The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Losing the Power of the Printing Press


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 13, 2022


  1. NR

    Ian, I happened across this recently and thought you might find it interesting. It turns out that schizophrenics in cultures where strangers are caring and helpful have kinder hallucinations than ones who live in cultures where strangers are hostile.

    It’s fascinating how much influence culture has on us, all the way down to how our brains work.

  2. bruce wilder

    The War of Narratives continues against the background of the slow-moving actual War in Ukraine. This last week, the narrative of the Russophiles took a body-blow, as the Russians completed a withdrawal of military forces from Kherson City on the west bank of the Dneiper.

    I follow Alexander Mercouris and several other figures endorsed by Yves Smith’s NC blog, along with some sparing attention to the mainstream media in the U.S. It was interesting to see how Mercouris handled this outcome, which he had repeatedly refused to credit as underway. One trope I’ve seen — in fairness, I am not sure that Mercouris ever repeated it — turned on JCS chairman Milley opining that it would take the Russians “weeks” to complete a withdrawal from Kherson City and contrasting that with the “three days” it took the Russians to get their troops and working equipment across the river. In fact, it did take weeks to evacuate — the Russians have been evacuating for several weeks — transporting civilians out of the area, even packing up Russian monuments in a historically Russian city. I understand that the troops deployed for some time have been paratroopers, almost the modern definition of the lightest light infantry — an obvious tactic to cope with the logistical difficulties that were pressing on the Russians as the Ukrainians shelled and threatened the few available crossings.

    Mercouris, a disgraced barrister, fills the air with words — I have to speed up his videos to 1.5x to be able to stand listening to him. To his credit he repeatedly stresses his own lack of expertise as a military analyst even as he tries to summarize the gist of what he learns by monitoring media, Telegram channels, Dima of Military Summary Youtube and the like. But, I have noticed that he credits official Russian estimates of Ukrainian casualties as a way of stressing the appalling human toll the fighting out of what has been a prolonged stalemate has taken on Ukraine as a society as well as a military. (Objectively, I do not think anything about casualties or equipment losses or even munitions expenditures is known publicly from any reliable source. We just do not know and believing anyway is a fool’s game.) In the past, he acknowledged the Ukrainian shelling of the crossings, but in his discussion tended to minimize their importance.

    Mainstream media in the U.S. continues its uncritical accounts. The withdrawal from Kherson City is labeled a defeat and repeatedly compared to the Russian withdrawal of its feint toward Kiev early in the conflict, the latter characterized as the first, great Russian defeat in the war.

  3. NL

    Funny how MoA seems to be deleting any posts critical of the Putin oligarchy and the so-called SMO, while at the same time explaining away anything the Putin regime does as genius stratagem. MoA is frequently linked to by such websites as Naked Capitalism, which is definitely anti-China but not so much anti-Putin. One wonders some time whether a cooperation between the Gorbachev/Yeltsin/Putin oligarchy and our oligarchy to break up USSR/Russia and take the Russians to the cleaners has ever fully stopped or has it been a ‘quarrel between lovers’…

    Meanwhile a grandpa looking general and a general who looks like Fantômas (the villain who wears a bald mask from the 1960s French comedies that used to be popular in the Soviet Union) stage a priceless comedy act whereby one tells the other to proceed with the brave withdrawal from a South Ukrainian city.

  4. Astrid


    Attacking Mercouris on the grounds of “disgraced barrister” is unfair and smells like attacking the messanger and not the message. He publicly went into some detail about why he was disbarred and I have no reason to disbelieve his narrative.

    I find plenty to disagree with the Alexii (especially when they venture into right wing politics or economics or Covid) but on Kherson, I agree with them and “Putinists” that a strategic retreat makes sense to trade land that is not immediately strategically valuable for the ability to redeploy elite paratroopers elsewhere, reduce the logistical headache of supplying an unused beachhead and minimize the risk of Ukrainian damage to infrastructure and possibly flooding the city. They are making advances elsewhere and it’s refreshing to see the Russians put lives of soldiers and civilians above social media pundits.

    I recommend listening at 2x speed, which I find to be barely tolerable for Youtube pundits. Mercouris’s tedious rhetorical flourishes fly by and the mind can fix on the more interesting nuggets of information.

  5. Astrid


    I’ve read MOA pretty closely this year and B has always sourced his information clearly, made convincing arguments from facts rather than from faith, and course corrected and self examined when he was wrong.

    Having read some of the pro-western MOA comments before they get wiped, it’s clear what they are deleted. They were trolling, engaging in repetitively spouting unsupported statements that were written to provoke reactions and derail the conversation.

    I found plenty of disagreements within the comments there about how well the Russians are doing, but yes they are united by their disgust for the West. If you have a problem with that perspective, there’s all of Western MSM to assure you that Russia is losing badly and is within days of running out of munition, that Ukraine is a shining beacon of democracy, etc.

  6. marku52

    One of the best commentators on UKR I’ve found is Big Serge, an amateur war historian who seems extremely well read. Here are part of his thoughts on the withdrawal:
    ” 1. The Ukrainian Army has defeated the Russian Army on the west bank and driven it back across the river.
    2. Russia is setting a trap in Kherson.
    3. A secret peace agreement (or at least ceasefire) has been negotiated which includes giving Kherson back to Ukraine.
    4. Russia has made a politically embarrassing but militarily prudent operational choice. ”
    He reviews each and decides #4 is most likely. The Russians haven’t been defeated anywhere in the battles for Kherson. If it was a trap they wouldn’t have blown the bridges they would need to advance again. Peace deal? The Russians don’t believe a word the west says. Hot air. Leaves you with #4. Surovikin wants those troops free to use elsewhere. Sees no point in leaving them tied down across the river with the possibility of the dam being blown.

  7. anon y'mouse

    well, i received a letter very typical of the democraps but under the heading of the Dept. of Ed bewailing the recent Texas ruling against the student loan forgiveness (which they had us all fill out forms for already) and claiming that they were going to “keep trying”.

    so, like those other cynical types on the interwebs, i bet this whole farce from the beginning was just a way to update the files on the student debtors, making the job of the eventual debt collection agencies when they turn it over for a lifetime of threatening letters, telling your family members and employers that you are a debt bum (yes, all technically illegal yet regularly and rampantly practiced every day by the “collections industry”) and basically trying to scare you into paying them for what should have been offered to citizens of this country for free, in order to turn them into more highly productive workers.

    but, as i said before: college was never designed for the masses. it was designed for the ruling class to keep a common culture and control over the administration of their holdings. that it was repurposed during WWII to prevent a huge number of vets from coming back and having crappy jobs and then rebelling similar to the WWI vets was a smokescreen. that it was then sold to those same WWII vets children as “what you need to do to become a productive citizen” was also a smokescreen for greater cognitive capture.

    how useful that this institution would then be used as a class barrier to entry to perpetually keep the lower classes out unless they went into debt bondage for life. so, so incredibly useful.

    side note: NC has a lot of -personally- discredited sources they have been touting lately. normally, i would say this: the source is irrelevant as long as the information proves true. but these folks add nothing that others are not capable of speculating on as well, so boosting their signal over others is highly questionable in my mind. but NC has permabanned me in their good sense. i would not be a member of any club that would be willing to have me anyway.

    the back and forth over a war zone in which things are constantly changing, and which at least 4 if not more country’s intelligence services are actively spewing out disinformation and propaganda about strikes me as incredibly pointless. about as pointless (although much more consequential and dire for the world) as dithering over last night’s ball game scores and the club’s staff picks at work break the next morning.

  8. bruce wilder


    Storytelling and cheerleading are human weaknesses. They are my sins, too. I am not saying that I am not as prone to papering over an absence of information and analytic insight with wishful thinking as the next fellow. Hope is an addictive drug and one of the best available analgesics.

    In relation to this war, its causes as well as its progress on battlefields and in global trade and politics, the flood of disinformation has been remarkable for its relentless volume and tone of moral hectoring. Some people have suggested that the “outcome” of the war might settle some questions about who has been right about factual, analytic questions at least. I remain skeptical — human beings can maintain faith with saints and sinners of the least credibility. So the withdrawal from Kherson is of interest, to see what partisan storytellers do with it.

    In principle, despite personal weakness (and Dunning-Krueger), I remain committed if not to shiny “truth” then to facts (including inconvenient ones) and trying to found understanding on analysis of the mechanisms of processes, where those can be discerned. From that point of view and not from choosing sides I have been very dissatisfied with the quality of journalism and opinion available. That it is not to my taste is, of course, trivial. What is alarming to me is the eclipse of democracy that it signals.

    For thirty years, area and policy experts warned against “poking the bear” and the U.S. let war-mongers and Russophobes poke away. Ukraine’s deep divisions were conveniently exacerbated with no concern for the human consequences. And, here we are, and the voices that even hint at the possibility our course is unwise and inhumane are marginalized.

    That Mercouris has been disbarred is his personal tragedy. I don’t judge. My own professional life was an abject failure. But, I do note how extremely marginalized these voices are. Scott Ritter is a child-molester! John Helmer has not been in Russia in how long?

    The two Alex’s of the Duran do harbor reactionary views apparently — have you ever listened to their Czarist history podcasts? Crazy stuff.

    Mercouris, to his credit, acknowledges that he was wrong in opining that the Russians would not yield Kherson. But I do not see that he understands that his “methods” of reasoning might have been at fault in the misjudgment and failure to apprehend what was going on. He reported many relevant facts as they happened but did not assemble the true picture. I am not sure of what to make of that or what weight to give his analyses as he repairs the breach.

  9. Willy

    So Putin accurately predicted that he’d be going up against the entire western military-industrial complex, just so we could all discuss the evils of late-stage capitalist power.

    But I’d rather hear about the Elon Musk follies. Does it get any better than Mario flipping off the entire twitterverse? Who says that exercises of concentrated power always have to be depressing affairs?

  10. NL

    Watch, they will blame the FTX hack on Russia…

    To me, the Russian oligarchy is no less disgusting. I think I opined here a while back that the current Slavic civil war could be a cleansing experience for Russia, like WWI and the Russian Civil war of 1917-1922. Those wars swept away Czar, the burguesia that was brining to Russia nothing but suffering for the masses and prosperity for the few and put power in the hands of the competent. Maybe Russia will re-trace the same path. Right now what we are watching is mud wrestling between weak impotent oligarchies, like what was in WWI, while people are suffering, economies are destroyed and we are not progressing to anywhere…

  11. Astrid


    Fair enough, the Anglo-sphere figures speaking out against war or telling the Russian side of the story are quite marginalized, though they are not at all limited to The Duran and Ritter. There are plenty of voices for peace, they just get audiences in the hundreds or low thousands, rather than tens or hundreds of thousands. The Duran (and Gonzalo Lira, an even more sketchy person who made his living as a “Coach Redpill” and is living in Kharkiv despite all common sense) just happened up big paying audiences that more respectable liberal or leftist voices do not have. 2022 is also the year that Max Blumenthal and Jimmy Dore went completely off the deep end on COVID. I guess if our heroes survive long enough they inevitably become villains. We live in a world where Marjorie Taylor Greene has better positions on war and peace than Bernie Sanders – that doesn’t make MTG any kind of good but our AI simulation gods apparently have a sense of humor.

    If you want something more official, I recommend reading Putin’s speeches and readouts straight from the horse’s mouth. They’re refreshingly straightforward and easy to follow and show the face that the Russians want to present to the non-west world. They want to be seen as upholding international law, to be partners and friends to all, and working for peace. I find his arguments quite persuasive and clear and an amazing contrast to the word salads of insinuations and unearned authority that shows up in major western speeches.

    I should note that there’s no evidence that Ritter is a child molester, just that he fell twice into government stings – amazing luck that they caught him twice but couldn’t find more serious crimes to charge him with. I think the explanation is two fold – one is a “higher immorality” of the US deep state and higher strata of society, look at Epstein, Dennis Hastert, and Joe Biden, an honest and well intentioned person couldn’t last in the selection process. And a person who might try to break with the pack, like John Edwards or Gary Hart or Elliot Spitzer, gets blown up at very convenient times. Even the relatively blameless Sanders and Corbyn got dragged through the mud. And when all that fails – JFK/Malcom-X/MLK/RFK can still happen, and much more easily when outside of the US.

    The other is the sort of personality that becomes a whistleblower and iconoclast, people who would throw everything they and their family had away to “do the right thing” are rare. I direct you to Craig Murray’s sorry tale, both for what he did right and what he did to his family before and after the big blow up. The fact that Ritter’s wife stuck by him suggests that there’s a lot more to the tale than the label of “child molester” at work here.

    Like you and like me, Yves Smith has giant blindsides that you can drive dumpster trucks past. Still, she’s a rare entity that gathers together voices that are otherwise very marginalized in the Anglo-sphere. She doesn’t know the full story, but she’s bringing some major sections to the puzzle. It’s up to the rest of us to try and piece it together.

  12. Astrid


    What is this Russian oligarchy that you speak of and where are your sources? China and Russia are not without their problems, but their populaces are very strongly behind Xi and Putin and the current regimes are responsible for very notable improvements in the lives of their citizenry in the past 20 years. Throwing them all into a basket of “impotent weak oligarchies” is intellectual laziness, where you can be judgmental without bothering to learn anything about the groups that you’re judging.

    And what does any of what you say tie into my comment about MOA? If not, why are you directing your comment towards me?

  13. different clue


    Naked Capitalism is anti-China? Really? Can you link to some specific articles or linked-to articles at Naked Capitalism which are anti-China?

    NaCap features Professor Hudson very favorably and quite often. And Professor Hudson is an economic advisor ( he and others say) to the economic-finance planning parts of the Chinese Government.

    Naked Capitalism is anti-China? Really?

  14. NL

    On the contrary, clumping Russia and China together is ridiculous and intellectually indefensible. There isn’t an iota of similarity between the two.

    John Helmer is an Ok source. Below is something he recently wrote. Read it carefully and you will see that Putin is neoliberal and the war is a smokescreen for further plunder. The Russian oligarchy is building a neoliberal order on par with what we have here and in many ways even worse.

    “The Russian regime-change theory motivating US sanctions against the Russian oligarchs is that they will trigger a palace coup in which the oligarchs will arrange a bullet for President Vladimir Putin’s head, and in return the US will give them back the keys to their yachts, mansions, and offshore bank accounts.

    The terms of pain relief and life insurance which the oligarchs are discussing with Putin are different. The oligarchs want to be compensated for what they have lost offshore with an even larger stock of assets onshore, including takeover of exiting foreign companies and privatization of state assets; low-interest Central Bank finance; import substitution and labour subsidies; tax holidays; postponement of ecological compliance; deregulation; amnesty for past crimes, immunity from prosecution for future ones.

    Secret though the details of their agreement are – must be in time of war – the new shape of the oligarchs’ wealth can begin to be gauged from an initial inventory. As for the new policy pact directing it, it is easier to say what it is not — it bears no resemblance to the recommendations for nationalization, state planning, ban on foreign investment in hostile states, a high ruble rate to protect against imports, and de-dollarization for exports, which have been proposed by the former Kremlin economic adviser, Sergei Glazyev.

    When President Vladimir Putin announced at his meeting with state officials on May 24, that he proposes “red tape needs to be scrapped” and “additional adjustments to the regulatory framework”, the phrases were not new. In the war economy, however, they signal deregulation and privatization — more freedom for the oligarchs, not less. When Putin added: “the Russian economy will certainly remain open in the new conditions”, the meaning, at least as the oligarchs are interpreting it, is that the president is promising more freedom from the state, not less.”

  15. NL

    @different clue
    Yep, NK is anti-China. It used to be much worse some years but it is still underhandedly there. Let’s start with their title for the China section: “China?” — why the question mark? What are we questing here? NK links and publishes some good stuff occasionally, but it also publishes and links regularly to boluses of propaganda. What was that with the copious posts in the Myanmar section? How many NK readers care about Myanmar? Now this section went away, guess the contract ended. NK always links to Western articles on China.

    “Professor Hudson is an economic advisor ( he and others say) to the economic-finance planning parts of the Chinese Government.” — Ha ha ha…. right.. just because China lets him talk there does not mean they take his advice. They keep Michael Pettis for some reason employed — he is clueless most of the time. Goldman from AsiaTimes was recently published at Guancha. And he is a China hater. They will listen but it does not mean anything. And if you actually read proper Chinese sources, you will realize that what they are doing and what the Western talking heads say they are doing are very very different things.

    Besides, all I learned from Hudson is debt jubilee… and get this.. all of a sudden the current figurehead administration offers student debt relief (which then get stuck in courts) — you may say Hudson has influence, a skeptic may say suspicious…

  16. different clue


    I am still missing it and I still don’t see any evidence of China-hate in what you present.
    Trying to read something into the ” ? ” after “China” seems like advanced kremlinology to me. They reject the establishment’s hatred of the ChinaGov’s sincere covid-suppression efforts.

    What does Myanmar have to do with China? I found the Myanmar material interesting and if you did not, that is not my problem And God made a scroll button if you can’t bear to see the Myanmar material. Again . . . what argument do you think you are making by complaining about coverage of something with precisely zero to do with China?

  17. Astrid


    You should listen to some of Hudson’s talks on Multipolarista and/or read his book Superimperialism. He goes into a lot more than debt jubilee. His history of the US financial system in the 60s and 70s is well outside of anything I’ve seen elsewhere. Even the jubilee discussion makes more sense with the historical context – it’s not just about forgiving debt like a loosened bankruptcy system. It’s about unbinding a whole society from the bondage of debt.

    The PRC and RF governments share an important similarity, they are not liberal nor under the control of the Western neoliberal order. They are large enough to resist domination to some degree, and this resistance increases as they grow stronger. Of course their histories and cultures are very different, but it’s not as if they’re monolithic within their society. There’s a great range of opinions with each society, though I’m mostly familiar with Chinese society, it seems the range of acceptable opinions for both are wider than what I’ve seen in the West. And both governments control the commanding heights of their industrial capacity and made efforts to tamp down there powers of the oligarchy (though those can be painted as factional fighting within the power structure, they are very popular in China and weaken three collective power of wealth.)

    Again, yes, there are a lot of details there and I don’t pretend to know them all well. But I don’t think you displayed the depth of knowledge about the two systems to dismiss them like you do, at least not authoritatively.

  18. NL

    @different clue

    And that was the point of NK coverage of Myanmar — to leave the readers poorly informed and biased in our favor as much as possible. And seems to me NK has done a wonderful job. Once the readers accept that the ‘Myanmar junta’ is bad, the next thing you need to accept that China is evil. Persuasion must be subtle and unassuming. Myanmar is another battle field like Ukraine. From CFR earlier this year:

    “China has done exactly that: It has dramatically ramped up support for Myanmar, further entrenching a growing split between the world’s autocracies and democracies. Just as some observers hoped Beijing would take a moderate, measured position on the Ukraine war, and have been proven wrong as Beijing has embraced Vladimir Putin and Chinese state outlets helped spread Russian disinformation, so too China has gone all in with the Myanmar regime.

    Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi announced, according to the Associated Press, that it would back the Myanmar regime “no matter how the situation changes,” in what the AP called “the latest show of unequivocal Chinese support for the ruling military council that seized power last year.”

    Tower notes that the two foreign ministers agreed to implement the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor and boost a range of cross-border cooperation including cross-border industrial zones, that China promised more support for development in Myanmar, that Beijing will allow the Myanmar regime to open a consulate in Chongqing, and that China will provide a 650 million RMB grant to Myanmar, among other measures. The junta also already has signed off on a massive new LNG plant financed by China, and is likely to approve multiple other new Chinese projects within the Economic Corridor.”

  19. NL


    Of course Russia is neoliberal through and through. It has a true opposition. But the war subverts the opposition. Real income of Russian works have not improved in the past decade, and what improvement took place in the 2000s was off a very very low levels. The workers are still poorer than they were 1980s under Communism. And putting together Russia and China only serves to obfuscate the matter and smear the latter.

    Why don’t you find Helmer’s post from which I quoted and read the rest of it. It will be eye opening for anyone who think that Russia is progressive.

    Debt jubilee is misdirection. That’s a symptom, not the cause..

  20. Astrid


    Helmer (and Taibbi and the War Nerd guys) have understandably negative takes on Russia. They also haven’t been there in more than a decade.

    Why do I put China and Russia (and Iran and India and maybe Saudi Arabia and the rest of the global South) together? Because they are forming a non-Western block.

    In terms of GDP growth slowing in the last decade, it’s not a surprise. Global commodity prices have been suppressed since 2008 financial crisis and then post-Maidan sanctions, but I’ve seen plenty of indications that the average Russian is more prosperous and secure than they were in 2005.

    On whether Russia is neoliberal. Here’s a list of Russian state owned companies. If Russia was truly neoliberal, they would have move to private hands and then sold to Shell or BP or ALCOA.

    Are you seriously debating Russia’s warfighting effectiveness against a Ukraine that’s been receiving billions in Western military aid and tutalage for 8 years? Is fighting and beating an enemy that’s backed by all of West’s wealthy and technology and propaganda, with one hand tied behind their back, the actions of a weak oligarchy?

    China is not a luxury communism paradise yet, not by a long shot. There are plenty of evidence that it is also neoliberal and hypercapitalist and just not that pleasant of a place to live. Every country will have challenges and contradictions and corruption. The question is whether things are getting better for the bulk of the populace. I would argue that they are in China and Russia, and they haven’t been in the US for at least 40 years.

  21. NL

    Helmer has lived in Russia since 1989. I have never read a single thing by Taibbi and don’t know who the War Nerd is.

    From my observations, being a friend of an enemy of my enemy does not work. To me the best revenge is living well.

    But why has Russia not diversified away from commodity? Please read the post by Helmer — he clearly explains why and clearly shows that Russia has had and still has alternatives, except that the neoliberal oligarchic regime of Putin systematically chooses to pursue neoliberal policies and systematically eliminates opposition, some time through outright physical violence. When Putin came to power after Yeltsin, his regime kept the Yeltsin’s policies of privatization intact. And this is why it is Gorbachev/Yeltsin/Putin regime. Since the Yeltsin times, Russia has had 3-5-year privatization plans, and every year the % of state-owned companies decreased. Please read below the 2020 privatization plan.

    Second, when the state is owned by the oligarchy, does it matter whether the oligarchy owns the enterprise directly or through the state? Here, the oligarchy rewards its top technocrats through speaking fees, book deals, investment opportunities, foundations, corporate boards etc. In Russia it is chairmanship of a state-owned corporation. Furthermore, some of those state-owned corporations on the list are what we call here public-private partnership. I am familiar with Rosnano on that list. It is a state investment corporation — ostensibly it invests in private nanotech start-up and was supposed to nurture home nanotech, in practice, it has been a trough for Chubais and his family and friends, a reward for his leading the privatization process in the 1990s.

    Yes, China is not a paradise. I am watching now 爱的二八定律. It shamelessly romanticizes lawyers and finance people. The male romantic lead seems to be an unemployed day trader!!!!!!!! If this kind of extoling of finance continues, the Chinese philosopher kings would have to address this.

    I mentioned here before my impoverished origins, and some time I wondered how it would be to live elsewhere. I am internationally mobile, but in the end seems to me America is the best place to live and American oligarchy is best of all oligarchies in the world.

    “In January 2020, the Russian government published a privatization plan for 2020-22 that identified 86 federal unitary state enterprises, 186 joint-stock companies, and 13 limited liability companies for privatization over a three-year period. The plan specifies that market conditions will determine the terms of privatization, but the government estimates the plan could generate RUB 3.6 billion ($48.2 million) per year for the federal budget. The plan would also reduce the state’s share in VTB, one of Russia’s largest banks, from over 60 percent to 50 percent plus one share and in Sovkomflot, a large shipping company, to 75 percent plus one share within three years. Other large SOEs might be privatized on an ad hoc basis, depending on market conditions.”

  22. Astrid


    I disagree, calling something neoliberal without context is no more meaningful than calling it authoritarian or totalitarian. For me, neoliberal goes to a specific set of Anglosphere believe in the intent goodness of maximal privatization and universality of Anglo ideals (nevermind that the US government has never lived up to them since FDR was alive). Russia clearly still has significant SOEs and does not accept universality of Anglo ideals. It shares this with China and the global South. Thus they are a block apart from the Western order.

    Formal ownership of the SOEs do matter, even if they appear compromised by self dealing within the organization. You seem more familiar with China, in which case I’m sure you know that Chinese SOEs have long been criticized as corrupt and inefficient, particularly during the period after entrance to the WTO. Yet, it was precisely China’s retention of the SOEs, particularly banking and financial sectors, that gives it tools to steer its industrial policy (admittedly not that well given the overinvestment in infrastructure and RE, but at least better than what the West has).

    As long as the state retained control, the can be reformed and are less likely to corrupt the state. They can also be harnessed for the benefit of the state, rather than individuals, as we’ve seen in the Russian SMO this year. Compared what the Russians managed to achieve with a US military budget that’s 10x the size, but evidently far more fragile and uncapable.

    The citation you provide regarding divestiture is tiny if true. 3 billion dollars over 3 years is hardly a substantial effort towards privatization and neoliberalization. Again, Putin has been in power for 20 years and yet Russia still retains its key industries.

    My understanding is that Russia is very much working on diversifying and modernizing its industry. The growth of its agricultural sector in recent years is one example. It is competing with far lower wages for production lower down the value chain and production higher up the value chain takes time to build. It’s not surprising that it’s still reliant on commodities for it’s exports but that hardly indicate that it doesn’t have significant domestic production capacity.

  23. Astrid

    As I live in the US myself, I will agree that for the time being, the US still provides the best trade-off of effort to reward for the established upper middle class. This isn’t due to the inherent superiority of American oligarchs but nature of how imperial wealth pumps work. We get cheaper goods and when the supply is short, we get first pick. The benefits are unevenly distributed and I would feel very differently if I was a gig worker with substantial student loans who had just been notified of a 40% increase for rent renewal.

    Even from my privileged perch, I have seen during my adult life that circle of safety has massively shrunken. Enough for me to worry when I might get kicked out of that circle due to medical expenses or TBTF bubbles finally getting too big to support or quitting my job if I am compelled to do something truly unethical as opposed to just normal bullshit jobbery. Also, having seen my PMC liberal friends turn into zombies on Trump hate and Putin/Xi/Assad hate and my social life largely curtailed but unchecked Covid, the good life is not nearly as good as it was 10 or 20 years ago.

  24. Astrid


    Having reread your comment with caffeine, I see that the privatization you cited is much smaller than I thought I read. Sorry about the misread but my point stands. Helmer is really more of a polemacist storyteller than any kind of objective reporter. Maybes I’m wrong about him where he resides, I thought I read that he got kicked out of Russia in the early aughts.

    Also sorry for the terrible grammar and autocorrected words! Uncaffeinated smartphone typing be terrible (and caffeinated laptop typing only marginally better – I probably can’t find a real job in East Asia).

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén