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The Venality of Evil

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “evil” as “doing or intending to do harm.” Ultimately, given that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro easily could have prevented the economic catastrophe that has befallen his country, there is no other plausible explanation for the suffering and devastation experienced by millions of people.

CAMBRIDGE – On July 23, Alejandro Werner, the Director of the International Monetary Fund’s Western Hemisphere Department, announced that the Fund was expecting inflation in Venezuela to reach 1,000,000% by year’s end. In April, the IMF announced that Venezuela’s GDP was expected to be 45% below its 2013 level by the same time. These are mindboggling numbers. How and why could such a thing happen?

Science is better at answering “how” questions than “why” questions. Gravity explains how celestial bodies attract each other at a distance, but it does not tell us why. That is a question for metaphysics. Biology can explain that we gain weight when we consume more calories than we burn. But it does not explain why I often do. By understanding the mechanisms driving outcomes, we can devise strategies to stop, prevent, encourage, or overcome them. If I consume fewer calories and exercise more, I should lose weight.

But understanding the “how” question often makes the “why” question even more mysterious. Are so many people overweight because of a lack of knowledge, weakness of character, addiction, or a problem with the processes that cause both hunger and satiation?