From Russia with Love

Another ally-turned-enemy of the Kremlin is offed, this time in Dubai. The New York Times has details:

A former general in Chechnya and foe of the republic's Kremlin-backed president was shot over the weekend in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, and the police there said Monday that he had died.

The former general, Sulim B. Yamadayev, was shot at least three times outside an elite apartment complex in Dubai in what appeared to be an assassination, the police said, but it was unclear exactly when the attack took place.

The identity of the man who was killed was the subject of conflicting reports. Officials of the hospital in Dubai said that two Chechen brothers, whose names were not released, had been shot during the attack. One died, they said, while the other was in critical condition.

The attack evokes others on Chechens, in Russia and abroad, who ran afoul of President Ramzan A. Kadyrov and his government.

The Kremlin has invested Mr. Kadyrov with almost unchecked authority in a bid to return stability to Chechnya after nearly a decade of bloody war and political turmoil. With Moscow's blessing, Mr. Kadyrov has created a personality cult and imposed his own interpretation of Islamic morality in Chechnya, whose population is predominately Muslim.

Yesterday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel claimed that everything wrong with today's Russia "started under Boris Yeltsin," including the authoritarianism of the current regime. For all of his flaws—and there were many, though David Boaz's obituary strikes just the right balance—it is nevertheless silly to argue that Yeltsin's Russia alone midwifed the current system, while ignoring its uniquely Putinist characteristics (and equally absurd to not acknowledge Russia's rather more serious pre-Yeltsin legacy of authoritarianism).  

In setting up the crony capitalist system following the fall of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin looted state coffers, says vanden Heuvel. When challenged by host Joe Scaraborough, who says Putin has done much the same to Russia, she is dismissive ("No, no. No, no"). When it is suggested that the Kremlin was involved in the assassination of journalists, including Putin critic Anna Politskaya, she shakes her head and tell Scarborough that the "rot started in Chechnya." One reporter for Novoya Gazeta, a paper vanden Heuvel recently visited while in Moscow and holds up as an example of Russia's free press, told Reuters that "prosecutors had tried to solve the case and were ordered to back off when the trail led to someone 'quite high up in the ruling hierarchy.'" But when the deaths of journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov are discussed, vanden Heuvel quickly assigns blame to "neo-Nazis," though no arrests have been made in the case and many at Novoya Gazeta, where Baburova worked, suspect government involvement. Video below:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • anon||

    Katrina vanden Heuvel has got to be one of the dumbest talking heads I've ever seen on the TV. And I've seen Glenn Beck.

  • Suki||

    I wish Katrina vanden Heuvel and her like would stop pretending to be "leaders" of the social left and especially of feminism.

    All they do is set us back.

    Staand up and be the backwards thinking Communist that you are Katrina vanden Heuvel.

    There, I said it.

  • ||

    equally absurd to not acknowledge Russia's rather more serious pre-Yeltsin legacy of authoritarianism

    Well, exactly. Van Den Heuvel is making an ass of herself. It is true that strictly from a business point of view Putin has been a better ruler than Yeltsin - local authorities don't seem to be able to act quite as arbitrarily, and there seems to be more willingness to let people get at least moderately wealthy. I'm not sure why that endears Putin to people on the left however. Any Yeltsin vs. Putin argument is bound to drown in stupidity anyway - Putin is simply a continuation of Yeltsin with more power and less alcohol induced befuddlement. It's ridiculous to pick one over the other and pretend you're making a political point that has any relevance to American right vs. left debates.

  • Suki||

    I'm not sure why that endears Putin to people on the left however.

    Hint: Resurgance of KGB tactics to enforce revolutionary thought.

  • Suki||

    Sorry, I did not explain enought at 7:44pm

    Some folk on the Left (not me) look in awe at Putin for getting rid of dissent against the Left. Just a few threads down, one of Ron Bailey's climate change posts, I could bet that the complaining fellow, over a few drinks, would confess "what putin did to that reporter? I wish we could do to the climate change deniers".

    Ring true to anybody?

  • MNG||

    I'm on "the left". I don't know many people that like anything about Putin.

    Yeltsin's "free market" and "privatization" reforms were just terrible for Russia. The Russian people looked at how terrible things were for them, and how awful their treatment was at the hands of the West, and have decided they would rather have none of what the West has to offer. Sadly they turned to a great Russian tradition, an authoritarian figure. But that doesn't mean that a golden opportunity for Russia was squandered under Yeltsin.

    Of course the standard libertarian reply is that the Russians didn't "really" try for a free market, that the reforms "just didn't go far enough: etc., yada, whatever. And they don't see the irony there (that this is exactly what Marxists say about communism failing in Russia).

  • Hooked-Nosed Jew||

    "Ring true to anybody?"

    Dead on.

  • ||

    With Moscow's blessing, Mr. Kadyrov has created a personality cult and imposed his own interpretation of Islamic morality in Chechnya, whose population is predominately Muslim.

    On the bright side, it makes me feel a little better about the cult of personality currently gripping our republic (I mean, at least Obama's not assassinating anybody, right?).

  • ||

    On the bright side, it makes me feel a little better about the cult of personality currently gripping our republic (I mean, at least Obama's not assassinating anybody, right?).

    So far. :-)

  • ||

    "So far. :-)"

    As far as we know.

  • ||

    MNG,
    It is true that Russia free market reforms "did not go far enough", in the sense that they failed to set the most basic prerequisites for a functioning market - enforcable contracts, the rule of law, and protection for private property rights.

    Russia under Yeltsin was a state so corrupt that it was on par with Africa - where no functioning markets can exist because nobody can do business and defend their profits or property with out having political connections and bribing a half-dozen officials.

    Which is to say, there are no property rights at all if you need political connections to defend them. Nor is there rule of law. Or enforceable contracts. If everything depends on the whims of corrupt officials, you have nothing.

    That was the problem with Russia, not privatization or free markets.

  • ||

    Of course the standard libertarian reply is that the Russians didn't "really" try for a free market, that the reforms "just didn't go far enough: etc., yada, whatever. And they don't see the irony there (that this is exactly what Marxists say about communism failing in Russia).



    MNG, there's an obvious difference. There's a list of countries that did "go far enough" and succeeded in post-Communism transformation to the free market-- Estonia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, just to name a few. Where's the list of Communist countries that "went far enough" and succeeded?

    "You're doing it wrong" is not an inherently flawed argument. The think that makes Communism laughable is that no one has EVER "gotten it right."

  • ||

    MNG:

    "You laugh at those cargo cultists for not doing it right. How ironic, that's just like what the Communists say."

  • Cabeza De Vaca||

    MNG,

    There may have been a market under Yeltsin, but it sure as hell wasn't "free" for the average Russian to participate in. The privatization all went to the politically well connected(former Communist Party members). Who got obscenely rich at the expense of the Russian People.

  • Anonymous||

    That was the problem with Russia, not privatization or free markets.



    How can this be believed!? What of the evils of private property in the face of the zero-sum nature of the economy!?!!1

  • ||

    "The former general, Sulim B. Yamadayev, was shot at least three times outside an elite apartment complex in Dubai."

    Live by the gun...

  • ||

    "If everything depends on the whims of corrupt officials, you have nothing."

    Welcome to America.

  • ||

    Boy, the Russkies are losing their creative edge vis-a-vis assassinations. No polonium or dioxin involved, just a plain ol' vanilla drive-by that any half-assed ghetto drug gang in Gary, Indiana could pull off.

  • Suki||

    I'm on "the left". I don't know many people that like anything about Putin.

    You are not on the Left and you are a damn liar.

    All sort of people on the true Left say exactly what I said, that is where I got it from. They annoy the shit out of my lunch. They infected my free time at school. Why aren't you at that DC Reason meeting with the other trolls?

    You are not on the Left as in Liberal, you are on the Left as an authoritarian socialistic jackass.

    Don't you have a coctail party to attend?

  • Scott66||

    MNG:

    "The Russian people looked at how terrible things were for them, and how awful their treatment was at the hands of the West, and have decided they would rather have none of what the West has to offer."

    I traveled in Russia in the early 90s and would say you are completely wrong. The average Russian believed things were better in the West than they actually were and would have loved to emulate it.

    The main problem was the continuing corrupt government and a lack of a tradition of economic freedom.

  • MNG||

    It wasn't necessarily the politically well connected. Many "entrepenuers" simply conned guilible workers out of their "shares" of the soon to be privatized sphere (some of this was similar to the conning of many Americans that occurred immediately following the American Revolution; this conning was why many Founders did not want to pay much of the war debt, the felt it would largely reward the conners). A recurrent problem with privatization, whereever it is found, is corruption. It's not remarkable to figure out why...

    "It is true that Russia free market reforms "did not go far enough", in the sense that they failed to set the most basic prerequisites for a functioning market - enforcable contracts, the rule of law, and protection for private property rights"

    Yes, yes, which was why many Russia experts were screaming that it would be really stupid to attempt the free market reforms that were done. They warned at the time that what has happened would have (they thought that after the foreseen disaster a strong man would move in, though they thought it would be a General not a KGB man).

    But also contributory was Russian culture, the point made by "institutional economics." Russian culture meant Russia was a very, very bad place to try free markets. Interestingly, that says something very important about the "universality" of free market ("human nature is x, so we can deduce humans will act in way y under condition z, etc.) theory such as commonly extolled by folks like FTG and the like on these threads...

    John Thacker
    For a list of "communist" successes, look at the social democracies of Europe. And the nation's that you list certainly did not go "far enough" in the eyes of libertarian theory. All have policies that would have you guys howling if being debated here. But, it's nice to hear Estonia being brought up. You used to see frequent mentions of it on H&R. But you don't nowadays. Maybe because their economy has fallen into a bad recession lately and so they are not so much the poster boy for libertarian success anymore?

  • MNG||

    Scott
    You're so far off base. If the people loved the West, loved the Western reforms, etc., then why did they so overwhelmingly vote to chuck them, and they like Putin so?

    I mean, think about what you are saying. The people there longed for economic freedom and an end for corruption so they overwhelmingly voted Putin into power...

  • MNG||

    Russia's GDP growth rate last year was 6%. They've had 10 straight years of GDP growth averaging 7% a year.
    Estonia's was -3% last year.

    Empirical reality is sometimes a huge bitch for ideologies.

  • Kolohe||

    Russia's GDP growth rate last year was 6%.

    Let's wait to see what it is post oil and moscow real estate bubble.

  • max hats||


    Some folk on the Left (not me) look in awe at Putin for getting rid of dissent against the Left. Just a few threads down, one of Ron Bailey's climate change posts, I could bet that the complaining fellow, over a few drinks, would confess "what putin did to that reporter? I wish we could do to the climate change deniers".



    what

  • MNG||

    Scott
    You are a bit correct. There was genuine enthusiasm for the West in Russia. It fell apart when the "reforms" proved a disaster.

    We should have let them come out of communism in baby steps. As long as they were stepping in the right direction, it would have been a good thing.

  • max hats||

    On the flip side, I guess arguments would be more fun if I imagined all my ideological opponents where mustache-twirling villains.

    "It's Paul Krugman! And he's tying a damsel to the railroad tracks! Again!"

  • ||

    Oh, right, so Russians, because of their authoritarian culture, are congentially incapable of correctly implementing a free market system.

    Pure garbage. The Japanese went from an imperial god-king to a free market in one generation.

    And it's just laughably absurd that Russia, which is closer to the West than any other part of the planet, is somehow supposed to be so culturally far removed that they have intrisic mental differences make it impossible for markets to function. What - self-interest works differently for people with Russian genes? There are new, heretofore undiscovered, irrationalities in the Russian cognitive structure? Someone alert the behavioral economists!! Maybe we can get a study program going on the intricacies of the Russian mind, and what makes them different from Bulgarians and Czechs and Poles.

  • duderman||

    "A recurrent problem with privatization, whereever it is found, is corruption."

    Unlike the honest politicians that get to run some economies.

    "For a list of "communist" successes, look at the social democracies of Europe."

    Didn't know England had a dictatorship of the proletariat.

  • Rationalitate||

    Not only does Novaya Gazeta believe that the Kremlin was behind the murders, but one of its reporters specifically stated that he (and Novaya Gazeta in general) does not believe that neo-Nazi groups were responsible for the killing.

  • Suki||

    Hazel,

    Yea sister.

  • Suki||

    Not only does Novaya Gazeta believe that the Kremlin was behind the murders, but one of its reporters specifically stated that he (and Novaya Gazeta in general) does not believe that neo-Nazi groups were responsible for the killing.

    So it is a concensus, settled law, MNG is Katrina vanden Heuvel.

    Go back to the student union girl.

  • hmm||

    This lady is fucking clueless. She more than likely stays in a $1K a night hotel room in Moscow and spends her time talking to and dealing with state puppets. There are more entrepreneurs and free market people in Moscow than the entire US. Hell the thriving Russian gray markets and the Russian's national past time of circumventing rules and laws are proof enough of their desire and ability to operate in a free market.

    This lady is a Putin apologist. She has probably never heard of the cheka or even remotely understands the climate and culture of the former soviet secret service running the government. Again. Once cheka always cheka.

  • hmm||

    The other amazing Russian talent aside from circumventing laws is the ability to name the nationality and origin of every person in a room. It's freakin' scary.

  • PFJ||

    "Estonia's was -3% last year."

    Using one year growth rates=fail.

    http://www.indexmundi.com/estonia/gdp_per_capita_(ppp).html
    According to this link, Estonia's 1993 GDP per head was 6 K, 2008 was 22 K.

    http://www.indexmundi.com/russia/gdp_per_capita_(ppp).html

    According to this link, Russia's 1993 GDP/capita was around 6.8K, and 2008 was just over 15.3 K.

    The winner here seems clear to me.

  • Suki||

    PFJ outs yet another Russian propogandist? [clapping]

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    To piggyback on PJF's points,the growth rates for Estonia from 1996-2006 aren't that shabby
    and their economy grew 7.9% in 2007

  • ||

    When she wouldn't denounce Clinton for preying on Monica, all her Woman's Rights cred went down the toilet. She's just another apologist.

  • MNG||

    You would think the Jews could make a decent anal lube.Ha! It tastes like shit.

  • Kolohe||

    Pure garbage. The Japanese went from an imperial god-king to a free market in one generation.

    It's important not to overestimate how 'free market' Japan is or was.

    And it's just laughably absurd that Russia, which is closer to the West than any other part of the planet,

    Except North Africa.

    It's not all that controversial that culture plays a big part in how a country's economy functions (or does not).

  • ||

    Reason's take seems to be that if russia is involved then occams razor doesn't apply...murders are the product of conspiracies involving Putin. The government that was so incompetant that it couldn't grow potatoes in sufficient quantity can excute traceless murders anywhere int eh world

    If the US is involved then occalms razor implies the governemnt did nothing wrong...nothing to see here, just a regular suicide with 4 shots to the head.

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    Also, Russia's economy isn't doing so well this year either

  • ||

    "Reason's take seems to be that if russia is involved then occams razor doesn't apply...murders are the product of conspiracies involving Putin. The government that was so incompetant that it couldn't grow potatoes in sufficient quantity can excute traceless murders anywhere int eh world"

    May I point out the flaw in your Western-liberal-blindspot thinking?

    Russia has never given a shit whether its people had enough potatoes. It has given a shit about protecting the interests of the ruling class.

  • Kolohe||

    your Western-liberal-blindspot thinking?

    Mr. Harris is a lot of things, but I wouldn't call him a 'western liberal'.

  • ||

    Pure garbage. The Japanese went from an imperial god-king to a free market in one generation.

    Actually Hazel - your statement is garbage as far as Japan goes. Japan had a functioning industrialized economy by the beginning of the 20th century, that was even then more market oriented than Russia. And the "God king" was a figurehead even in WWII and also didn't go anywhere - he stayed on the throne right up to 1989. You seemed to have picked up your Japanese history from a 1942 "Know the Japs" pamphlet. Japan has a very different history than Russia - by the 1600s Japan already had a well developed merchant class, a number of urban centers with specialized industries, and intensive agriculture, which arguably produces a peasant class with a diligent work ethic and attachment to the land. Russia in the 1600s was a patchwork empire of large agriculture landholdings and mines with peasants who were moved at will or whim of the landlord, no real native industry and little urban life. Because of its land and vast resources Russia has always been susceptible to rule by a rentier class who pillages those resources and reinvests very little of the wealth back into the populace. Japan was always resource constrained, so the elites needed a prosperous peasantry to generate wealth they could expropriate. The example of Japan actually bolsters the argument that Russia is culturally and historically unsuited for free markets.

  • ||

    Yeltsin's "free market" and "privatization" reforms were just terrible for Russia.

    Compared to what? The USSR crashed and burned. This is like a drunk driver who went over a cliff at 100 mph complaining about the pain and expense of surgery and the scars and limp he's got now. You're lucky to be alive, pal.

    Any fix had to involve free markets and privatization. Did they do it perfectly, or even well? Probably not, but that's a lot to ask for a country thoroughly and violently communized for generations. Under the USSR, the only people running businesses outside state control were criminal gangs. It's no surprise that once free markets were legal and state enterprises had to be sold, many of the people who took advantage of the change were crooks.

  • Elemenope||

    Boy, the Russkies are losing their creative edge vis-a-vis assassinations. No polonium or dioxin involved, just a plain ol' vanilla drive-by that any half-assed ghetto drug gang in Gary, Indiana could pull off.

    Maybe they were outsourced.

  • PFJ||

    Two other things I thought of regarding Russia v. Estonia.
    1. I believe Russia would easily be the more oil oriented economy of the two, so their numbers are probably inflated by oil prices exploding, and they're probably going to see a worse 2009 than Estonia with oil prices having collapsed.
    2. I would guess that with Russia being the center of the Soviet Union, their infrastructure sucked much less than Estonia's around 1990, so their head start is even bigger than the difference in GDP/capita they had.

  • ||

    中国公文网 中国皮肤网 中国呼吸网I believe Russia would easily be the more oil oriented economy of the two, so their numbers are probably inflated by oil prices exploding, and they're probably going to see a worse 2009 than Estonia with oil

  • D.R.M.||

    I don't know if the comparison is quite fair to Russia. One of the differences between Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania and the rest of the former USSR in 1993 is that the Baltics were a whole generation closer to freedom.

    One of the experiences in the assimilation of immigrants in the U.S. is that immigrant generations usually never become fluent in English, their children are generally bilingual (having to talk both with parents and with others from youth), and their grandchildren are almost uniformly monolingual English-speakers.

    Applied to Estonia, a significant fraction of adults would have been "bilingual"; that is, while they had no direct experience of a market economy, their parents did as adults, and that would have influenced how they raised their kids. Russian adults (other than the elderly), on the other hand, were the grandchildren or later of those who were adults at the time of the Revolution. Insofar as the attitudes, values, and skills useful for functioning in a market economy would be transmitted through processes analogous to language skills, they'd have been much less prepared than the Estonians.

    So, come 1993, the free-market advisors come in. Consider them the equivalent of instructors in language. The Estonians, having been raised around the language, recover the basics relatively quickly and splash into more advanced work. The Russians, on the other hand, get frustrated trying to memorize all these damn irregular verbs.

  • ||

    This is so obvious I can't imagine that it isn't thoroughly established as part of the theory of the Russian capitalist fiasco.

    Under the Soviet regime for several generations capitalists were caricatured as vampires, and worse. When the state fell and all pretenses of communism were dropped in favor of pretenses of capitalism, is it any wonder that capitalism took the form of the caricature?

  • ||

    by the 1600s Japan already had a well developed merchant class, a number of urban centers with specialized industries, and intensive agriculture, which arguably produces a peasant class with a diligent work ethic and attachment to the land. Russia in the 1600s was a patchwork empire of large agriculture landholdings and mines with peasants who were moved at will or whim of the landlord, no real native industry and little urban life.

    I don't see how urban life and or and already developed merchant class are prerequisites for a market system. All that's required for a free market is a bunch of people making a bunch of choices without interference. They can be agrarian, or industrial, or technological. In different societies, the market will simply assume a different form. It's a self-organizing system, and it'll organize itself around whatever resources are available.

    Also, the more crucial time-period should be the early 20th century, not the mid-1600s. Japan took a giant step backwards by isolating itself in the 18th century. Meanwhile Russia in the 19th century was rapidly modernizing and liberalizing - which is precisely how they got exposed to Marxism in the first place. History is not linear.

  • threeofclubs||

    Hazel Meade

    All that's required for a free market is a bunch of people making a bunch of choices without interference. They can be agrarian, or industrial, or technological. In different societies, the market will simply assume a different form. It's a self-organizing system, and it'll organize itself around whatever resources are available.

    The "without interference" bit is not necessarily self organising. i think that is what a lot of people are arguing about.

  • DoDoGuRu||

    Under the Soviet regime for several generations capitalists were caricatured as vampires, and worse. When the state fell and all pretenses of communism were dropped in favor of pretenses of capitalism, is it any wonder that capitalism took the form of the caricature?

    +1

    If you're told all your life that a capitalist is a mustache-twisting whip-cracking mafioso, then you suddenly have to become a capitalist, you're going to emulate the only model you know. It would be like telling a Palestinian that they had to be a Jew now: they'd have to find some way to transform into a baby-eating lizard vampire. Or if you're a liberal astroturfer trolling conservative boards, then you really ham it up with the "Praise the Lord" and "George W is my hero" crap.

  • jtuf||

    I can't believe the argument made in the video. It boils down to, "Putin was just continuing a long tradition of dictatorship in Russia. It's not like he was a banker."

  • MNG||

    1. Let's drop the "well of course Russia is doing well, look at the oil" routine since one of Putin's strategies was to focus more on such fuel resources in the economy. Yes, Russia is lucky to have oil, but not every nation that has oil has used it as well. By the same reasoning I can point out to those who extol Hong Kong's "libertarian" success" "well of course, they are a port city."

    2. Hazel: Russia's culture is vastly different than Japan's was and is. If you've never heard of the famous Russian resigned sense of fatalism from Russian novels and art, then I don't know what to tell you. An economist friend visited Russia and gave a talk to a bunch of bankers. This was in the mid-1990's, the people were quite poor. He brought them little samples of expensive Scotch and expensive cigars and handed them out before the lecture. Now, he figured given the usual economic thinking, they would save these rare and prized items "for a special occassion." But they downed the Scotch and smoked the cigars while he spoke. When he later asked them why they said "we could be dead tomorrow, live for now." That kind of "social capital" is not conducive to economic success or laisez-faire capitalism...

    3. Estonia did show some impressive growth, no doubt. But it is tanking now, so it's hard to use it as an example of a libertarian success story. Even more interestingly, Estonia is tanking due to real estate speculation gone bad. I guess it must have been Freddie and Fannie in Estonia, eh?

    4. Compared to what?
    A more gradual move in that direction, like the social democracies of Europe (i.e., the Scandanavian nations).

    5. Look, I'm no apologist for Putin. He'e the worst thing that has happened to Russia since Stalin imo. The Russians had a brief window to really make it, but they turned sour when the ideological insanity of pushing such a radical change and poor fit of free market reforms was pushed on them, as well as foolish foriegn policy tactics followed by the West which humiliated the proud Russian people. In comparison to that Putin's administration strikes the average Russia as providing a sounder economic footing and a more respected role in the world. And you can see why they think that (10 years+ of impressive economic growth). Not seeing what the Russians see in Putin isn't going to help anyone. Of course I'd like them to realize that they could have the economic growth they have under Putin without having an autocratic thug like Putin in power. Duh.

  • Guy Smiley||

    The idea that Boris Yeltsin was the root of all evil is one of the many groundless fantasies found in Naomi Klein's latest monument to stupidity Disaster Capitalism.

    I guarantee that that's where the Nation lady got it.

  • Not David B.||

    If this thread has taught me anything, it's that MNG must be jukeboxgrad.

  • NolongerTofuSushi||

    Thank goodness MNG is still around so I could retire that old handle.

    Keep 'em comin' Mr. Nice Guy!

  • robc||

    MNG,

    The Estonia is tanking argument is stupid. Everyone is tanking right now.

    Its a recession. We have had a few since 1993 ourselves. If you are reading this as a turning point and Estonia is crashing and burning, then, well, that is just stupid.

    You keep talking about Libertarian success stories. None of those exist. Stop burning that strawman. You said Russia could have taken a more middle road instead of being extreme - the Baltic countries are examples of the middle road. Russia didnt go far enough to get to the middle road.

    Even Sweden has better property rights and rule of law and etc than Russia did.

  • jtuf||

    What strikes me the most about the 1990's policies towards Russia is the lack of private aid from American Marxists. Academic papers from the 1970's are full of praise for the Soviet Union and through out the cold war there was a significant support for Russia among the left. Yet, I didn't see Western socialists flock to help Russians when they needed it most. Quite the contrary, it was religious and libertarian leaning groups that set up new charities in Russia to help after the fall.

  • ||

    "A recurrent problem with privatization, whereever it is found, is corruption."

    True. Because privatization is, by definition, the movement of assets from state control to private control. Because those assets start out under state control, the movement is controlled by the state. Ergo, corruption.

    Blaming this corruption on the private sector makes as much sense as blaming the victims of a Ponzi scheme.

  • MNG||

    jtuf
    Western socialists were pretty down on the USSR even in the 1970's (Chomsky for example referred to the Politburo as gangsters). Despite what people who don't know much about t he left, of even the far left, think, adulation of the USSR was something not as common as one might think.

    "The Estonia is tanking argument is stupid. Everyone is tanking right now."

    But robc, how can that shining beacon on the hill of libertarianism be tanking right now? And from real estate speculation! For shame ;).

    Sorry, when a movement cr-cr-crows about something like Estonia as such a model, then they have to eat their crow when the goose is cooked. Don't hate the playa.

    "You keep talking about Libertarian success stories."

    No, YOU (meaning libertarians in general) kept doing that, I'm just reminding you guys. Where's the love for Estonia et al now?

    Of course, when the free marketers were selling their snake oil in Russia many libertarians were like "hell yeah!" But when it failed that changed to "oh, they just didn't do it right."

    Well, there were a lot of Russia experts who said at that crucial time: these free market reforms will be a terrible disaster in this nation at this time. But no one listened.

  • ||

    Katrina van den Heuvel defending a Soviet-era authoritarian = dog bites man, no? Old habits are hard to break.

  • ||

    Katrina vanden Heuvel has got to be one of the dumbest talking heads.

    She's not dumb. She's simply committed to (what remains of) Soviet communism. This is the woman whose magazine blamed the CIA when the Soviets shot down that Korean airliner. That wasn't stupidity. That was pro-Soviet malice.

  • robc||

    MNG,

    Good God, Estonia is still a success. No reason to stop crowing, but it isnt a libertarian success story. It is a "movement towards liberty" success story. Get your stories straight.

    Russia didnt buy the free market. If they did, they would have first put in rule of law and property rights. Those are the foundation principles a free market needs.

    these free market reforms will be a terrible disaster in this nation at this time

    there werent any free market reforms.

  • robc||

    Sorry, when a movement cr-cr-crows about something like Estonia as such a model, then they have to eat their crow when the goose is cooked. Don't hate the playa.

    See, this is the problem, the goose isnt cooked. Its a recession. Big fucking deal. As has been posted, after their drop, they are still WAY WAY WAY above Russia in per capita GDP.

    Estonia et al are still the models for Russia to follow.

  • ||

    The "without interference" bit is not necessarily self organising. i think that is what a lot of people are arguing about.


    Yeah, you need minimal things like contract enforcement and private property rights. What I'm objecting to is the argument that certain cultures are incapable of implementing capitalism correctly, because they are culturally incapable of implementing property rights or a fair legal structure and so forth.
    MNG's arguement is that Russia is somehow culturally unable to do minimal things like private property rights and contract enforcement - which strikes me as totally ridiculous. They aren't Martians.

  • ||

    This is probably too late to be seen, but one could predict that, for a big chunk of the American Left, their attitudes towards nations and rulers could easily be predicted by the degree to which said nation or ruler supported or opposed US policy. Forget "social justice", freedom, or all that other nice stuff they say they liked, such as social democracy. That was unimportant. All that mattered was opposing the US.

    The Right did this too, but at least the ones I knew managed to admit that they only supported right-wing bad guys to stop communism, not because the workers paradise would arrive any day (or was already there).

  • ||

    Hazel: Russia's culture is vastly different than Japan's was and is. If you've never heard of the famous Russian resigned sense of fatalism from Russian novels and art, then I don't know what to tell you. An economist friend visited Russia and gave a talk to a bunch of bankers. This was in the mid-1990's, the people were quite poor. He brought them little samples of expensive Scotch and expensive cigars and handed them out before the lecture. Now, he figured given the usual economic thinking, they would save these rare and prized items "for a special occassion." But they downed the Scotch and smoked the cigars while he spoke. When he later asked them why they said "we could be dead tomorrow, live for now." That kind of "social capital" is not conducive to economic success or laisez-faire capitalism...


    Oh, so they can't do capitalism right because they are fatalistic now....

    I mean, seriously, this doesn't strike you as totally laughable?

    The entire culture is inacapable of implementing a market system because they like living for the moment.

    You're freakin hopeless.

  • ||

    Of course, when the free marketers were selling their snake oil in Russia many libertarians were like "hell yeah!" But when it failed that changed to "oh, they just didn't do it right."



    Actually I was aware of, and closely following the problems at the time. Many, many people were pushing for legal reforms such as private property rights. Many people were aware that the prerequisites weren't in place. There were political and legal obstacles - including resistance from the Communist Party rump, which still controlled much of the state apparatus and the provinces. But that's necessarily an argument for "go slower" on privatization. It's an argument for moving faster on the legal reforms.

  • ||

    Hazel there is a long gap between "incapable" and "very difficult." Of course Russia can eventually make its way to a functioning industrial free market economy, but it has had, and will have, a far tougher road to get there than Japan. You can't simply wish away culture and start with a zero slate, that's already Bolshevik thinking. Most Russians alive today have ingrained work habits, attitudes toward contract enforcement, and attitudes toward investment that aren't terribly conducive to a capitalist industrial society. I've also seen confusion on this thread that the presence of people who "want to get rich" means free markets are just around the corner. That's crazy - the Middle East has been full of ambitious merchant types for centuries, and has had subpar economic growth. Free market capitalism requires businessmen who understand and believe in long-term value creation, not simply traders who believe in a zero sum universe where they get rich by taking some of your wealth. The percentage of the population in a country like Estonia that "gets it" is much higher. It also helps that Estonia is small and resource poor so that, like Japan, for elites to live well they need to encourage wealth creation, not just live of wealth extraction as Russian elites can.

  • ||

    MNG, I gotta tell you, and this is coming from a Russian, you are pretty full of shit. Your opinions on the Russian psyche etc.. are pretty damn stupid and uniformed,and are based on nothing but other 2nd hand stupid opinions. If you spoke like this about any other race or culture, lets say African's for example, people would be pretty safe calling you racist.

    Also, Estonia is a damn success, there is some very very simple math you can do there to see just how much more successful they than Russia.

  • ||

    Most Russians alive today have ingrained work habits, attitudes toward contract enforcement, and attitudes toward investment that aren't terribly conducive to a capitalist industrial society.

    So basically your general opinion in inline with MNGs? Russian free market reforms failed because of their "attitudes toward contract enforcement, and attitudes toward investment "? Really? Not because of the widespread corruption, lack of property and contract enforcement laws and just flat out croniism in the ruling class? BTW; its pretty difficult to consider long term investment options when you are still struggling day to day. Or when you have zero confidence that any savings you put away may not be there tomorrow. Oh and lets not forget that no matter how much the reforms failed, the market in Russia is now infinetely more free and the average Russian is much better off for it.

  • Mike DeSoto||

    But when the deaths of journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov are discussed, vanden Heuvel quickly assigns blame to "neo-Nazis,"


    Once a shill for communism, always a shill for communism. How is it that this disgusting woman gets to appear on TV and be asked her opinion om anything? If she were a Nazi apologist instead of a communist apologist this were never happen.

  • Mike DeSoto||

    "What I'm objecting to is the argument that certain cultures are incapable of implementing capitalism correctly, because they are culturally incapable of implementing property rights or a fair legal structure and so forth."


    And on what basis are you objecting to that? Why do you think rich countries are rich and poor countries are poor? Isn't it pretty damn obvious at this point that e.g. Mexico is culturally incapable of implementing property rights and a fair legal structure? If not, what would it take to convince you?

  • robc||

    Mike DeSoto,

    Really?

    I think most mexicans just find it easier and safer to move to a neighbor with the system they want than to fight a revolution over it.

  • MNG||

    Hazel
    You've never heard of the idea of social or cultural capital and its influence on economic development? Yet you claim to be educated in the field of economics.

    WTF?

  • ||

    MNG, I gotta tell you, and this is coming from a Russian, you are pretty full of shit. Your opinions on the Russian psyche etc.. are pretty damn stupid and uniformed,and are based on nothing but other 2nd hand stupid opinions. If you spoke like this about any other race or culture, lets say African's for example, people would be pretty safe calling you racist.

    Par for the course for MNG. I'm still amazed, even after years, at his inability to form anything resembling a cogent argument. He presents his opinions, freely, as fact, and will hold forth on any issue.

  • threeofclub||

    maybe the word culture is the problem.
    maybe its better to say current institutions, legal system(or lack of)political system etc.

    When you talk to street vendors in somewhere like Cambodia who speak very good english and know bits of all the major european languages and hebrew and chinese its hard to say that they are culturally deficient. And if they are that they couldn't quickly adapt to capitalism.

  • Kolohe||

    I agree with 3 of clubs.

    Again it's hardly a controversial notion that the societal substrate* matters in prosperity or lack thereof of a nation. And that this substrate is rather persistent. People are creatures of habit.

    In fact, it's a fairly standard criticism of left wing economics and the welfare state that these inhibit or destroy values like hard work, thrift, independence, and honesty. And that these values, once diminished are not easily

    *that consists of among other things, the political system, other non-state organizations, and yes, the overall 'culture'

  • Kolohe||

    'are not easily restored.'

  • max hats||

    I'm sorry, this whole argument makes no sense to me. Isn't it possible to think that Yeltsin unleashed the worst possible form of crony capitalism and corruption on Russia while also finding Putin authoritarian scum who hides his own massive corruption under a veneer of nationalism? Can't we all just settle down and hate both?

  • T||

    Can't we all just settle down and hate both?

    Hear, hear! There's no need to apologize for one scumbag while excoriating another. Kind of like how we can all agree Obama's economic policies are disastrous while still thinking Bush was a putz.

  • ||

    You've never heard of the idea of social or cultural capital and its influence on economic development?

    Of course culture influences how economies take shape. It alters people's buying habits, at a minimum. But markets can exist in all sorts of different cultures. They aren't purely a product of a particular time-period in Western European history. They aren't intrinsicly attached to a narrow set of Western European values.
    They will just end up looking different in different cultures.

    This is like the argument we had on the thread the other day about whether conspicuous consumption is an innate feature of capitalism. It isn't.

    Indian capitalism isn't going to look like American Capitalism. Japanese capitalism has it's own "style".
    Russian capitalism today -to the extent that it exists - is different too. All markets are shaped by the cultures they exist in.

    But contract law and property rights -the legal underpinnings of markets - aren't culturally specific. Any culture can implement a system of property rights and enforceable contracts (etc.), and it will have a market. The exact goods and services available may be different. Business structures may be organized differently. It may be more or less given to rapid technological advancement. But it will still be a market.

    As val pointed out, the fatalism you speak of and lack of initiative are more products of the lack of markets than barriers to implementing them. if you can't count on the state protecting your investment, you aren't going to bother. if you have no control over your own life, you're going to be pretty fatalistic. (Liberty is the cure for that.)

    There's no logical reason why fatalism or the history of communism necessarily means that you cannot implement contract law, though. Or that markets are intrinsically incompatible with Russian culture.

  • Hazel Meade||

    maybe the word culture is the problem.
    maybe its better to say current institutions, legal system(or lack of)political system etc.


    Yes. America itself is a living demonstration that different cultures are perfectly capable of adapting to capitalist legal institutions.

    Moreover, how is it that socialism is supposedly exportable all over the planet, and capitalism isn't?

    This is just another form of the argument that Communism's failures are because of Russia's political culture, rather than failings in the theory itself.

  • ||

    Any culture can implement a system of property rights and enforceable contracts (etc.), and it will have a market.

    Can, maybe, but won't necessarily. In Russia, for example, who is going to do this implementation? There are vested powerful interests running the country who have no interest in property rights and enforceable contracts and the rule of law. Go look up "rentier class" and see what that means. Having millions of people who want "free markets" doesn't change that equation. Look at the difference between Southern and Northern Italy - same laws, same Federal government, completely different results. Culture matters. And it's not racist to say that Russia's history and cultural development created the rentier class that stands in the way, as well as millions of other Russians who are used to this system, invested years learning how to work it, and would rather at least get by than take a chance on radical change.

    And Val - kakoi zhe ty ruskii? ty vresh, bratan. Bolee togo - ty durak. You admit that there is no enforcement of existing property laws and widespread cronyism in the ruling class in Russia. And what, that's just a coincidence, just bad luck? I know foreigners like to believe that Americans just lucked into the system we have, but it ain't so. It's not a cargo cult where we just get to have free markets, and anyone else can have them too if we give you a rule book and some laws. We built those institutions over many years with lots of hard work, and as current events show, we can lose them pretty easily.

  • ||

    Mrs. Vanden Heuvel reminds me of women(and yes, shoot me) I hear occasionally. I'm pretty sure that they believe that they'll die if they shut up. Sort of like sharks. She also reminds me of some of my mother's friends; very well educated and completely clueless.

  • Scott66||

    RR Ryan:

    Don't be too sexist, afterall the M in MNG stands for Mister not Misses.

  • robc||

    There are vested powerful interests running the country who have no interest in property rights and enforceable contracts and the rule of law.

    That is true of every nation throughout history.

    And yet, some have managed to get rule of law and property rights and enforceable contracts thru.

  • ||

    Thanks robc, I was going to say approximately that.

    There's a big different between political obstacles or vested interests and cultural incompatibility.

  • ||

    And Val - kakoi zhe ty ruskii? ty vresh, bratan. Bolee togo - ty durak. You admit that there is no enforcement of existing property laws and widespread cronyism in the ruling class in Russia. And what, that's just a coincidence, just bad luck? I know foreigners like to believe that Americans just lucked into the system we have, but it ain't so. It's not a cargo cult where we just get to have free markets, and anyone else can have them too if we give you a rule book and some laws. We built those institutions over many years with lots of hard work, and as current events show, we can lose them pretty easily.

    Takoizhe ruskii kak ii ty ya doomayu. Except I can actually tell that the croniism and lack of property laws are the direct cause of the failed markets reform, not just some secondary side effect of your completely made up bullshit about some inherent defect in the Russian psyche.

    I made my observation based on what happened; the thieves, 90% of whom were the same people who were in power during communism, were suddenly given the keys to the vault, they got rich and fucked over the rest of the populace, it happened a hundred times before, all over the world and still does.

    You on the other hand used your amazing psychic diagnosis powers and decided that all Russians have a mental handicap when it comes to the concept of private property and we were just seeing a symptom, not the cause, of the condition when the market reforms rolled back.

  • ||

    There are vested powerful interests running the country who have no interest in property rights and enforceable contracts and the rule of law.

    powerful vested interests do not a culture make

  • ||

    Vanden Heuvel suggested that we appoint a Muslim to the cabinent after 9/11 so as not to "appear bigoted" or something. Just completely out of touch with reality.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement