Scary fact about Russia...

from this BBC article: … 577129.stm

“Fifteen years ago everything in Russia was owned by the state. Today a quarter of Russia’s economy is owned by 36 men.”

Now THAT is scary stuff. A good thing? A bad thing? Am I a socialist for thinking that’s a bit unfair? or is that the inevitable result of capitalism?

I think not much has changed in Russia since the dawn of time. For hundreds of years ,one person,the Czar, owned the whole country,both economy and the people themselves. Under the communist system (even when not considering stalinism) small groups of people in the party had the final say in all matters. There were never democracy in Russia,and even such reforms as partial peasant emancipation were hundreds of years late in comparison with rest of europe.

I hope that Russia will change someday,but current oligarchy is simply new version of a very old fact - mentality of the Russian people, no democratic tradition. I do not think introducing socialism would make anything better now. We must simply do whatever can be done to promote democracy,try to change people thinking habits by education,and wait… maybe some more hundreds of years.

What leads you to believe that conditions are markedly different in the republics of Western Europe and the Americas? To be sure, we have all the trappings of “people power.” We vote, and have a choice between a pair of multi-millionaires in most federal elections that have raised tens of millions of dollars to get elected. They are in turn subjected to a host of interest groups, where the greatest interest naturally is purchased by the ones who have the most money to spend on getting heard. How many of the UK’s top politicians have the same boarding school accent? How many of the million dollar junkets taking US senators and representatives around the world are funded by small-budget citizens’ action groups?

A few stark figures: according to a study done in 2001 by economist Edward Wolff at NY University, 39.7% of US financial wealth is concentrated in the top 1% of its population. A 2006 study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research (with 2000 statistics) showed that nearly 70% of all wealth in the US was owned by the top 10% of the adult population, while in the UK, that figure was 56%.

There’s a great paper IMO on the subject of the economic relationship between wealth and power, and how they interrelate in many democratic nations, by G. William Domhoff, Professor of Sociology at U of Cal. You can read it here.

Some interesting stats. Is this the inevitable by-product of the free maket though? do economies of scale dictate ever larger companies and mergers that nececsitate the concentration of wealth in so few hands? or could government regulation enforce a free-er and more diverse market with a larger number of smaller players? Or would this just never work in industries requiring huge investment, like computer chips?

Good questions. My own take is that yes, we see an endlessly repeating pattern in both the economics of government and of business of ever larger organizations devouring or absorbing smaller ones, based on the leverage of greater resources applied at any one instance against smaller competition. At some point, though, the interests of government diverge from those of corporations, since the best market model (IMO) is one that ensures a sufficient degree of true competition to provide a regular flow of capital between producers and consumers. If large corporations had their way, monopolies would simply take control; so governments that are smart at least see the sense in creating and preserving anti-monopolistic laws.

But you might be surprised how many glib, wealthy, corporate spokespeople here in the States try to convince everybody regularly that this comprises an unfair rein on the “free market.” :unamused: