Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Volunteer or else! Venezuela's "socialist slavery for the XXI century"?

A few days ago in first reading the National Assembly approved a rather confused law for which all details are far from clear: now every citizen between 18 and 60 will be required to do some volunteer work. I have not posted about it yet because simply I am waiting for the "rule book" (reglamento) to be published. In Venezuela legal system, many laws must be accompanied by a "rules book" before they are applied. That is, in a strong presidential system (only made much, much more stronger by Chavez) the executive can decide exactly when and how can the law be applied. Thus giving the executive a slight edge over the legislative.

Well, this new law is confusing enough that you can find many different versions according to what the journalists understand. Even though I have not found the law published yet, from what I can see it seems that it will be a new form of slavery, or at the very least a governmental tool to control more activities in the barrios. But a reader of this blog did also come up with the same idea and wrote a great piece in her blog. I asked Bruni to translate it and publish it here.

For those of us who have practiced volunteering for a significant amount of time we know that volunteer work cannot be forced, it has to come from inside. If you force it, it is not volunteer anymore: it becomes forced labor, slavery or feudalism Tsarist Russian style, as you have it. Let's hope that the final version of the law will be a frame work to help people do volunteer work and not another excuse for the government to knock at your door to fine you.

note added later: Publius Pundit takes already a good swipe at this nincompoopery. Cuba experience on the matter is recalled. Looks like mini-me keeps finding all his inspiration in Cuban failures. Ah! humans are the only animals that stumble twice on the same stone.

Miguel was bolder than me and already gave his evalaution of a bill not formally approved.

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Mandatory Volunteering
By Bruni

There are just two kinds of honest jobs in a free society: those paid with a salary to earn one’s life and voluntary jobs that are done just for the sake of helping others or getting involved in just causes.

Within that framework, each one of us chooses the cause in which to volunteer: sports, medicine, helping the illiterate, professional organizations, etc. The basic idea is to use one’s free time in causes that would provide personal satisfaction while helping the community.

Personally, I am a volunteer to help breast cancer patients. Nobody ever forced me to do it and even though I am in the list of volunteers of a hospital organization, nobody has ever counted my number of hours. I am involved out of personal conviction, not because any government has passed a law mandating that I should participate in Social Services.

Thus, the Social Service law recently passed by the National Assembly totally distorts the nature of volunteering. In a society where everything is valued in monetary terms and where everything is legislated, volunteering provides an implication that is solely based on human solidarity. However, when the government regulates volunteer work within a rigid and controlling framework, imposes the areas of interest and makes it a legal duty, it is destroying the very essence of the human and social solidarity that the law is supposed to promote.

What is even worse is that the social work becomes then a mandatory work without remuneration.

There is a word in the dictionary to define that type of situation. It is a word that nobody wants to pronounce in these modern times and that we firmly reject when we know that it still exists in some extremist places of the planet.

Mandatory work without remuneration is called Slavery.

That Slavery would be put in place in the name of social justice, that it would be state sponsored and legalized or that it would be the product of the greed of inmoral merchants, it is still Slavery.

As I said at the beginning, there are only two types of work in a modern society: the one that is remunerated and the one that is done voluntarily, by conviction, with no strings attached and in full enjoyment of personal freedoms.

The non-remunerated and highly regulated work that the National Assembly is now imposing to the Venezuelan people, does not has a place in a free and democratic society.

I finish this post with the saying of a magnet that is proudly displayed on the door of my refrigerator.

It says:

"Volunteers are not paid not because they are worthless,
but because they are priceless"

It refers, of course, to real volunteers.




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