“We are not asking them to lose money, just that they make money in a rational way, that they don’t rob the people,” Mr. Chávez said recently.
But many economists call it a classic case of a government causing a problem rather than solving it. Prices are set so low, they say, that companies and producers cannot make a profit. So farmers grow less food, manufacturers cut back production and retailers stock less inventory. Moreover, some of the shortages are in industries, like dairy and coffee, where the government has seized private companies and is now running them, saying it is in the national interest.