok, I made the last one up :) are invisible, non-opt (in or out) systems of control.

estonia ID card (and an aborted digital ID in some south american countries) were about allowing the citzen to securely sign a document, in person or remotely.

the two concepts are world apart.

Well, yes. The only privacy concern I see is when online services ping back to the Estonian government to make sure your certificate hasn't been revoked. If they choose to hit their API for every public key they encounter, the government could collect information about all the services you use. I think businesses can choose to periodically download a list of revoked certificates instead to avoid leaking usage data.

even then, still worlds apart from credit score, where a tird party you never registered with have the ping back, plus new meta data such as what you were trying to buy and for how much, etc.

Ever wondered why such "secure and privacy-concious" national ID cards only find place in third-world countries.

"Citizens of Australia, Canada, NZ, UK, and the US successfully opposed biometric national ID schemes." https://www.eff.org/issues/national-ids

Calling Estonia a third world country is incredibly ignorant!

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonia#Economic_indicators for instance.

Hong Kong is at the top - looks like that list will need to get updated soon.

Because the defacto IDs, e.g. SSN (US) or NiNO (UK) are so much better! They have no identifying features, so it's trivial to commit identitiy fraud. And once that happens you're fucked because they cannot be changed. But sure is better than one of those nasty ID cards that e.g. Germany, one of the most privacy-conscious nations, uses. (/s)

SSNs have been terribly abused by private industry. They were never meant to be handled by private companies, but here we are with a non-consentual credit scoring system based atop it.

Should people be required to hold a national ID card? It may have been rammed through in Germany, but many are not happy with national IDs. Its a basic consent of the people problem IMO. Passive acceptance is not consent or support, but merely dealing with the situation at hand.

What's your point? People have driving licenses, a passport and never think twice about using credit cards or loyalty cards. But somehow an ID card is uniquely dangerous? I don't buy it. The status quo is already worse!

Its because its so open to abuse by the police and reminds people (sorry germany) the Gestapo - that's why post ww2 the UK rejected ID cards.

The status quo is terrible, that is not a good reason to add a "secure" national ID though, it is apt to make the problem of tracking worse.

Considering they are the most privacy conscious, it's pretty hard to avoid running into bullshit like Schufa or the need to register your address with the authorities.

The UK has a weird "identity" system: you now need proof of immigration status in order to get a job, a bank account, or rent a house (and you need to show ID to buy a house too). For British nationals this effectively means you have to have a passport, which is biometric ID.

The system also rests on utility bills - my wife was securing the services of a lawyer recently, and the government-issue driving license with photo and address is apparently not enough, you have to have a utility bill in your name too.

I have managed to open bank accounts and ISA's with no pass port or driving licence just a credit card bill and my p60 (tax documents)

The 5-eyes countries you mention don't need national ID cards to track their citizens. They're way ahead of the "third-world" countries.

That trend is worrying. Old-fashioned ID cards are awesome. They uniquely identify you, so you don't need to give outrageous amounts of data everywhere you go. And that's about it.

Governments everywhere seem to be increasing their surveillance efforts. Finger prints on id cards. The Indian Aadhaar madness. Chinese "social credit scores". The list goes on.

I guess we have to get used to the new world order, where citizens don't matter, surveillance is everywhere, and there is no obvious way to fight this madness.

You fight it by taking the personal hit and run for office yourself. From my experience, the only thing you can really control is yourself. The problem is running for office is a pain and most people don't want their personal lives going public.

democracy used to be the optimal system because it processed information faster than authoritarianism. advences in technology reverse this relationship. whoever gets to the steering wheel has the potential to stay there for a long while with a very efficient (in terms of policing behavior per person employed) police. this all sounds like a bad joke but it is happening as we speak in china.

> “It’s blackmail. Venezuelans with the cards now have more rights than those without.”

Take note, this is the exact same vector that could happen even in first world countries.

First the carrot, then when enough people are on board, the rest get the stick, too.

It already does.

Did you hear about smartphones?

In addition to be another dictatorship tool to have more control over the population, they're trying to implement low Gas subsidies to citizens-only in the border with other countries, they're probably losing +4B yearly in contraband.

>“We don’t support the government,” he said. “We are just developing our market.”

Considering the potential oppressive ramifications of such a system this could support the government a great deal.

Standard response from Chinese companies, "We are just doing business!" (We got families to immigrate to first world like party officials, need to make money fast!)

PS. Ctrip Founder levels with you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kF8yBZeSFU

Our middle and upper management members all sent their kids abroad, do their best to come by a (foreign) passport. Poor people don't mind, all they want is an apartment in Shanghai. It's not safe here, American education, air, and hospitals are just better.

> Standard response from Chinese companies

To be fair, it’s the same excuse Facebook used in Myanmar.

It's also a standard response from American companies making compromises to do business in China. Just look at the proposed Google search there.

Is YC involved in NEOM in Saudia Arabia? I know Sam Altman is involved. It's another example of profits over human rights.

>“We don’t support the government,” he said. “We are just developing our market.”

Wow, is that meant to be a justification? That sounds even worse than what they are denying. They're just saying, "I don't care about the consequences, I'm just here to make a buck."

Not "their" problem.. you could say the same about pretty much any other technology product.

People who tell blatant lies like this should be aware that they will eventually face the same fate as the oppressors they enable. The logic of capitalism will not serve as a defense, nor should it.

If its not Chinese then some other nation would have sold it to them. Its a very lucrative business to have access to data from general masses.

"It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!" - Jesus

Would the criticism go away if they called it a credit score?

>Would the criticism go away if they called it a credit score?

would the criticism go away if they called it a happiness score?

for all the faults credit scores have, the only factor that they take into account are your credit events. they don't track every aspect of your life.

Credit score tracking is privately managed and incredibly inaccurate, it can lead to people being unable to qualify for mortgages when their financial situation is quite solid. Additionally credit score calculations are all proprietary and may have begun taking your social life into account (there are mixed reports) but given that health insurers are already upping the pressure to gather more of your personal data I doubt they're far behind, the difference is that health insurance is a much more highly regulated field so we have proof they're doing it, credit score trackers do all that stuff behind closed doors..

>Credit score tracking is privately managed and incredibly inaccurate, it can lead to people being unable to qualify for mortgages when their financial situation is quite solid

The first thing I did was say was that credit scores aren't perfect, so I'm not disagreeing with you on this. as for the "incredibly inaccurate" claim, are you talking about accuracy as a whole, or people on edge cases being screwed because they have a bad score? because I highly doubt lenders would bother paying for a worthless risk model.

>Additionally credit score calculations are all proprietary

And you think the citizen score isn't going to be?

>may have begun taking your social life into account (there are mixed reports) [...] credit score trackers do all that stuff behind closed doors..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Credit_Reporting_Act ? Also, you can opt-out of social media, not so much the government.

I'm not sure what you're trying to do by pointing out how bad credit scores are, because citizen scores are clearly worse, considering they can collect everything credit bureaus can, but more.

For most people, it would just be a misnomer.

If Venezuela asked Google to build a censored, surveillance-oriented search engine, would they do it? my understanding is that they've already agreed to do it for China, so doing similar work for other dictatorships should be standard, even if not as profitable, business.

Probably not. There isn’t enough revenue to counteract the detriment to their goodwill and other hits the company would take. China offers over a billion reasons to reconsider one’s positions.

Funny that they're printed using Datacard SD360. These ID's can be duplicated with ease.

I know it sounds naive, but maybe an organized boycott towards ZTE could help?

In Europe, the Venezuelan crisis is largely ignored. Where I live (Spain), our current government is more or less on friendly terms with Maduro's government and there is little insensitive to do anything about it. The left-leaning media has, for the most part, ignored the topic (El Pais for one...), despite the increasing number of Venezuelan asylum-seekers arriving in Spain each year, and any meaningful efforts to boycott anything would need the media/government's support.

>n Europe, the Venezuelan crisis is largely ignored

Sure, the last 5 years of National TV Stations here in Spain talking about Venezuela 24/7h just didn't happen.

>our current government is more or less on friendly terms with Maduro's government and there is little insensitive to do anything about it.

You mean the PP too? https://www.google.es/amp/s/m.publico.es/espana/gobierno-raj...

Also, yes, we're not in bad terms with Venezuela. That's basically our policy with S. America, to try to be friends with everyone. Heck, even Franco was friends with Castro. This type of policy goes a long time ago and it's not because "we are socialist sympathisers".

>The left-leaning media has, for the most part, ignored the topic (El Pais for one...),



>despite the increasing number of Venezuelan asylum-seekers arriving in Spain each year

Yes, those poor, poor migrants.


Most of them sadly (even the poor ones) don't give a fuck about Venezuela once they're here, because come on, will you really want to go back to a shithole vs one of the best countries in Europe in regard to quality of life and such?

>and any meaningful efforts to boycott anything would need the media/government's support.

Indeed. But not only "media" and "government" also other parties, like PP or Ciudadanos, which remind us of how bad Venezuela (because that filthy podemita is gonna expropriate your house, just like it has happened in Madrid with Carmena or in Valencia with Joan Ribó) but are yet to pretty much do nothing about it even when they were in power.

> Heck, even Franco was friends with Castro

Nitpick: I guess you meant Fraga

Nah, Franco too.


Obviously the relationship Fraga had with Castro was more than friendly, it was "special" indeed so to speak.

gaius 3 months ago [flagged]

In Europe, the Venezuelan crisis is largely ignored

Venezuela is still considered the ideal role model by certain British politicians...

I wouldn't say it's considered the "ideal role model" by some British politicians (as it currently stands), but they definitely stand on very similar ideological grounds. People like Corbyn simply think that if it's them who run the machine, things will run smoothly. That is, there is nothing inherently wrong with their ideology, the only problem with it is who gets to be the supreme leader. In Corbyn's eyes, he can do better. By the way, Podemos is the third largest party in Spain, and it supports Chavez/Maduro and it blames Venezuela's ills on US sanctions. Videos of the leader of Podemos supporting the Venezuelan dictatorship and its ideals aren't rare. Unfortunately, HN has the last years turned extremely left. They are like children who must experience pain before they understand. As a Cuban, I see through people like Corbyn and Iglesias as if I were Casper. The implications of their ideology are something the US/most of the West has not experienced yet, and as such, they're entirely ignorant about it. "The Open Society and Its Enemies" isn't a popular book among people here, I can tell you.

I'm not a Corbyn fan, but I think this is a gross misrepresentation of the current labour leadership, and their likely actions in government. I often see these kind of analogies being drawn based on a selective reading of the wide variety of regimes leftist politicians in the UK admired (or once-admired in the context of the Cold War). Can you point to any recent commentary from Corbyn or other senior labour figures (excluding Ken Livingstone, who is increasingly senile but thankfully out of the loop these days) that expressed admiration for Chavez and Maduro?

HN is not extremely left wing the sort of rhetoric you are using - sorry to say this is exactly the sort of thing that has got America into the sorry state it is today.

Only in the minds of right wing ideologues.

Can't you find a tweet that isn't 5 years old?

Do you mean one in which Corbyn admits he was wrong? There is no such tweet.

DJI or other drone companies could be the solution to Venezuela’s problems. Almost happened a few months ago.

I don't know. These guys arrived in power through free elections. Don't underestimate the economically self-destructive force of South American public opinions.

All it takes for a perfectly democratic country to elect a terrible leader (who will probably erode democracy away) is to have a previous leader not pay attention to the voting masses. Anger is a very bad advisor.

They arrived that way... but they didn't remain that way. For more than a decade, they have systematically undermined the ability of the Venezuelan people to un-elect them. The last two elections could easily be labelled "non-free".

Never underestimate the influence of ballot stuffing in "free" elections. It happens everywhere, even in the US.

This just in from a few days ago: Palm Beach County.

The county’s decade-old ballot-counting machines """overheated""" and gave """incorrect totals""", forcing the county to restart its recount of about 175,000 early votes., supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Tuesday night. The department has flown in """mechanics""" to repair the machines.

* Modern computers don't need mechanics when they overheat. The computer will automatically shut itself off if it gets too hot in order to save itself. All you have to is cool the computer down. That's something even an idiot could do. *



A few excerpts from the Wikipedia page of the voting machine we use in the USA, "Smartmatic":

After receiving funds "from private investors"[11] which included Jorge Massa Dustou,[16] one of the richest individuals in Venezuela,[17] the company then began to expand rapidly.

Smartmatic then established its headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida with only seven employees. Bizta was awarded a $150,000 "loan" from Marieta Maarroui de Bolívar – wife of the then-Chavista governor Didalco Bolívar – who was president of FONCREI, the Venezuelan government's organization dedicated to industrial funding. Smartmatic also received an additional $200,000 loan from the Chávez government. The deal with Bizta required the Venezuelan government to own 28% of Smartmatic and placed Venezuela's Head of the Council of Ministers and advisor to Hugo Chávez,[32] Omar Montilla, on Smartmatic's board of directors. After it was reported that the Venezuelan government had been involved with funding and managing Mugica's Bizta for over two years, Smartmatic quickly repaid Bizta's "loan" a month before the election.[29] A Venezuelan government propaganda organization, the Venezuela Information Office, also released a "fact sheet" about Smartmatic, defending the company from allegations at the time.[5]


I do wish that Social Security cards in the USA had a photo on them. It would make fraud much more difficult. The Social Security number's original intention was for census purposes then the IRS took it for their own purposes.

The Social Security Number wasn't created for census purposes, nor was it ever meant (and still isn't) to be fraud-proof. It was created, for _Social Security_ benefits. It wasn't meant to be truly secure, as the worst you can do with someone else's Social Security Number with the Social Security Administration is paying more into their Social Security account.

It is true the IRS used it for their own purposes too, and thus broke the original purpose, but it'd be ridiculous to make the Social Security card more secure and turn it into a national ID because of that. In most government applications anyway, your driver's license number has taken the place of the SSN. Your SSN isn't supposed to be sensitive.

Furthermore, it sounds like you're advocating for the creation of a "National ID" of sorts, which is quite the slippery slope.

I think everyone should have easy and free access to personal identification that is valid for voting, air travel, opening a bank account, etc. I don't think it should be mandatory. I think if the government is going to require it, they should provide it.

I'm confidant that the census bureau created those numbers which was soon taken over by SSA or for SSA. That also isn't really the point I'm trying to make which is becoming a tangent.

A passport / passport card comes pretty close to your stated goal.

Far as I know, a passport card does exactly what I want it to do except be free. There are people that are at the poverty level or below, and some right above the cut-off, who can't afford $100+ dollars in fees.

I've got mixed feelings on this as well. It feels like a passport should be a service received on the basis of being a citizen, but I also accept that ~$100 is a nominal processing fee and that government doesn't offer any services for free. As another poster pointed out, it's still cheaper overall than the cost of a driver's license, which potentially brings with it the cost of training, insurance, not to mention an actual vehicle and its costs assuming that was the reason for getting a license in the first place.

They give you things like your SSN and Birth Certificate for free, I believe. I think my overall point is, the average guy I work with at a shelter or volunteer gig doesn't have the financial flexibility to spend money on an ID at least for the explicit purpose of voting. If a citizen is expected to vote, but must have identification doesn't that mean you're having to pay for the right to vote in a free democracy? It just doesn't sit right with me.

In most states, all state-issued IDs (State IDs, Learner's Permits, Driver Licenses) meet all the requirements to vote, travel by air, etc. as they follow the "REAL ID" act. Many states also have an assistance program for people below the poverty line for them. California though is one of the particular lagging states in this area, as they are opposed to the REAL ID act, among several other states.

REAL ID is basically standardized state IDs to allow the things you wanted. Yes, it's not free, but most people have one already anyway (if they drive).

I wasn't aware of the assistance programs. I'll have to look that up and see if my state has that and pass along that info, if the service is available.

It just so happened that I had to replace my driver's license (I'm in Florida) today, which now uses REAL ID. The fee is $25 for a new license, which I was somewhat surprised at, and believe to be rather reasonable (though it is probably unreasonable for many below the poverty line still).

Furthermore, it appears that if someone is on SSI benefits, they get a significant discount. It depends on the state level through what kind of discounts are available of course.

I also know in Florida there are several homeless assistance non-profits who will pay and assist with getting photo IDs for the homeless, and with the fee being only $25, it seems relatively "cheap" as a method of helping someone who is homeless; it'd be hard to find a better return on investment with $25 to help assist the homeless to take the steps needed to get themselves off the street.

I recall when I first got my license paying more than $40, so I was very happy to see the lower price.

At most, it may mildly inconvenience fraudsters who commit in-person fraud. It would do nothing for scams that take place over phone, mail, or internet, which I imagine is the vast majority.

You'd think they'd have bigger fish to fry at this point.

Depends on what you think their game is. If you think their game is to fix the economy, yes, they definitely have bigger fish to fry. But if you think their game is to stay in power, then it makes perfect sense.

I wonder if have a little slider on a GUI somewhere that some Venezuelan government official uses to determine the minimal social credit score that lets one get to eat.

Well, that was an interesting and disturbing read, what are you supposed to do if you don't have the facilities to flee that country? Bend over apparently..

It's incredibly disappointing the amount of ignorance and political whataboutism being thrown around here in this comment section.

Also this is a great lesson to the younger generation that seem to be wooed by the Ocasio-Cortezes and Sanders of the world. Unfortunately the world needs a reminder every generation or so that socialism doesn't work, it never has worked, and it never will work.

Please don't take HN threads on tedious ideological tangents. People are here for intellectual curiosity, not to be blasted by ideological megaphones. (Regardless of which politics they're blasting.)

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18451533 and marked it off-topic.

Edit: please see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18446684 too.

Isn't Sanders a proponent of a social democratic system, like the Nordics? These countries are the most successful / least failed states in the world by a multitude of metrics. Comparing social democracies to Venezuela is of course just dishonest.

I seem to recall that Sanders' proposals could not be funded at current tax levels. That was the start of Venezuela's road to ruin. They proceeded to raise taxes to try to get the revenue, but it wasn't enough. So they started expropriating (taking) corporate property. So companies left, and revenue went down. So they funded the government by printing money, and inflation went out of control.

I'm shooting from memory here about Sanders' proposals, and can't cite a source, so someone feel free to correct with hard data if you've got it...

> I seem to recall that Sanders' proposals could not be funded at current tax levels.

The main focus was on Medicare-for-All, which could not but would also (even in analysis by hostile sources) reduce total public + private health costs.

> That was the start of Venezuela's road to ruin.

No, it wasn't.

Venezuela did not enact policies that cost more than it could supports, then try to raise taxes for revenue, and then turn to expropriation as a revenue measure; expropriation and high taxation were adopted deliberately as part of an overt policy of aggressive redistribution of wealth, not because revenue for social services was unavailable elsewhere but because redistribution from the rich was an independent goal.

Venezuela’s road to ruin was based on overdependence on oil revenue combined with failure to invest to diversify (or even maintain production) which led to falling production masked for a while by soaring prices and the whole house of cards collapsing when oil market prices collapsed.

> > I seem to recall that Sanders' proposals could not be funded at current tax levels.

> The main focus was on Medicare-for-All, which could not but would also (even in analysis by hostile sources) reduce total public + private health costs.

So there's a deal available there to be done where everybody wins (except perhaps politically). Medicare-for-all without the deal could be a disaster for the government finances, though.

But Sanders also proposed free college for all, which would also have to be funded somehow. And it seems like there was another big one, but I don't remember what it was.

> Venezuela did not enact policies that cost more than it could supports, then try to raise taxes for revenue, and then turn to expropriation as a revenue measure; expropriation and high taxation were adopted deliberately as part of an overt policy of aggressive redistribution of wealth, not because revenue for social services was unavailable elsewhere but because redistribution from the rich was an independent goal.

On reflection, that's not very comforting. We are at a place politically where "redistribution from the rich" has become thinkable as an independent goal.

> But Sanders also proposed free college for all,

He actually proposed that public colleges and universities should be tuition free, which is not the same thing.

> On reflection, that's not very comforting. We are at a place politically where "redistribution from the rich" has become thinkable as an independent goal.

Redistribution wasn't what caused the collapse, being more dependent on oil while producing less of it (and thus becoming supersensitive to price was.)

I only mentioned redistribution as an independent policy goal to explain why the narrative social spending -> funding needs -> effort at raising taxes -> expropriation was wrong. That sequence simply didn't occur. Venezuela relied on raising oil prices for revenue, and collapsed when oil prices did; expropriation was adopted early on when things were going relatively well, because of high oil prices, not in desperation over inadequate revenue.

Didn't redistribution (plus expropriation of businesses) lead to a bunch of businesses that weren't oil leaving the country, leaving them more dependent on oil? And they were fine with that, because oil was going up, so who cared that other business left?

Intentionally dishonest.

But I don't want my taxes raised an order of magnitude to pay for everyone else. I believe in equal opportunity, not equal outcome. Not everyone has to be on a level playing field. That is fake and forced, not natural. Even the poorest American (or anyone short of war-torn countries) has the opportunity to better themselves. It may not be easy or the path may include things that at first seem unnatural, but the paths are there.

Case in point in America. I know many, many people who served in the military for the sole reason of a college education. It cost them 4-8 years, but they emerged a veteran with veteran hiring preferences, debt-free, have work experience, life experience, and they are all fine. And no, you don't have to end up in a combat role at all. It's completely avoidable by going into the Air Force or Navy in an administrative role. In the rear with the gear, as it were. Military IT training for those with an IT bent is great training and you get to work on some really interesting stuff. You will never see the front lines as an Air Force IT staffer. This is but one path. For those morally opposed to the military, there are other paths like the Peace Corps, WWOOF, etc.

Edited to add:

From Winston Churchill:

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

"There is nothing government can give you that it hasn't taken from you in the first place."

"The main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity. The main vice of socialism is the even distribution of misery."

"You don't make the poor richer by making the rich poorer."

"We contend that for a nation to try and tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle."

# End Sir Winston Churchill

I agree with all his above statements. Even Scandinavia is cutting back on the services they offer because they cannot afford it long term. It's not a panacea. You earn it, you keep it. Full stop. I should not be forced by taxation to fulfill the lives of others. If you are able-bodied, get a job, even if you don't like it. Work your way up the ladder. Don't expect anything from anyone. No one owes you anything other than mutual respect as a human being. Want something? Go earn it.

>But I don't want my taxes raised an order of magnitude to pay for everyone else.

But you’re surely fine paying your taxes into “Defense” (private, for-profit contractors) continuing wars in other destabilized regions?

I’m actually supportive of defense spending....when it’s relevant to American (or really any developed nation’s “greater” life on earth). I currently see no effort to build ICBM/EMP/Astroid/Natural disaster defenses shrug

I also have to wonder what your priorities are when your first thought is “I don’t want to pay for everyone else” instead of “where is my tax money going?”

I, too, do not want an undue yoke of taxation on my back. To be honest, no one is calling for a “magnitude” increase in your taxes. And trigger warning, America has numerous socialist policies such as Medicare/Medicaid and health coverage for your politicians (but not your fellow countrymen)

It seems far more “fake and forced” to me that our FAANG companies (and their ilk) need additional tax cuts. It seems far more “fake and forced” that income tax is so high compared to other taxes. the sudden 2016-induced claims of a “booming economy” seem more “fake and forced” in the light of no real wage growth. Our slow descent into Feudalism and lordship seems far more “fake and forced” when you look at the policies that enable it.

And If you are one of the world’s wealthiest 0.1%, let me play the worlds smallest violin for not wanting to help you press your boot down harder on the throat of the proletariat.

>That is fake and forced, not natural.

There are more then a few animal social systems that practice resource sharing:



The act of ensuring everyone has the bare minimum to survive when resources are abundant is more natural, more human, not less.

>But I don't want my taxes raised an order of magnitude to pay for everyone else.

Possibly relevant: I’ve lived for 5+ in Northern Europe in the same economic/familiar circumstances as in the US, and I paid pretty much the same amount (as a percentage of my salary) after adding education and health care. The winters in Northern Europe are terrible, though. Pretty much everything else rocks.

Well you don't always get what you want, and I have a feeling that you're in a smallish minority on this.

Just how high do you imagine tax rates in Nordic countries to be?

Yes, the frozen hell of Norway... I am familiar with it. /s

It's hyperbole to say that Sanders is anywhere near the Venezuelan regime politically. He wants a single payer healthcare system like Canada. It's really hard to convey sarcasm in text, but I'll give it a try: Come and see the socialist dystopia that is modern Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal! It's a modern hellscape!

Sanders and Corbyn from the UK both explicitly praised Venezuela when oil was at $120 a barrel. Sanders even said Venezuela was a place where the american dream can really be realized. When oil dropped and the whole thing fell to pieces they pretended that it never happened

The Sanders quote was a misattribution, that has been recited so many times that looks properly sourced. Quillette has a properly researched defense of Sanders:


Corbyn, on the other hand, has explicitly and often praised Venezuela and Chavez. There are plenty of primary sources, e.g.,


That doesn't really mean much; Trump fucking praised Kim Jong Un. But nobody says America is going socialist because of that.

People just want free stuff and forget they ultimately pay the bill.

People just want a system that works, modeled after other systems known to work, instead of horrible brokenness.

Could trying to fit a dissimilar country's system to our own result in a broken system?

It could, but I don't see that as the likely outcome. Dissimilarities with other countries are greatly exaggerated, and government is better at getting things done than many people give it credit for.

It is possible that the result would still be broken, but it is certain that the result of doing nothing will still be broken.

We can either just keep things broken, learn from what others have done use those lessons to take our best shot at fixing things, or we can completely ignore the hard-won lessons of others and go for an untested and novel approach. Which is most likely to work?

Maybe first figure out exactly what is broken and why?

Seems to me that this has been pretty thoroughly explored already.

In that case it would be interesting to see the premise that gets us from "US' healthcare system is horribly broken" to "Canadian healthcare system is a suitable model."

Things like cost per capita and outcomes lead you there pretty naturally. We pay a shitload more and don’t get noticeably better results.


How do you define a “socialist” country? What countries would you say are “socialist” versus “cartel driven”?


Please don't break the site guidelines by taking HN threads on generic flamewar tangents.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18451497 and marked it off-topic.

yeah it really helped when a private company leaked the personal data of _literally everybody_ and suffered _exactly no consequences_


Violence is truly the solution to all of our problems

Violence is the force behind all government regulation. If you do not choose to comply, law enforcement will make you do so at gunpoint. In every society, no matter how progressive, the specter of violence is inescapable since there is no other real way to coerce human behavior.

You can debate the pros and cons of centralization vs decentralization of violent power, but it's misleading to claim that one argument is inherently violent and the other somehow is not.

For example, you could argue that the deterrent effect of a strong police force enforcing strict laws leads to less actual physical violence and crime than the deterrent effect of every home being vigilant and armed. But regardless of what side you take, both approaches are backed by the prospect of violence.

There are lots of other ways to coerce human behavior besides violence.

Violence only usually works for a short time, in limited situations, with limited groups of people. Other than that it's largely counterproductive because dead babies photos get folks agitated.

What works really well is economic coercion. Sure, you don't have to do such and such, but then your kids won't go to college, you won't get a good job, you won't be able to buy anything, and in extreme cases, you won't be able to eat.

That is effective coercion, the kind all of us are subject to right now and generally responsive to as well. The issue with breaking the law isn't that you might get shot by the cops, it's that you won't be able to get a good (or any?) job ever ever again after you get out of 10 year confinement. So no women, no wine, no everyone thinking you are really something in your new car. No power. Will get bossed around in some low level degrading position for table scraps, if you are lucky.

It's really the same kind of thing as social credit score in China, just not as formal. And that kind of coercion is how smart people do it, not with guns.


Yeah belaboring people as fools straight out the gate isn't a good way to make your argument. I had actually upvoted your other comment before seeing this one. Ever consider that you might be partly right but also partly wrong, and that maybe people are reacting to your extreme arrogance and unwillingness to entertain other points of view?

More probably, you're getting downvoted for bringing politics to the discussion. And insulting everyone who does not agree with you.

I don't know what that is. Most people on here aren't from the US.


How does that apply here, or what does bitcoin solve wrt a national ID?

Bitcoin offers a nice distraction from real problems.

And less volatility than some national currencies. Never thought I'd be typing that so soon!

And you can blame someone else for BTC volatility (darn speculators), but when youa re in control of your own currency, and it is volatile, blaming others becomes much harder, though not impossible (darn capitalists/opec/USA).

How many tech people really believe that bitcoin is entirely decentralized - which I guess is the argument you are trying to make?

I wish everyone could be honest with the fact that there are a dozen people or so that in one method or another could demolish bitcoin if they really wanted to. (Shutting down some exchanges, a couple well placed bad changes, the unknown creator, etc)

I agree with both your points but just want to posit a slight counter. There's also the "fact" that there are maybe more than a dozen people or so that in one method or another could demolish USD or EUR or whatever fiat currency, as well. Couple that with the fact that over time, the number of such influencers over Bitcoin should, as it has historicallly, decrease faster than the same number for fiat currencies.

Just saying that at least partially explains the exuberance with which people are participating in the Bitcoin experiment.

Well, I mean, there are at least supposed to be checks and balances with US currency.

It’s a literal universal interest that the USD be stable. A dozen people at the FED or executive shouldn’t be able to ruin the dollar at least in any comparison to how fast a niche crypto commodity could be ruined.

That said... we went through at least three rounds of QE directed by the last administration. So, maybe you’re right.

Don't forget that people have previously seen the possibility of financial liberation by cultivating tulip bulbs and other oddities of market-centric thinking.

Why? It sounds like this ID is mainly used to control the poor with little to no assets. A big pile of USD is probably as good if not better than a pile of bitcoin in this situation. It's much harder to track and control USD than bitcoin.

A pile of USD can get you robbed and tossed in jail in Venezuela these days.

Is there any way official way to exchange BTC for Venezuelan Bolivar? Is exchanging BTC really any different from the way you would realistically exchange USD? My guess is any currency transaction will use a parallel or black market due to the ridiculous official rates.


There is no official way to do anything in Venezuela without these new ID cards.

That's what makes it important to enable Venezuelans to hustle with each other unofficially, sub rosa.

DOn't get me wrong: I loathe bitcoin and its boosters, and I pity anyone who actually needs it to get by. But Venezuelans are in that number.

> A pile of USD can get you robbed and tossed in jail in Venezuela these days.

If people know you have Bitcoin, they can just beat the wallet password out of you and throw you in jail just the same.

> The card is increasingly linked by the government to subsidized food, health and other social programs most Venezuelans rely on to survive.

I really don't understand how Venezuelans haven't revolted and given up on their failed socialist economic experiment. Typically lack of food has been the spark that starts these revolutions, but the failure of even basic services there has been going on for years now. How much more authoritarianism without any economic gain can these people take?

Are enough regular people really getting enough handouts from the government to not want to get rid of them? Is the propoganda machine working that effectively to blind them?

When the government takes guns away from the masses it gets a little harder to pull off. Venezuela is a narco state at this stage too.


First article I found on it on Google: https://www.activistpost.com/2016/05/did-you-know-that-venez...

BBC Link about the ban: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-18288430

Most revolutions are not won by rebels successfully shooting their way to power, but by general strikes.

If the US army turned on its citizens do you think it wouldn't go through ANY resistance like a hot knife through butter?

In a focused area, sure. In general, not really. Take all law enforcement in America, combine that with the entire US Military, and then just look at able-bodied adults in, say, the 20-60 age group. The civilians vastly outnumber law enforcement, and there are enough guns in America already to arm every last one of them.

I live in the southeast. There are pockets here that would be very tough to take. It would be a Vietnam situation. So, yes. The 2nd amendment still has deterrent power.

Only if the government is stupid enough to take on them head-to-head. Any half-competent dictator will sell his vision first, saying how America is in danger and it's time for the freedom-loving patriots to take back their country...

...And then he can sit back and enjoy the fireworks from the safety of Washington DC, while his followers are doing the dirty work.

Those 2A arguments never really made sense to me: what makes you think your gun-toting neighbor (or even yourself) will be on the right side of freedom?

It wouldn't be a Vietnam situation, it would be an Iraq situation. Much more aerial surveillance and drone strikes.

I've no doubt that guerilla resistance would continue for years, but the imposition of petrol rationing alone would curtail almost all rebel attempts to hold anything of any importance within about two weeks.

If you can successfully blockade an interior group, sure. But that interior group has the ability to strike back and away from their interior that they want to hold. America's infrastructure is totally not hardened. The millions in prisons also make for a potential pool of manpower. All I'm really saying is any actual conflict would play out a lot different than the real civil war we had, or any of our foreign continent excursions where the enemy can't really strike back.

It is not a matter of hard or easy, is a matter of simple economics: 2nd amendment = high price to pay, no 2nd amendment = easy peasy.

This is a terrible form of romance America has adopted recently, and it's costing the country a lot. 2nd amendment proponents have been singing praises of it while the 1st amendment has continued to be curtailed. This decline started under clinton with restrictions on media revenue being lifted but it has gotten so much worse in the past year.

Who do you think makes up the US Army?

The US Army, or any other branch of service for that matter, isn't going to turn on its citizens: it would more likely turn on any leaders that order them to do so.

And don't discount the fact that among the civilians are a good number of individuals who were former military.

Kent State happened. Waco happened. There are ongoing protests about the willingness of police to shoot civilians. Given a sufficiently big breakdown of public order, especially along partisan lines, there would be talking heads on the news demanding that the army go in and shoot "looters".

"Kent State happened. Waco happened."

The Kent State shootings were in 1970. The Branch Davidian compound siege was in 1993.

In the former case, the Guardsmen involved claimed to have fired in self-defense and were cleared of both criminal and civil charges. In the latter, the military assets were limited to a few Bradley fighting vehicles on the perimeter and combat engineering vehicles -- which were actually used for breaching and wall-breaking -- under the direction (if not operation) by ATF and FBI, and no military units engaged in fire.

In neither case were military units ordered to suppress or attack civilians. And compared to the number of training related deaths that occur in the military during peacetime, the number of fatalities from the incidents you list (although tragic) pale in comparison over the same time period.

Waco happened

Waco was the cops wasn’t it? Who are always happy to shoot random civilians.

Parts will, parts won't. It's not as unitary an entity as most people would like to believe.

Who do you think makes up the Venezuelan army?

Who do the members of the Venezuelan army pledge their loyalty to: an individual (such as Maduro) or a set of laws and established regulations (such as their Constitution)?

And if the latter, does that Constitution or do those regulations outline and reinforce the importance of individual rights, or simply the importance of compliance to the State?

Do members of the Venezuelan army receive extensive and annual training/re-training regarding the laws of land warfare, treatment of captives, and expected conduct under the Geneva Convention and any other applicable rules of engagement?

Are members of the Venezuelan army professional soldiers or conscripts?

Are units of the Venezuelan army composed of individuals from the same geographical area, and stationed in a different geographical area?

Answers to these questions should give one insight as to the difference between any Third World army (Venezuelan or otherwise) and those of the United States military.

the army could certainly be convinced to turn on its own citizens, they just have to label those people as Traitors, Terrorists, Criminals, Gangs, Outsiders, Communists, Muslims, something other than "us".

And, specifically, they'd turn on those labeled peoples one at a time to single them out, it has happened many times before.

You mean like it has in Afghanistan?

US military budget: $590b; 3% GDP

Venezuala military budget: $2.6b; 1% GDP

Your analogy needs work.

EDIT: Corrected US military budget %GDP value.

Your US numbers are very weirdly off. I've never seen someone try to claim US defense spending was 15% of GDP.

US military budget: ~$700 billion, 3.4% of GDP.

US GDP will be close to $20.50 trillion for 2018. Your 15% figure implies a GDP of about $4 trillion (close to the size of Germany's economy).

The US will add roughly $1 trillion to its GDP figure in 2018. That's nearly the size of Mexico's entire economy (15th largest economy), added in just one year.

You're right, I was hasty and copied the % of the federal budget instead of % GDP.

In any case, the US military is much better equipped than the Venezuelan military.

The US army is composed of the citizens of the United States and is held together by a small elite run by the officer corps and high level civilians GS-13 and above. I estimate this to be under 5000 people. Unless a convincing narrative is formulated, US soldiers will refuse to fight their own. One way to accomplish this is to paint "the enemy" as unsophisticated ludditical racists.

What's the difference in any other national army (besides the budget of course)

Are you joking, there are almost constant mass protests? [0] Also there was this 'drone assassination attempt' [1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_protests_(2014%E2%8...

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45073385

Also more than 2 millions are said to have fled the country (out of 30 something millions). [1]

[1] https://www.euronews.com/2018/08/28/venezuela-exodus-people-...

[edit] spelling (thank 2RTZZSro!)


Then what? A revolution isn't going to fix the economy and meanwhile a lot of people would have even less to live on. Venezuela needs more rule of law, not less.

Are you kidding? It's the current governments policy that has caused all of their issues. Their "rule of law" is the problem.

A peaceful transition is always better for people living through it. Their current government is indeed terrible but minority governance is a really hard situation to fix.

So, what changes specifically is your revolution demanding?

I don't know, maybe some real free elections? It seems the current government is rigging the elections: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/21/612918548...

The answers to your questions are: yes and yes. As long as the current regime has money to keep their coalition together, they are going nowhere. (as long as oil keeps coming out of the ground, money will be there)

But the oil isn't coming out of the ground. Production has been steadily declining. https://tradingeconomics.com/venezuela/crude-oil-production

They have tried that, but the government sends out his thugs (some of them civilian but armed) and the casualties happen and people retreat.

They don't have firearms. The loyalists and the government do. What do you expect the people to do? You can't revolt and take out the socialist tyrants if you don't have weapons.

Of course you can, by a mass refusal to work. Weapons are useful in a revolution but realistically rebels will always be guerrillas vastly outmatched by conventional forces in any developed country, so the possibility of shooting one's way to success (as opposed to making total oppression expensive) is near zero.

You can't win a revolution without significant popular support, and you can't get that if your only strategy is to shoot your antagonists because it's not clear how you differ from them in that case.

firearms are a factor, but the idea that they are the only factor is demonstrably wrong.

From an internet infrastructure/network engineering point of view as well, I'm concerned that US embargoes and trade restrictions are not helping things when it comes to autocratic regimes.

For example if an ISP in an autocratic regime, right now, wants to buy new core, aggregation and edge/customer premises routers, for a major network upgrade, they're going to be looking at ZTE or Huawei. Whereas the better technical solution might be some combination of things from a US company (Cisco, Juniper, Brocade). Or if they already have people who know JunOS on staff for core routing, they'll have to make a business risk decision to buy grey market Juniper through a third party, without any official support.

ZTE and Huawei and other Chinese companies involved in Internet censorship and the GFW are happy to sell equipment and consulting/contracting services to these sorts of countries.

You need UN in these cases, a real UN, not the one build for a postwar scenario that doesn't exist anymore.

Don't know what makes you think US tech is better, technically. What about all the Cisco backdoors?

Also, I live in a European country and network cores here, along with mobile stations, CPEs, etc. are full Chinese. ISPs don't even buy the equipment from them, they just give the Chinese firms full control to deploy the network. So this thing you're mentioning is not some kind of crazy Venezuelan concept.

Truth is, historically human civilizations has always been based on some kind of authoritarian rule, slavery, serfdom, etc. Democracy is just temporary anomaly created by the fact that during industrial revolution the need arose for mass education (to have factory workers that could read). Now that appropriate tech (online banking, smartphones with GPS tracking, AI, etc.) is in place the things will soon revert to the natural order, i.e. totalitarism.

> Democracy is just temporary anomaly created by the fact that during industrial revolution

How does this explain Athenian democracy or the Roman Republic? (Or, for that matter, Sparta’s elected ephors?)

Totalitarianism is the novelty. It has never, before recent decades, been feasible for a state to completely monitor all its citizens.

At least for Rome and Sparta, it was a small group of elite families that lorded over the mass of people. In addition, the Greeks and Romans considered their representative form of government to be the exception among their neighbors and took great pride in it.

but Rome's plebe still had a role and vote in politics. It's not SPQR for nothing.

Also, the venetian republic lasted for a thousand years and for about half of that it had a mostly democratic system.

Technological totalitarianism is the novelty. But there have been plenty of totalitarian governments that didn't use technology to completely monitor their citizens.

As I read history, I'd say that totalitarianism has been common throughout recorded history, perhaps even the majority.

Maybe, but I guess that argument is what ‘gun ownership as a civil right’ people say the whole point is, right?

The idea being that maybe authoritarianism “the natural order” but combined with ‘ok, but you’ll have to kill me first’.

I don’t know what your beliefs are on the matter, nor if you have an entirely valid point. I just wonder if anyone agrees but also feels that citizens shouldn’t have a means to protect themselves from their government that they beleive has an eventual tendeancy to turn authoritarian?

Edit: very strange reaction to asking questions that don’t imply any side one way or another but no responses... if you can’t even recognize another side of an argument without an emotional response... I mean... okay, but I think it’s odd.

> ok, but you’ll have to kill me first’.

Bang, you're dead.

The US romanticises revolution on the idea that every revolution will be like the US war of Independence, which is a really bad guide to how they tend to go in practice. People would do better to look at violence in South America as an example.

You are quite right about the romanticization of the US, but there are also multiple non-state political vectors, and the state itself is far from homogenous. Any breakdown of civil society int he US is not likely to be a simple rebels vs tyrannical government scenario. Even kinetic (shooting) conflicts also involve psychological and moral warfare that has greater impact on the outcome than individual contests of violence.

Except you’re argument here is that Revolution didn’t happen because the British just shot everyone dead - right?

If the government wanted to demolish everything they could glass the entire country with the push of a button.. but to what end? To rule over nothing?

This argument inevitably leads to one where you say tanks and drones vs civilians, but like your ”bang you’re dead” example that isn’t a solution to policing a populace, to keep routes open, to keep production going. Tanks and drones don’t stand on street corners. For that you need boots on the ground, and for that, you need people willing to go through doors knowing that the first guy or two will die. The supply is those guys runs out fast.

I don’t think it has anything to do with romanticism. It’s an honesty that we’ve seen in Iraq/Afghan/Syria for almost 20 years, even if you have the best miliary in the world with dozens of allies, that you can’t rule over people that don’t want to be if they can retaliate.

So... do all government roads lead to authoitarianism? IDK! But it surely happens slower when the people pose an individual threat, wouldn’t you think?

My argument is that the Revolutionary war was fought in 1776, right at the start of the Industrial revolution, and we've been through several reinventions of war in response to technological change. It's not going to go like it did back then. It would, as you say, be more like Syria.

This view also presumes that there isn't a big chunk of the populace that voted for the authoritarianism and actively supports it.

Unfortunately I agree.

but the on my mind - is the trend toward authoritarianism due to those in power seeking lordship, or select vocal groups among the serfs seeking to be lorded?

I'd agree except that democracy, by name, was invented before the industrial revolution.

This is why the 2nd amendment is absolutely crucial in ensuring that American citizens have the right to self-defense once these types of policies become more popular in America. Anyone still in Venezuela who has not planned to leave is utterly screwed.

As my Cuban grandfather once told me, turning in his rifle became his most regrettable action after the revolution... :/

I can't wait to see people shooting their rifles and handguns at fighter jets, tanks, drones, and bombs. Really good self defense plan there. And it's going to seem so patriotic when you're shooting at your own government & neighbors.

This has always been a really stupid argument. You realize that the army would split up because people from the army would join the resistance and lend a hand, right? And you realize that guerrilla warfare is highly effective even against superior weapons, right? Basic history shows us this.

So HN is upset that Venezuela has a national ID card which can be used to apply for government services, can be used for mobile payments, and the government has a "database" (in scare quotes) which lists the political party of the citizens.

Man, you guys are going to be really upset when you find out about the NSA and FBI.

If we had a press release like "Amazon announces mobile payments card with integration into government services", you guys would eat that up, right? "Mr. Bezos said the card would allow holders to easily apply for government programs such as food stamps."

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