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Venezuela’s Biggest Shortage

Venezuela’s Biggest Shortage
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Venezuela’s socialist government has beset the population with all sorts of terrible travesties, from high inflation to shortages of toilet paper. Now the country’s poor citizens have one more shortage to grapple with: breast implants.

Apparently the country’s restrictive currency controls have hindered physicians from buying approved implants. Unable to beautify themselves the way they want, women are resorting to barter to pay for their silicone. Of course, because of the vagaries of the black market they are forced to resort to, these ladies are not sure of what exactly is in their implants. On Craigslist, “sellers post pictures of black market implants of unknown origin sitting in sealed packages on kitchen tables, complete with stories of spouses who changed their minds and reassurances that the pouches remain sterile.”

At least one doctor has doubts as to the black market implants’ safety, claiming that the cheaper implants come with heightened risks:  “I’m not saying they’re not safe, but I’ve removed more than a few ruptured Chinese implants. I just don’t feel comfortable with them.”

Some may think this is not a big deal, or that these women shouldn’t be so vain as to concern themselves with such procedures. This largely misses the point. It’s not up to me to decide whether food or breast implants is more important, valuable, or a more egregious shortage to face. That’s for the individual to decide.

More than 85,000 breast implants were performed in the country last year – more than every country except the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Germany, all countries with vastly larger populations. In beauty conscious Venezuela, these things matter.

Maybe protests over food shortages have been insufficient to get the government to liberalize its exchange rate policy, but let’s hope that the dearth of breast implants gives them one (or two) more reasons to rethink it.

  • Raja

    I think a 12 year old can comprehend how price controls below market price lead to shortages and lowering of quality. Lets hope they get some sense before the pain of defying the Laws of Economics forces the sense into them.

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Profile photo of David Howden

David Howden is Chair of the Department of Business and Economics, and professor of economics at St. Louis University, at its Madrid Campus, Academic Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, and winner of the Mises Institute's Douglas E. French Prize. Send him mail.

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