The late Milton Friedman once quipped that "if you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand."
Friedman was using hyperbole to make a point about central planning. Or so I thought until Hugo Chávez put himself in charge of Venezuela's coffee sector. Last year, for the first extended period of time in the country's history, Venezuela did not produce enough of the little red berry to satisfy domestic demand. It has now become a coffee importer and is facing serious shortages.