The downfall of Venezuelan Dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez last week drove home a lesson: prosperity is no substitute for liberty, and even the best-fed men will fight for freedom.

From the beginning of his strongman career in 1948, Perez Jiménez believed the reverse. "My country," he liked to say, "is not ready for democracy." He took the profits of Venezuela's oil-fed prosperity, lavished them on jobmaking monuments, public buildings, superhighways, military officers' clubs. Although he left the country's illiterate peasants and day laborers in hovels, he perched a luxury hotel, a...

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