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The coming dark age: This column today attempts to put the present economic shape of Russia into context with the rest of the world. Russia does not come off well.
According to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent data, the Russian economy is approximately the same size as Australia and slightly smaller than South Korea. As an exporter, it is now less important than Belgium, Mexico, and Singapore. And it is poor. The World Bank ranks Russia’s GDP per capita below Lithuania, Equatorial Guinea, and Kazakhstan. A larger proportion of its population lives below the poverty rate than in Indonesia, India, or Sri Lanka. It is ranked 67th in the world in the Global Competitive Index and 66th in the UN’s Human Development Index.
I find this news very disturbing and worrisome. As much as I might consider Russia a competitor to the U.S., I also want it as a nation to thrive, because otherwise it can only be a threat to the rest of the world. If Russia can’t figure out how to be a successful, competitive, and vigorous first world capitalist nation, it can only become something none of us will like. These are the same circumstances that made the rise of Hitler and Mussolini possible.
Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about Russia’s ability to turn things around. When they had the chance after the fall of the Soviet Union, instead of encouraging free competition, the people who remained in power divided the country and its industries up like Prohibition-era gangsters, and stamped out anyone who tried to move in on their territories with new ideas. Those people remain in power, and have acted to further consolidate their power by recreating the Soviet model of centralized control from the top-down.
Posted from Los Angeles Airport, a place where a tiny pre-made sandwich costs almost $15, probably because of high California taxes and regulations.