Streetwise Professor

September 5, 2011

Dilbert: The Russian Government Edition

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:27 pm

Via JRL (item #5), this article from Argumenty Nedeli assesses the domestic consequences of Putinism:

But as regards domestic politics and the economy, the situation here is completely different. It is hardly worth talking yet again about the crazy rise in (natural monopoly and municipal services) tariffs and the decline of Russian industry, science, and education. Although the fruits of this decline have become totally tangible. Inscrutable Chubays-type nanotechnologies attempt in front of the television cameras to sell him duff Chinese consumer goods in the shape of the latest e-books for school kids. In the last nine months alone the country has lost six satellites worth a total of 15 billion rubles. Military depots are blowing up, leaky ferry boats are sinking, aircraft are falling out of the skies in droves. The reason for this, analysts say, lies in the flawed model for managing sectors of the national economy. It has either been sold off or handed over not to experts but to “insiders.” It is toward them that Putin’s other face is turned. There are significantly fewer of them, but they control the levers of administration.

For example, our long-suffering civil aviation sector is run from the Trade Ministry (!) by Moscow State University Sociology Department graduate Manturov. It is he who is being described as the main destroyer of leading aircraft firms with a worldwide reputation. It is possible to familiarize yourself with the details at professional forums. Agriculture Minister Skrynnik graduated from the Chelyabinsk Medical Institute. Health Minister Golikova graduated from the Russian Economic University Named for G.V. Plekhanov. Her husband — Trade Minister Khristenko — is a Chelyabinsk Polytechnic graduate specializing in “construction engineering.” Defense Minister Serdyukov is a graduate of the Leningrad Institute of Soviet Trade and recently of the Law Department.

It would be possible to dig even deeper. But everything is clear anyway. According to the laws of nature, people who find themselves in the wrong place first get rid of those who are professionally smarter than they are. This is what is happening in the Health Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Agriculture Ministry alike…. And what is the result? In the last 10 years the Caucasus that Putin subjugated has started to consume more money than during the period of military operations. The Yeltsin oligarchs have been replaced by Putin oligarchs. There are more of them. And for understandable reasons they will do everything to ensure that Vladimir Vladimirovich remains in power for as long as possible. It can also be said that V. Putin’s entourage will not allow him to leave power. As members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee Politburo would not allow L. Brezhnev to go in the not-too-distant past. So the only thing left for us to do is to dream that he will nevertheless listen to the opinion of others. And his billionaire friends also have something to think about. As the experience of our neighbors shows, today there is nowhere to run. So it is becoming increasingly dangerous with every passing day to preserve the order of things whereby the country’s economy is run by “cooks.” And it is not even a matter of a possible revolution but of universal apathy.

It is hard to say what scheme might be used to form a new cabinet. But it cannot be done without consulting and taking account of the opinion of at least the establishment opposition represented in the State Duma. The current set of ministers consists totally of rich people. They no longer need anything.

Apart from guarantees against prosecution.

The most interesting aspect of this is the description of the non-entities in charge of various ministries outside of their ken of expertise, such as it is.   This is a natural strategy for someone like Putin: it makes it far less likely that a powerful rival will arise from  within the government.  I also found this sentence amusing: “According to the laws of nature, people who find themselves in the wrong place first get rid of those who are professionally smarter than they are.”  This is in accord with the accounts I’ve heard from people who have worked with Russian companies, especially energy companies, who tell of large operations under the direction of incompetents appointed for their political reliability and whose efforts are concentrated on crushing anyone who knows more than he does (and it is invariably a he)–which means trying to crush just about everybody.  Dilbert goes to Russia, in other words.

The desire of the made men for Putin to stay in control is understandable, and something I’ve discussed in the past years.  The political contingency of property means that no matter how wealthy you are today, that can disappear in an instant when political winds change.  Indeed, you can go from being a billionaire to being a convict in Siberia, or a man without a country (like Luzhkov).  Any political change bears with it the prospect of a reallocation of property.

Stultifying stability is therefore a virtue in this system, especially for the “elite” (where the term  is used loosely when applied to a group that includes a disproportionate number of mouth breathing judo experts).  Putin is the equilibrator, the balancer.  Without him, the balance would almost certainly be lost, sparking the equivalent of a mob war a la the Godfather, the Five Families in New York, or Capone vs. Bugs Moran in Chicago circa 1927.  Like in Tsarist Russia, before the Crimean War, anyways, real change is an anathema.  Only a systemic crisis, or a shattering military reverse, will spark real change.

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14 Comments »

  1. True, alas.

    Comment by So? — September 5, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  2. Leningrad Institute of Soviet Trade…

    Aye, that sounds as if it would prepare folk well for the future.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 5, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

  3. True for the whole world as a whole, in fact. The West is more developed, so the rot is less obvious. All we need is a real big war between peers to shake things up. This chasing natives around the bush simply brings everyone down to their level.

    Comment by So? — September 7, 2011 @ 2:50 am

  4. A friend that worked for Zarubezhneft (VietSovPetro) in the 80’s in Viet Nam told that one time a new general manager was named from Baku and proceeded to staff the organization with his people. His brother in law was named manager over offshore drilling operations, his brother in law in fact had a lot of drilling experience-he was a dentist.

    I remember a joke Putin told as follows-

    Two Generals are drinking and General One asks, “Do you think our sons will be come Field Marshalls?” General Two answers, “No of course not.” One asks, “Why is that?” Two says, “Field Marshalls have sons too!”

    Gotta agree with So-there is plenty of rot to go around.

    Comment by pahoben — September 7, 2011 @ 6:46 am

  5. A friend that worked for Zarubezhneft (VietSovPetro) in the 80’s in Viet Nam told that one time a new general manager was named from Baku and proceeded to staff the organization with his people.

    It seems little has changed: that’s what the Azeri who was put in charge of a British company in Sakhalin did. It’s pretty standard in Nigeria too, move all the relatives into key positions.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 7, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  6. Tim-your first comment was very funny.

    Comment by pahoben — September 7, 2011 @ 10:56 am

  7. Another Russian plane drops out of the sky, dozens perish including an entire hockey team:

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2011/09/plane-with-russian-hockey-team-crashes/1

    Will the world still foolishly send its young athletes to Sochi in 2014?

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 7, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  8. This New Democratic Russian plane was built in 1993 and had relatively few flying hours. Apparently the runway was packed with lots of private and chartered planes because of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaroslavl_Global_Policy_Forum . An early theory is that because of this it had to start the takeoff run from the middle of the runway, failed to get enough height and clipped an antenna. RIP. Blue-eyed negros THINK GLOBAL, alright.

    Comment by So? — September 7, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  9. When Russia tries to become more competitive, the opposite occurs.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/emergingeurope/2011/09/07/russias-competitiveness-slips-further/

    Maybe Russia should try to be less competitive?

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 7, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

  10. SO? — Bet that Russian runways will be plenty packed during the 2014 Olympics, too. Uh-oh . . .

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 7, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

  11. Don’t you worry about Sochi. Russians have a ghetto mentality. Will starve to impress the white people. Everything will be tip top.

    Comment by So? — September 7, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  12. Tim-you should see some of the names of the schools that Putin’s people went to. Mayor Sobyanin has a “law degree” from the Whole Union Correspondence Institute of Law.
    I am worried about Sochi as well. The airport there has been shut down several times this summer due to poor weather conditions. Hard to imagine how it will look in winter.

    Comment by NinaIvanovna — September 8, 2011 @ 6:59 am

  13. SO?: And if you are wrong what will you say to all the moms and dads of the athletes? Oops, sorry ’bout that?

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 8, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

  14. Don’t you worry. They’ll spend 100 billion, if need be, to impress “real people”.

    Comment by So? — September 8, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

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