2014 March 30 Sunday
My Questions On Russia And Ukraine
Ukraine has a lot of corruption and low living standards. Therefore we interrupt regularly scheduled pablum news with important questions:
- Does corruption do more harm to the Russian or Ukrainian economy?
- Does an underdeveloped legal system for contracts and property do more harm to the Russian or Ukrainian economy?
- Is Russian corruption stable, growing, or shrinking?
- Will the suppression of free press outlets in Russia accelerate the growth of corruption?
- Does wealth from fossil fuels extraction allow the elites in Russia to be more corrupt?
- Will Russian seizure of Crimea make Crimea more or less corrupt?
- Will the new government in Ukraine be more or less corrupt than the overthrown one?
- If Russia seizes eastern Ukraine will that enable western Ukraine to develop a healthier 2 party system that will in time reduce corruption?
My point about a 2 party system: If the two parties are pro-Russia and pro-West (as exists now with a large Russian population in Ukraine) then there won't be much electoral competition over corruption. But if the Russians split off then it seems to me there is a greater hope for competition between the two parties over the issue of corruption.
I also wonder whether the GOP's decline in California due to immigration will cause a shift in political competition to the primaries over corruption or if California will just become more corrupt in its poorer and less skilled districts.
Update: Ukraine is poor with a per capita GDP of only $3,867. Compare that to its neighbors: Belarus at $6,685, Romania at $9,036, Hungary at $12,531, Poland at $12,708, Russia at $14,037, and Slovak Republic at $16,847. Ukraine has only one neighbor which is poorer: Moldova at $2,038. What causes this?
By Randall Parker at 2014 March 30 09:06 PM
For both Russia and Ukraine, it seems Western pundits haven't reflected nearly enough on one profoundly anomalous recent trait that they share. Namely, that in 1989, each was a society with a large Poor class that graded up into a Prosperously Poor class, with the top of the pyramid occupied by a nomenklatura that enjoyed a great many privileges but only modest outright personal wealth.
Within a decade or so, a new class of billionaire oligarchs had sprung forth in each nation, coincident with the impoverishment of the proles.
This development seems to exemplify 'Lion of the Blogosphere's notion of Value Transference cf Value Creation. The winners of the billionaire sweepstakes succeeded in arranging the transfer of assets from the Commons to their own ledgers. Did any of them, Russian or Ukranian, 'create" wealth in any meaningful way?
It seems corruption would flourish in situations where wealth of the few has grown at the same time as the poverty of the many. To an extent for economic reasons, perhaps more due to the decay of asibaya.
I believe it is Steve Sailer who has pointed out that Belarus, which is real dictatorship and which has few resources, has a substantially higher average per caput income than either Russia or the Ukraine. In fact, Belarus people enjoy an income twice that of the Ukrainian people.
In the Russian case, the government bureaucrats like Putin were able to seize power from the oligarchs who had stolen much of Russia's resources and industry and to bring them to heal forcing them to serve national interests. In the Ukraine, the oligarchs were able to seize political power, too, and they now operate as competing baronies without any regard to national interests.
Are there any Soviet republics that avoided the either/or/both curses of corrupt dictators and corrupt oligarchs? One or more of the Baltic states, perhaps? What about the Warsaw Pact? Did prole/middle class East Germans or Poles or Bulgarians come out okay once the dust settled from communism's collapse?
The Baltic states and smaller Warsaw Pact states had the advantage that communism was less than 50 years old there and they had parts of their old elite living as exiles and children of exiles who still wanted to move back. Eg. current President Ilves is from an exile family and grew up in America. Lots of government jobs have seen returning exiles and it would be interesting to see how the number of people educated in American universities relates to recovery (Estonia has recovered relatively well and they had plenty of return elite migration from America).
The countries that recovered the best have the advantage of being so small that they don't have ambitions beyond becoming nicer places. Estonians, Czechs etc really don't care if the returning exile has some secret CIA connections (or they might even consider it a benefit) so they could lure exiles with elite educations back to the old country with the idea of integrating them in the elite and forming the core of a Westernized political class. The Russians on the other hand were paranoid about letting anyone with Western connections in elite positions so they tried to keep Westerners as mere advisers and advisers who aren't actually personally invested in the country or the institution that they're working for tend to have agendas of their own, whether they're ideological agendas or just an oligarch friend in desperate need of more billions.
Thanks for the insightful comments. I also think the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary and other central Europeans states had different attitudes and culture and government 100 years ago. They are reverting to type.
What I find weird: Why is Ukraine in particular so messed up? Why more messed up than Belarus? I can't say I have any idea people in Belarus and Ukraine compare.