Streetwise Professor

March 21, 2011

Tim Newman Nails It

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:54 pm

I strongly recommend you read Tim Newman’s latest post at White Sun of the Desert.  I think it nails it:

Firstly, let’s take Skolkovo.  So Russia plans to set up a special zone where the mind-numbing, wealth-and-soul-destroying, all-encompassing bureaucracy which has cursed Russia since the Revolution will supposedly be relaxed.  Sorry, are we supposed to be impressed by such plans?  Russia plans to do in one small place what most developed countries do anyway as a matter of course, and they’re supposed to be showered with praise?   No, what would be worthy of praise is Russia actually achieving this aim of cutting bureaucracy and the inevitable graft and corruption that follows it and kept things that way for several decades, not just merely announcing grand plans.  Cutting bureaucracy and corruption in Russia has been tried before, and has failed on every occasion.  Previous attempts at creating technology hubs in Russia have not been met with much success.  The vested interests in maintaining bureacracy and corruption in Russia are formidable, and merely announcing that they will be disposed of – even in an area as pathetically small as Skolkovo – is no more impressive than king Knut’s efforts at turning back the sea.  Everybody knows this, which is why such announcements are met with snorts of derision.  There is no fear of a modern, efficient Russia, just recognition of the same old Russia.

. . . .

So Russia wants praise for showing an interest in trade?  Fuck me, half the western world understood the importance of trade, and the institutions which underpin it, over two hundred years ago.  The other half were slow in catching up but finally the penny dropped.  By contrast, Russia spent 80 years making trade illegal – something I’m fairly sure the west consistently told them was a bad idea – and now, having spent 20 years enforcing laws which make trade more difficult and people less wealthy, they show an interest in it?  Even assuming they are sincere (a big assumption) the most positive thing I can think of saying is “About bloody time!”

But this is the best part:

Russia demands respect without realising that respect must be earned.  People don’t respect the Germans because they are stern, humourless, and business-like: they respect them because they go to Germany and find shit works.  They go to Russia and find nothing works.  The USSR gained respect chiefly through threat of force alone, but such respect is one-dimensional, similar to the respect one would afford a knuckle-head bouncer on the door of a club.  If Russia wants to be respected as an adult, the first thing it needs to do is grow up.  Nobody is going to respect Russia merely for doing “some shit they supposed to do.”

Absolutely.  The demand for respect unearned through performance is a salient feature of Russian behavior in numerous spheres.  That is the best characterization of Putin and Putinism that I have seen.

I’d only change one thing about Tim’s post.  How’s this for a rewrite?:

People don’t respect the Germans because they are stern, humourless, and business-like: they respect them because they go to Germany and find shit works.  They go to Russia and find things work like shit.

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54 Comments »

  1. The only true Muslim outlier is Chechnya.

    Both Ingushetia and Daghestan have birth rates that are the same as that of the highest-fertility Russian oblast, Irkutsk.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — March 26, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

  2. Firstly, let’s take Skolkovo. So Russia plans to set up a special zone where the mind-numbing, wealth-and-soul-destroying, all-encompassing bureaucracy which has cursed Russia since the Revolution will supposedly be relaxed. Sorry, are we supposed to be impressed by such plans?

    Who cares? Medvedev’s decision about Skolkovo had nothing to do with trying to impress Tim Newman. IMHO, it is about trying to increase Russia’s “footprint” in the high-tech industries. It’s about economics and money, not about impressing some useless bloggers.

    Should Russia have eliminated corruption, red tape and bureaucracy in high-tech 18 years ago? Yes, but better late than never.

    Should Russia eliminate corruption, red tape and bureaucracy in all of its economy? Yes, but you gotta start somewhere.

    Why would the Skolkovo decision cause criticism from you guys? Is Medvedev wrong in creating Skolkovo?

    So Russia wants praise for showing an interest in trade?

    Where did you get this idea? Please quote what the Russian authorities said about “wanting praise”.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — March 26, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  3. @ Sublime Oblivion – Thank you for the updated statistics by region for 2009. The Russian Baltic area still doesn’t seem that much better than Latvia to brag about. 9.2 in Leningradskaya oblast vs. Latvia’s 8.5 isn’t that great. I wonder of there is s omething in the water there….It’s good to see that ethnic Russian regions are generally doing rather well, though.

    @Ostap Bender, My question was not rhetorical. I suspect that ethnic Russians tend to migrate to Russia from Ukraine more than Ukrainians do. But I don’t know, so I was wondering if you knew from which regions of Ukraine people were migrating to Russia. I managed to find something from an article that is 10 years old: http://www.gcim.org/attachements/GMP%20No%2014.pdf.

    “The unfavorable economic situation not only frightened immigrants, but also motivated a number of Ukrainians to seek better living conditions abroad. The lion’s share of emigrants in 1994 to 1998 went to Russia (636,000 people in five years or 70% of those who went to the post-Soviet countries), where the economic situation was better, wages and the standard of living higher and entrepreneurial conditions more favorable. Only 270,000 people arrived from Russia, i.e. the migratory deficit caused by migration to Russia in 1994-1998 comprised 366,000 persons.”

    “The population decrease during this phase was in most part explained by the migration of Russians. Between 1994 and 1998 the number of Russians in Ukraine due to migration decreased by almost 240,000. 85% of the deficit was comprised of migration to Russia. A part of the migratory flow previously directed to Ukraine from non-Slavic countries has also changed direction towards Russia. This flow consisted not only of Russians but also of Ukrainians and representatives of other nationalities. Despite that, Russians continued to constitute a substantial part of the influx to Ukraine from all republics of the former USSR. For example, in 1994, Russians constituted 20% of migrants from Uzbekistan, over 50% of migrants from Kyrgyzstan.”

    So ethnic Russians made up the majority of those leaving for Russia from Ukraine between 1994 and 1998, even though ethnic Russians account for less than 20% of Ukraine’s population.

    This information very limited (it covers only 4 years, over ten years ago). I couldn’t find anything else specifying the ethnicity of those who left Ukraine for Russia, so I was wondering if you had more information since you have written about this topic. But it seems you do not.

    As for the figures of 4.5 million Ukrainians who have moved abroad (the most recent estimate is now 5 million):

    http://www.integrationsfonds.at/publikationen/oeif_laenderinfo/ukrainianmigration/#c9630

    “In the neighbouring countries Hungary, Poland and Russia, the majority of Ukrainian migrants stays for 1 to 3 months only. For the south-western EU countries the duration of stay increases and larger shares of Ukrainian migrants stay for more than one year. But also these migrants often do not plan to settle in their country of residence permanently but want to return to Ukraine once they have accomplished their migration goals.”

    And: “emigration from Ukraine largely takes place in form of circular or temporary migration. Migrants from Ukraine, legal and irregular ones, tend to return back home to their country on a regular basis and settle in respective countries of destination less frequently on a permanent basis than other immigrant groups.”

    In America such migrants (usually illegal, some of whom come up through Mexico) tend to stay for a few years because of the cost involved in entering the US illegally. They save enough money to start a business, buy a house and car in Ukraine, and return.

    So most of those 2 million Ukrainians in Russia at any given time are not settlers or immigrants. They are just making money to send back to their families.

    Comment by AP — March 26, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  4. @AP: “So ethnic Russians made up the majority of those leaving for Russia from Ukraine between 1994 and 1998, even though ethnic Russians account for less than 20% of Ukraine’s population

    This is all highly immaterial. Russians are to Ukrainians what Danes are to Norwegians. Once they come in contact with each other, they immediately mix back into one ethnos.

    So most of those 2 million Ukrainians in Russia at any given time are not settlers or immigrants. They are just making money to send back to their families.

    Some do stay, some don’t. You can simply look at the population changes between early 1990s and today to see that Russia is being a great beneficiary of immigration, while Ukraine and other European ex-USSR republics are suffering from emigration:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_of_Ukraine.PNG
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_of_Latvia.PNG
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_of_Russia.PNG

    Ever since Latvia gained independence, its population started to plummet. It has gone down from about 2.65 mln in 1990 to 2.25 mln in 2010. That’s a loss of about 15%.

    The Russian population went down from about 148 mln in 1990 to 142 mln in 2010. That’s a loss of about 4%.

    The Ukrainian population went down from about 52 mln in 1990 to 46 mln in 2010. That’s a loss of about 12%.

    I am really not convinced that the population of Russia is too low. Given that much of Russia’s territory is like Alaska’s and Mongolia’s/Northernmost China’s, many argue that Russia’s population is actually too high for such a severe climate. For example, the controversial book “Why Russia is not America” by Parshev argues that from the economic equilibrium perspective, Russia’s population should be several times lower:

    http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%BC%D1%83_%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D0%BD%D0%B5_%D0%90%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0

    The same may go for Latvia and some other Northern countries. The purpose here should not be to cram as many people as possible into a country or to expand an empire or to spread its ideology (Russians are not Americans, and they no longer feel the uncontrollable urge to dictate to the entire world what to do), but to provide the best possible quality of life to the average citizens inside the country.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — March 26, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

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