Alex's Outlook

Monday, October 27, 2003

Benito Putin
Mikhail Khodorovsky, Russia's wealthiest man, was thrown in jail recently, hit with a $1 billion tax-evasion charge. He heads YUKOS Oil, Russia's largest company. He is worth about $8 billion.

Khodorovsky's arrest was certainly politically motivated. He is hardly the first "oligarch" to have evaded taxes, but he made the mistake of funding two opposition parties.

Pres. Vladimir Putin seems to be telling the Russian business community: you can make all the money you want, but don't meddle in politics. I don't see what's wrong with a market-oriented dictatorship, though. The inequality inherent in free markets has put serious strains on Russian society, as it has with all others, and Putin probably figures that the only way he can maintain a relatively free market (refusing to embrace a welfare state) is by cutting down the political opposition, not to mention keeping power for himself.

"Democratic capitalism" is an oxymoron. Democracy is ultimately corrosive to the free-market system, no matter how much a democracy's founders try to defend it (e.g. the evisceration of the Constitution during the New Deal). Putin's new "fascist" experiment will be very interesting to watch.

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