Rabbits Won’t Save Venezuela from Going Hungry

President Nicolas Maduro wants Venezuelans to breed rabbits to solve the economic disaster he and his predecessor Hugo Chavez created, which has led to millions of formerly middle-class Venezuelans starving, begging on the streets, and giving up their children.

“The rabbit isn’t a pet, it’s only two and a half kilos of meat,” Maduro said, “the first part of Plan Rabbit moves forward!”

Unfortunately, his plan had an early setback: people began keeping the rabbits as pets instead of eating them. It might seem strange that people who are starving would rather feed rabbits than themselves, but I know what that’s like: my family also tried raising rabbits to deal with the economic disaster that is Communism and it didn’t work for us either.

In the mid-1980’s, I lived with my parents in Ukraine, back when it was a part of the USSR. Although we were not so badly off, our grandparents remembered living through a period of starvation and cannibalism, and no one wanted to be dependent on the bread lines. Many people, including city dwellers, would have a small plot of land to grow vegetables to supplement their rations and feed them through periodic shortages.

Until the government seized our land and resettled us into state housing, the family plot that my family had lived on for generations was used to raise a variety of vegetables, goats, and chickens. At one point, my dad decided to raise rabbits for their meat and fur. He was an electrician, not a farmer by trade, but raising rabbits is easy enough: just built a hutch, and throw food scraps and weeds in every now and then.

Unfortunately, processing rabbits for food and fur is a different matter: not only are rabbits cute but butchering a rabbit carcass is a lot of work! The rabbits must be killed, drained, skinned, and systematically butchered with very sharp knives, then the hide must be properly tanned. While rabbit meat is delicious, it’s also very low in fat, which sounds great if you want to lose weight, but not so in a starvation situation. Rabbit meat is so low in fat, protein, and nutrients essential to humans, those trying to survive exclusively on it can still starve to death.

If you are already in a starvation situation, it is much more efficient to take any food you were planning to feed the rabbit and either eat it yourself or use it as fertilizer for plants. I disagree with PETA on a lot of things, but they are right to say that eating plants is far more efficient than feeding plants to animals, and then eating those animals – as much 90% of energy is wasted in the process. We eat meat as a luxury, or because our primitive ecosystem is not capable of growing plants that we can eat directly.

While it’s clear that rabbits are not a good choice for a country on the edge of starvation, it’s less clear why Venezuelans are keeping them as pets – where do they get the food to feed the rabbits, and why don’t they eat it themselves?  This detail reveals an essential aspect of how Chavez, Maduro, and other socialist leaders remain in power: the people getting the rabbits are unlikely to be starving.

In a socialist economy, the central planners decide who gets the economic output that they seize from the producers. Last year, for example, it was reported that, in Venezuela, “solidarity bags” of food were distributed exclusively to socialist party members. The recipients of the rabbits are supporters of the regime, while those starving and the millions marching in the streets represent the majority who lack the political connections to get their own supply of rabbits.

As for my own family’s rabbits, we all had such a fun time playing with them that my dad didn’t have the heart to kill them when it came time to harvest. We didn’t have the surplus food to feed them either, as “pet food” was a capitalist luxury, so one day, our rabbit hutch disappeared, and some other farmer served them up as rabbit stew.

Originally published on FEE.org

Six People Who Were Rescued by Crowd-Sourced Legal Advice

The legal system is a mysterious and forbidding institution to most of us. This leaves us vulnerable to both private and public abuse when we either have no choice but to plead guilty to a criminal charge, or have no idea how to use the law to right wrongs against us.

Fortunately, the sub-reddit /r/legaladvice has been a life-saver (sometimes literally) to thousands of people who either cannot afford a lawyer, or are even being victimized by their own lawyer.

Exhibits A-F

Here are just a few-example of people the /r/legaladvice community helped:

A woman was told to document her sexual assault by her boss, which led to his conviction not only in her case, but also in a prior rape.

A man who thought his landlord was stalking him discovered that he had a deadly carbon monoxide leak that nearly killed him after a brilliant deduction from a Reddit comment.

A father was able to get custody of his baby daughter that his ex wanted to give away for adoption by following the community’s suggestion.

A man who came home from a one week vacation to find a squatter living in his house was able to kick her out without an extensive legal process by following suggestions from /r/legaladvice.

A man who was nearly killed by a drunk driver was hounded by a $40,000 bill before Reddit helped him discover that the charges were bogus, and those responsible were charged with fraud.

A parent whose adult daughter unexpectedly died was guided through the process of arranging her funeral and estate in the midst of their grief.

The restrictions on legal advice make it difficult for many people to get competent legal advice.

One of the consequences of the licensing of professions is that it is now illegal to offer professional advice unless you are licensed in that industry. For example, the state of Oregon fined an engineer because he criticized the timing of traffic in an email without having the right engineering license. Likewise, it is illegal to provide individual medical advice without a medical degree, illegal to accept payment for financial advice without being a registered financial adviser, and illegal to provide legal advice unless you are a member of the bar. Even if you are a lawyer, offering free legal advice to strangers on the Internet is problematic if it establishes a client-attorney relationship and enables the “client” to accuse you of malpractice or threaten your bar license.


While it is legal to state the law, it is not legal for non-lawyers to apply facts to specific situations.

The restrictions on legal advice make it difficult for many people to get competent legal advice or pursue justice when they have been wronged. It often takes thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend oneself or pursue a civil claim. Poor people who have been victimized often don’t have those funds, and for everyone else, it’s just not worth it when the amount at stake is small. Many of us have been defrauded for small amounts during our lives, but few have the expertise to file a claim in small claims court.

The essential service that Reddit’s /r/legaladvice provides is in a state of limbo: while it is legal to state the law (“legal facts”), it is not legal for non-lawyers to “practice law” by applying facts to specific situations.  Reddit’s community works around these rules by requiring anonymity from both the those asking questions and answering them on /r/legaladvice and banning the sharing of personal information.

Still, if the monopolistic institutions who control access to the practice of law decided that /r/legaladvice is a competitive threat, they may well bully Reddit into shutting down the community, despite its rules and lengthy disclaimer – likewise with /r/AskDocs/r/AskEngineers, and any other community which dispenses advice that is regulated by professional licensure.

Originally posted on FEE.org