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In my previous post, I wrote about the broad outlines of the constitutional changes proposed by Putin, but without speculating too much on their import. I will do that now in more detail.

***

Personalization to Institutionalization

Putin is looking for a retirement plan that guarantees the security of the system he has built, but in a way that it manages to operate on its own without his active management. As I have long thought, Putin’s end game is to transition into an overseeing “elder statesman” role, along the model of Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore [see 1, 2, 3], and this would appear to confirm it.

Some analysts interpret this as Putin creating guarantees for himself and his elites from future prosecution, since a less powerful President would be less likely to put them on trial/expropriate them. I suppose that’s one way of looking at it, though that’s hardly going to happen short of somebody like Khodorkovsky becoming President and settling scores. And these types are only popular amongst the think-tankers who generate such analysis.

I would submit there’s a more credible interpretation. This is perfectly in line with Putin’s own political philosophy, which closely mirrors that of emigre White philosopher Ivan Ilyin (see Drozdova, Oksana, and Paul Robinson. 2019. “A Study of Vladimir Putin’s Rhetoric.Europe-Asia Studies, May, 1–19). Although a supporter of strong institutions, Ilyin realized that the Bolsheviks had destroyed any innate Russian capacity for institution-building (“consciousness of law”), and any attempt to hastily reintroduce democracy would lead to yet another round of looting. The 1990s proved him right. The solution, then, was to have a strong state incubate those institutions under a period of conservative authoritarian stability under which Russians were to develop a sense of civic consciousness. With this process now in its mature stages, Putin may believe it is time to start planning for that next stage.

Russia’s political system will remain Presidential (just not super-presidential as it is today), even if the Duma acquires more powers such as confirming PMs and Ministers. However, the greater bounds on the President’s powers from both the Duma/parties and, prospectively, the State Council – as well as an explicit clarification that he cannot serve more than two terms, period – would crimp the possibility of the emergence of another Putin-like “father of the nation” figure.

***

The State Council

The State Council of 1901 by Ilya Repin (Russian Museum, own photo).
PS. Try to find Ivan Durnovo, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, and other historical characters by zooming in. Here’s the key (in Russian).

The State Council will be raised in profile from a merely consultative body to one with greater roles that are explicitly spelled out in the Constitution (they are currently undefined). However, what is clear already is that one cannot speak of it as a Politburo, or an Iranian-style Guardian Council, which are the comparisons some have raised; according to Meduza’s sources, Putin’s own plans involve him merely retaining the ability to influence government processes, but not to “preserve the whole breadth of his power.” The President will retain supreme executive authority.

The other popular comparison is with the Security Council of Kazakhstan, which had its remit greatly expanded before President Nazarbayev retired into it in 2019 as permanent “elder statesman.” However, it is a very narrow body (seven permanent members, and a few temporary ones) that is exclusively concerned with the military and national security. This doesn’t parallel Putin’s vision, in which regional representatives also play a very large role.

It so happens that we have a model for just such a structure from Russia’s own history: The eponymous State Council from the period of the Russian Empire. Half of its members were appointed by the Tsar (mostly distinguished bureaucrats and military officers), while the other represented the regions as well as separate social/professional classes (nobility, clergy, scientists, businessmen)*. Its chairman was appointed by the Tsar. This made it into a very useful repository of accumulated knowledge and experience.

It is plausible that we could see something something along this framework, though the chairman’s role – if Putin indeed plans to take it up himself – would presumably need to be independent of Presidential (Tsarist) appointment.

***

The Successor

I don’t think new PM Mikhail Mishustin himself is in the running on account of being highly untelegenic, low charisma, and his being quarter Jewish being potentially politically troublesome. However, I wouldn’t rule him out entirely, since he’s a great bureaucrat, 14 years younger than Putin, high IQ, and hasn’t openly displayed any political ambitions (the latter is something that Putin values in particular). Nonetheless, I think what’s likelier is that in addition to his primary role of continuing liberal economic reforms and ensuring the success of the national projects, his other function would be to vet various deputy PMs for the successorship (e.g. much like Dmitry Medvedev and Sergey Ivanov competed for the successorship under PM Fradkov in the mid-2000s).

We will need to closely look at the identities of the deputy PMs. One widely rumored potential successor, at least back in 2018, was Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev (son of Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council, and noted ideologue of silovik supremacy). If the new Cabinet sees him “upgraded” to a deputy PM position, as well as a set of other dynamic “youngsters”, this would be a strong hint that we’re looking at just such a contest.

***

Ensuring Continuity of Ideology

This is clearly the goal of the bans on PMs, Ministers, governors, and some mayors and judges, from having second citizenships and foreign residencies, as well as the requirement that Presidential candidates should have been resident in Russia for 25 years (previously 10 years) and never had a foreign citizenship or residency permit. At a stroke, this rules out a bunch of Atlanticists (e.g. NGO types, oligarchs) and crypto-Atlanticists (e.g. the “globalized” children of the sovok boomer nomenklatura, such as Peskov’s Francophile daughter) coming to power. (Replicating mechanisms that China has in place by default).

More practically, this rules out both Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Swiss resident) and, perhaps, Alexey Navalny (does a student visa count as residency?), the two least incredible candidates for the future figureheads of a post-color revolution Russia.

One thing that needs to be ironed out: The status of Crimeans, who – it would formally appear – would all be banned from running for the Russian Presidency. Evidently, exceptions need to be cleverly made.

The clarification that Russian law is supreme over international law also insulates Russia from emerging neo-Bolshevik tendencies in the West (e.g. when is consuming meat going to become a war crime against the environment?).

***

* It is perhaps telling that a highly diverse group of people have been tasked with developing the needed amendments to the Constitution: “The body would comprise 75 politicians, legislators, scientists and public figures. Among the group’s members are Rusfond charity organization’s President Lev Ambinder, Ataman (head) of the Kuban Cossack society Nikolay Doluda, former pole vaulter and two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, Head of the Union of Theatrical Figures of Russia Alexander Kalyagin, Kaspersky Lab co-founder Natalya Kasperskaya, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergei Katyrin, renowned pianist Denis Matsuyev, actor Vladimir Mashkov, Director of St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky, internationally acclaimed pediatric surgeon and President of Research Institute of Emergency Pediatric Surgery and Traumatology Leonid Roshal, Head of the Russian Union of Journalists Vladimir Solovyev, State Tretyakov Gallery Director General Zelfira Tregulova, Mosfilm studio Director General Karen Shakhnazarov, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin and others.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Russia, Vladimir Putin 
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  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

  2. Nataliya Kaperskaya who is on the list you show has been growing in administrative influence. Digital Russia will be represented.

    The State Council was rather like the House of Lords with a higher proportion of ex officio appointments, a reform I devoutly wish to see. The advantage of such a group is to bring expertise into the system rather than just another group of politicians jockeying for position. Also, if the experts are chosen from the most influential groups in society, lobbying emerges into the open rather than behind closed doors. Why subvert a deputy when you can speak yourself? This is rather good constitutional reform.

    • Replies: @Dr.Areg the 2nd
    Phillip,

    Going from your post on the previous article about Mishustin attending the gaidar forum, I checked the program and could not fingers him in the schedule, nor of him taking part in any of the previous forums (well, I checked 2016-now)

    This is good because it indicates he is not some 5th column liberast
  3. I think it’s unwise to jump to conclusions, considering that the expected new system not only does not exist, but isn’t even sketched yet. So, it is unclear how new it’s going to be. It’s a good thing that Putin is seriously considering the issue of succession; this was an Achilles heel of Russian political development throughout history. But at the moment we don’t even know whether this reform is about succession. Let’s see what transpires: a few months from now new Constitution is supposed to be voted for, and minimum a few more months would be needed to rearrange the power structure (if it is going to be rearranged, that is). So, by the end of 2020 we might have educated guesses, whereas everything today is like Nostradamus: entertaining reading, but totally meaningless.

    • Agree: Mr. Hack
    • Replies: @Dr.Areg the 2nd
    If he comes close to achieving the targets set in the national projects, the russian far east in particular reaches its potential after a strong investment and project phase.....and the nation is still under sanctions, then in my opinion he has to stay on as President. ...with the foreign santions being the loophole neccessary to do so.
  4. I don’t think new PM Mikhail Mishustin himself is in the running on account of being highly untelegenic, low charisma, and his quarter Jewish being potentially politically troublesome.

    At least IMO and that of some others, most Russians seem to prefer Russian patriot leaning Jews over the more “pure” (for lack of a better term) of Russians, who slant along Western neocon and neolib preferences. Regarding that latter grouping, Russian patriots at large probably prefer people of Jewish background, who think somewhere along the lines of Stephen Cohen, Mark Ames, Vladimir Solovyov and Ed Lozansky.

    Post-Soviet Ukraine has had its share of Jews in prominent positions. Not buying any suggestion that post-Soviet Ukraine is more “enlightened” than Russia, when it comes to Jews and (for that matter) some other groups that have been negatively targeted.

    • LOL: Felix Keverich
  5. Looking at Repin’s painting my advice to any Russian who wants a future as a big wheel is this : grow a beard!
    And, AK, where is Pobedonostev? I can’t find him there based on Repin’s famous sketch.

  6. 7th to The Emperor’s right if I had to guess. But all these years I thought the sketch was Repin’s view of him — vague, ill-defined, menacing.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    No, he's way too fat for that anyway.

    There's a coded outline here, Pobedo is #73. He's the skeletal guy beneath the third chandelier from the left making the "happy merchant" gesture.
  7. One thing that needs to be ironed out: The status of Crimeans

    I remember seeing on Vesti News during some discussion Putin offhandedly mentioned that the Soviet paperwork for the transfer of Crimea was never properly filled out, so technically Crimea never stopped being part of the RSFSR whose successor is the RF
    Seems good enough

  8. @Patrick Armstrong
    7th to The Emperor's right if I had to guess. But all these years I thought the sketch was Repin's view of him -- vague, ill-defined, menacing.

    No, he’s way too fat for that anyway.

    There’s a coded outline here, Pobedo is #73. He’s the skeletal guy beneath the third chandelier from the left making the “happy merchant” gesture.

    • Replies: @Patrick Armstrong
    That's the guy I meant. Should I've said 7th at the table. But he does have a vulturine look to him, even so.
  9. You are probably overthinking this, Anatoly. Putin is old and tired, and looking for a way to retire in 2024 without going to prison.

    It doesn’t take someone like Khodorkovsky to put Putin in prison. Any normal man in the position of the Russian president will want to have the same control over the country that Putin had, promoting and rewarding his own cronies at the expense of Putin’s cronies etc. He wouldn’t want the old man looking over his shoulder.

    Consider the case of a botched transition in Kyrgyzstan to see how this might turn out:
    https://carnegie.ru/2019/08/23/failure-of-atambayev-s-planned-power-transition-pub-79718

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Putin has a 70% approval rating, massive political legitimacy (Crimea), and ALL of Russia's current elites are in some ways connected to him.

    How, exactly, is the new guy supposed to imprison him (short of this being an extremely radical government that seizes power in a coup or revolution?).
    , @Korenchkin
    Keverich apparently considers Russians to be on the same level as Kyrgyzians
    , @Philip Owen
    Guallism collapsed quickly without de Gaulle. It didn't entirely go away but it shrank rather quickly. Putinism without Putin will not disappear but a lot of support for Putin is transactional. There is not much space for political ideology in Russia.

    However, Putin will have enough substantial continuing support to be safe from anything other than real and serious criminal charges. Attacking him will merely be divisive with more negatives than positives. Khordokovsky may be funding the non system (unpopular) opposition but it doesn't have the strength to put him into power. The Communists are a stronger bet and that is a very weak bet. Even so, they are the only party of any size with real believers.

    A real party system may emerge. Mishustin may lift URF over the threshold. More importantly, the prospect of power being determined by the Duma will make parties relevant. UR may split into factions supporting strong contenders. How will the succesful contender reward his team? In most contries posts in teh administration are enough. In Russia will awards of state tenders be required? A feature of Russian culture is revenge. Will succesful contenders target opponents?

    So, I predict the arrival of the URF into Duma politics, a crumbling of UR, Liberal Russia staying relevant as a vehicle for a well funded contender who fails to get the UR candidacy and a resurgence of the Communists. The LDPR will shrivel away once politics becomes serious. It's an important protest party. It won't be backed as a party capable of government. All predictions fail.
  10. @Felix Keverich
    You are probably overthinking this, Anatoly. Putin is old and tired, and looking for a way to retire in 2024 without going to prison.

    It doesn't take someone like Khodorkovsky to put Putin in prison. Any normal man in the position of the Russian president will want to have the same control over the country that Putin had, promoting and rewarding his own cronies at the expense of Putin's cronies etc. He wouldn't want the old man looking over his shoulder.

    Consider the case of a botched transition in Kyrgyzstan to see how this might turn out:
    https://carnegie.ru/2019/08/23/failure-of-atambayev-s-planned-power-transition-pub-79718

    Putin has a 70% approval rating, massive political legitimacy (Crimea), and ALL of Russia’s current elites are in some ways connected to him.

    How, exactly, is the new guy supposed to imprison him (short of this being an extremely radical government that seizes power in a coup or revolution?).

    • Replies: @Felix Keverich
    IMO Russian elites are stupid parasites, and insofar as they are not directly attacked they won't interfere. I don't see them working as a team to protect each other and Putin. The next president might be able to pick them off one by one if he wants to.

    Approval rating means nothing in Russia, because none of the ordinary folk will go to the streets to defend Putin.
    , @216
    Malaysia arrested the former PM when Dr. Mahatir was elected back into power.
  11. @Felix Keverich
    You are probably overthinking this, Anatoly. Putin is old and tired, and looking for a way to retire in 2024 without going to prison.

    It doesn't take someone like Khodorkovsky to put Putin in prison. Any normal man in the position of the Russian president will want to have the same control over the country that Putin had, promoting and rewarding his own cronies at the expense of Putin's cronies etc. He wouldn't want the old man looking over his shoulder.

    Consider the case of a botched transition in Kyrgyzstan to see how this might turn out:
    https://carnegie.ru/2019/08/23/failure-of-atambayev-s-planned-power-transition-pub-79718

    Keverich apparently considers Russians to be on the same level as Kyrgyzians

  12. @Anatoly Karlin
    Putin has a 70% approval rating, massive political legitimacy (Crimea), and ALL of Russia's current elites are in some ways connected to him.

    How, exactly, is the new guy supposed to imprison him (short of this being an extremely radical government that seizes power in a coup or revolution?).

    IMO Russian elites are stupid parasites, and insofar as they are not directly attacked they won’t interfere. I don’t see them working as a team to protect each other and Putin. The next president might be able to pick them off one by one if he wants to.

    Approval rating means nothing in Russia, because none of the ordinary folk will go to the streets to defend Putin.

    • Agree: Thulean Friend
  13. This is clearly the goal of the bans on PMs, Ministers, governors, and some mayors and judges, from having second citizenships of foreign residencies, as well as the requirement that Presidential candidates should have been resident in Russia for 25 years (previously 10 years) and never had a foreign citizenship or residency permit.

    Is it really wise to apply this prohibition to Russians who have had the citizenship of another ex-USSR country but no other country, though? I mean, would a Russian who was born with Kazakh citizenship and who subsequently moved to Russia and gave up his Kazakh citizenship really be much of a threat to Russia?

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, as with Crimea, hopefully there are common sense adjustments.

    We basically don't want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back to read Russians lectures on life. (Such as myself).
  14. @Mr. XYZ

    This is clearly the goal of the bans on PMs, Ministers, governors, and some mayors and judges, from having second citizenships of foreign residencies, as well as the requirement that Presidential candidates should have been resident in Russia for 25 years (previously 10 years) and never had a foreign citizenship or residency permit.
     
    Is it really wise to apply this prohibition to Russians who have had the citizenship of another ex-USSR country but no other country, though? I mean, would a Russian who was born with Kazakh citizenship and who subsequently moved to Russia and gave up his Kazakh citizenship really be much of a threat to Russia?

    Well, as with Crimea, hopefully there are common sense adjustments.

    We basically don’t want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back to read Russians lectures on life. (Such as myself).

    • Agree: Dreadilk
    • LOL: iffen
    • Replies: @utu
    "We basically don’t want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back..." - You do not belong to the WE category in this case. But yes, you can have a concurring opinion with THEM who never left Russia for Britain and the US....
    , @Dreadilk
    From a long term view 25 years is nothing, so is being banned for life from presidency. This means if you want a stake at the table you have to commit for at least a generation.
    , @216
    If the Alaska "lease" conspiracy was true, we could shoehorn an American into office by this standard.
  15. @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, as with Crimea, hopefully there are common sense adjustments.

    We basically don't want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back to read Russians lectures on life. (Such as myself).

    “We basically don’t want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back…” – You do not belong to the WE category in this case. But yes, you can have a concurring opinion with THEM who never left Russia for Britain and the US….

  16. @Felix Keverich
    You are probably overthinking this, Anatoly. Putin is old and tired, and looking for a way to retire in 2024 without going to prison.

    It doesn't take someone like Khodorkovsky to put Putin in prison. Any normal man in the position of the Russian president will want to have the same control over the country that Putin had, promoting and rewarding his own cronies at the expense of Putin's cronies etc. He wouldn't want the old man looking over his shoulder.

    Consider the case of a botched transition in Kyrgyzstan to see how this might turn out:
    https://carnegie.ru/2019/08/23/failure-of-atambayev-s-planned-power-transition-pub-79718

    Guallism collapsed quickly without de Gaulle. It didn’t entirely go away but it shrank rather quickly. Putinism without Putin will not disappear but a lot of support for Putin is transactional. There is not much space for political ideology in Russia.

    However, Putin will have enough substantial continuing support to be safe from anything other than real and serious criminal charges. Attacking him will merely be divisive with more negatives than positives. Khordokovsky may be funding the non system (unpopular) opposition but it doesn’t have the strength to put him into power. The Communists are a stronger bet and that is a very weak bet. Even so, they are the only party of any size with real believers.

    A real party system may emerge. Mishustin may lift URF over the threshold. More importantly, the prospect of power being determined by the Duma will make parties relevant. UR may split into factions supporting strong contenders. How will the succesful contender reward his team? In most contries posts in teh administration are enough. In Russia will awards of state tenders be required? A feature of Russian culture is revenge. Will succesful contenders target opponents?

    So, I predict the arrival of the URF into Duma politics, a crumbling of UR, Liberal Russia staying relevant as a vehicle for a well funded contender who fails to get the UR candidacy and a resurgence of the Communists. The LDPR will shrivel away once politics becomes serious. It’s an important protest party. It won’t be backed as a party capable of government. All predictions fail.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
    Fair Russia not Liberal/Free Russia.

    Malofeyev currently runs Fair Russia. Will his money and Orthodoxy make a difference?
  17. The new Prime Minister is a neo liberal scoundrel who believes in taxing the poor and decreasing it for the rich . He frequents the Gaidar Forum, the circle of vermins in the pay of global finance parasites , named after the degenerate who ruined the Russian economy in the 90’s ( and didnt even make any excuses for that , unlike the western économists who , aside from Anders Aslund , all apologized for their mistakes) . Once again we may ask ourselves what is Putin thinking about when he endorses policies that 99% of russians reject and that never proved efficient one bit. He must be really tired of power.

  18. @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, as with Crimea, hopefully there are common sense adjustments.

    We basically don't want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back to read Russians lectures on life. (Such as myself).

    From a long term view 25 years is nothing, so is being banned for life from presidency. This means if you want a stake at the table you have to commit for at least a generation.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
    25 years are a generation.
  19. @Philip Owen
    Guallism collapsed quickly without de Gaulle. It didn't entirely go away but it shrank rather quickly. Putinism without Putin will not disappear but a lot of support for Putin is transactional. There is not much space for political ideology in Russia.

    However, Putin will have enough substantial continuing support to be safe from anything other than real and serious criminal charges. Attacking him will merely be divisive with more negatives than positives. Khordokovsky may be funding the non system (unpopular) opposition but it doesn't have the strength to put him into power. The Communists are a stronger bet and that is a very weak bet. Even so, they are the only party of any size with real believers.

    A real party system may emerge. Mishustin may lift URF over the threshold. More importantly, the prospect of power being determined by the Duma will make parties relevant. UR may split into factions supporting strong contenders. How will the succesful contender reward his team? In most contries posts in teh administration are enough. In Russia will awards of state tenders be required? A feature of Russian culture is revenge. Will succesful contenders target opponents?

    So, I predict the arrival of the URF into Duma politics, a crumbling of UR, Liberal Russia staying relevant as a vehicle for a well funded contender who fails to get the UR candidacy and a resurgence of the Communists. The LDPR will shrivel away once politics becomes serious. It's an important protest party. It won't be backed as a party capable of government. All predictions fail.

    Fair Russia not Liberal/Free Russia.

    Malofeyev currently runs Fair Russia. Will his money and Orthodoxy make a difference?

  20. @Anatoly Karlin
    Putin has a 70% approval rating, massive political legitimacy (Crimea), and ALL of Russia's current elites are in some ways connected to him.

    How, exactly, is the new guy supposed to imprison him (short of this being an extremely radical government that seizes power in a coup or revolution?).

    Malaysia arrested the former PM when Dr. Mahatir was elected back into power.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
    They had a long standing personal quarrel.
  21. @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, as with Crimea, hopefully there are common sense adjustments.

    We basically don't want degenerates who leave Russia for Britain and the US for years and then come back to read Russians lectures on life. (Such as myself).

    If the Alaska “lease” conspiracy was true, we could shoehorn an American into office by this standard.

    • LOL: iffen
  22. @AnonFromTN
    I think it’s unwise to jump to conclusions, considering that the expected new system not only does not exist, but isn’t even sketched yet. So, it is unclear how new it’s going to be. It’s a good thing that Putin is seriously considering the issue of succession; this was an Achilles heel of Russian political development throughout history. But at the moment we don’t even know whether this reform is about succession. Let’s see what transpires: a few months from now new Constitution is supposed to be voted for, and minimum a few more months would be needed to rearrange the power structure (if it is going to be rearranged, that is). So, by the end of 2020 we might have educated guesses, whereas everything today is like Nostradamus: entertaining reading, but totally meaningless.

    If he comes close to achieving the targets set in the national projects, the russian far east in particular reaches its potential after a strong investment and project phase…..and the nation is still under sanctions, then in my opinion he has to stay on as President. …with the foreign santions being the loophole neccessary to do so.

  23. @Philip Owen
    Nataliya Kaperskaya who is on the list you show has been growing in administrative influence. Digital Russia will be represented.

    The State Council was rather like the House of Lords with a higher proportion of ex officio appointments, a reform I devoutly wish to see. The advantage of such a group is to bring expertise into the system rather than just another group of politicians jockeying for position. Also, if the experts are chosen from the most influential groups in society, lobbying emerges into the open rather than behind closed doors. Why subvert a deputy when you can speak yourself? This is rather good constitutional reform.

    Phillip,

    Going from your post on the previous article about Mishustin attending the gaidar forum, I checked the program and could not fingers him in the schedule, nor of him taking part in any of the previous forums (well, I checked 2016-now)

    This is good because it indicates he is not some 5th column liberast

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
    Keep checking.
    , @Philip Owen
    I decided not to be lazy about it.

    https://en.gaidarforum.ru/experts/mikhail-mishustin/
  24. “The most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways.”
    ― Alexis de Tocqueville

  25. For all the problems with western liberal democracy, I still think it’s far preferable to the loljob of non-democratic political systems.

    • Replies: @Aly
    I completly agree.
    I don't understand all this love for authoritarianism and strong-man bulshit. Putin has done a lot of good things for Russia, we may even say his rule saved it from total collapse but goal for Russia should be to became normal, free, democratic country.
    I live in shithole half-autoritarian-partly-democratic and male dominated country and it's a shit of a country. Complete shit.
    , @Maïkl Makfaïl
    The " western liberal democracy" is largely a myth . Western countries are more oligarchical than democratic nowadays. Russia at least has a leader that is actually loved and supported by its people and that conducts a policy of national interests. I live in France and many people here would love to have a Putin rulling the country instead of the little tyrant we currently have in the Elyseum palace. And we cant because the only alternative is Marine Le Pen , an idiot who cant stop committing political suicides like before the debate during the last Presidential election when she backed on getting out of euro.
    , @Mitleser
    Why is the illusion of choice supposed to be preferable?
  26. Thank you. Another good article is by Dmitry Orlov. It is behind a low paywall.

    Life After Putin

    It is obvious that the intention is to make Russia Jew-proof. Lots of anguish and grief in places like London, Washington and Tel Aviv. All their plans have gone up in smoke. 🙂

  27. @216
    Malaysia arrested the former PM when Dr. Mahatir was elected back into power.

    They had a long standing personal quarrel.

  28. @Dr.Areg the 2nd
    Phillip,

    Going from your post on the previous article about Mishustin attending the gaidar forum, I checked the program and could not fingers him in the schedule, nor of him taking part in any of the previous forums (well, I checked 2016-now)

    This is good because it indicates he is not some 5th column liberast

    Keep checking.

  29. @Dr.Areg the 2nd
    Phillip,

    Going from your post on the previous article about Mishustin attending the gaidar forum, I checked the program and could not fingers him in the schedule, nor of him taking part in any of the previous forums (well, I checked 2016-now)

    This is good because it indicates he is not some 5th column liberast

    I decided not to be lazy about it.

    https://en.gaidarforum.ru/experts/mikhail-mishustin/

    • Replies: @Dr.Areg the 2nd
    OK, my apologies. .the entire list of top Russian officials seems to be involved, even those such as Sergei Ivanov
    I would add though that in the program schedule , there is no mention of him taking part in a panel discussion in any of the last few years
  30. @silviosilver
    For all the problems with western liberal democracy, I still think it's far preferable to the loljob of non-democratic political systems.

    I completly agree.
    I don’t understand all this love for authoritarianism and strong-man bulshit. Putin has done a lot of good things for Russia, we may even say his rule saved it from total collapse but goal for Russia should be to became normal, free, democratic country.
    I live in shithole half-autoritarian-partly-democratic and male dominated country and it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN

    it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.
     
    Looks like you live in the Empire or one of its sidekicks.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless not only in the US, but in most self-proclaimed “democratic” countries. Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.
    , @Elmer's Washable School Glue
    Correlation is not causation. In fact what we generally see is not that democracy leads to prosperity, but the other way around--a wealthier populace more influenced by Western ideals makes political demands after it has already become affluent. For example, Taiwan, Spain, South Korea, and Chile.

    Also keep in mind that human capital plays a huge role: European countries are more likely to be democratic, and are wealthy, but their increased wealth relative to the rest of the world predates liberal democracy. "Authoritarian" Germany did far better in the late 19th century than republican France. Furthermore, we can see regions where the correlations is actually reversed; e.g., in West Asia open monarchies and dictatorships do considerably better than republics. This pattern holds without regard to the presence of oil (Kuwait vs Iraq, Oman vs Yemen). Oman is a particularly good example: basically a desert backwater in the 50s, ruled by an absolute monarch, it ranks as one of the most improved countries in the world since then.

    With regards to Russia, the new PM looks competent, but imo the actual constitutional changes will be harmful in the long run (except the foreign residency exclusion part). A strong president is better than a weak figure whose actions are warped by term-limit-induced high time preference.
  31. I notice in your last article you mentioned that the new PM is obsessed with AI and technology generally. I think that the increasing move towards technocracy that is happening in many countries is not a good thing at all for the native people of that country.

    I think technology plays a large role in the elites’ attempts to mitigate racial differences, especially in terms of IQ levels and justify mass immigration. The more technology and automated systems become an integral part of society the easier it becomes for low IQ people to function in that society I think. Of course only in the short term because a society still needs high IQ people to maintain these systems. So many processes in many occupations have been significantly simplified by technology if not entirely automated that it seems having a particularly high IQ has become of increasingly limited value for many people.

  32. Lol Gaidar

    If you pronounce it GaiDaar

    sounds awfully like

    Gaydar (obv) but also Ga Daar which is Hindi/Panjabi for traitor.

    How quaint||

  33. @Aly
    I completly agree.
    I don't understand all this love for authoritarianism and strong-man bulshit. Putin has done a lot of good things for Russia, we may even say his rule saved it from total collapse but goal for Russia should be to became normal, free, democratic country.
    I live in shithole half-autoritarian-partly-democratic and male dominated country and it's a shit of a country. Complete shit.

    it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.

    Looks like you live in the Empire or one of its sidekicks.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless not only in the US, but in most self-proclaimed “democratic” countries. Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack

    Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.
     
    It must be pure hell for you, torn away from Mother Russia, working in the US in a system so inimical to your own obvious preferences to breathe freer in a truly democratic society. Living vicariously through the internet and Skype just can't be enough for somebody so informed by Russian cultural sensitivities as you. Hang in there, Tovarishch...I feel for you. :-(
    , @Mr. Hack
    An example of the the Chinese government giving its citizens "what they want":

    https://youtu.be/O5mCUkskEUg
    , @silviosilver

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless*
     
    From a historical perspective, a characteristic of rulers is that they go to great lengths to retain power, often paying scant regard to the human cost. Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from "meaningless."

    (* Yet another in a long line of asinine exaggerations.)
    , @Beckow

    ...Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want.
     
    A key point that most Western intellectuals don't understand. Nothing else is a 'democracy', having elections, constitution, pretend free press, etc... none of that makes a country into a democracy. Only actual results of doing what most people want means that a country is a democracy.

    This was well understood by foes of democracy in the past, they worked long and hard to create institutional constraints to make sure that the actual results are not based on what most people want. West is so deep into this emasculation that it doesn't occur to people that having a 'democratic process' is not the same as having a democracy.

    Regarding Russia: it also has very strong non-democratic results, e.g. how many people support the oligarchic business interests? Or 8-10% mortgages? The problem with Putin is not that he is a 'strongman', it is that he is quite weak. They all are.

    I once read that ancient Irish had a system where a leader of a tribe was elected for one year - with power to decide everything. At the end of the year, if he was deemed successful he was elected for another year. If things didn't work out, he was killed. They understood that power comes with responsibility for results. We no longer understand it and the elites (everywhere) like it that way.

  34. @Philip Owen
    I decided not to be lazy about it.

    https://en.gaidarforum.ru/experts/mikhail-mishustin/

    OK, my apologies. .the entire list of top Russian officials seems to be involved, even those such as Sergei Ivanov
    I would add though that in the program schedule , there is no mention of him taking part in a panel discussion in any of the last few years

  35. @silviosilver
    For all the problems with western liberal democracy, I still think it's far preferable to the loljob of non-democratic political systems.

    The ” western liberal democracy” is largely a myth . Western countries are more oligarchical than democratic nowadays. Russia at least has a leader that is actually loved and supported by its people and that conducts a policy of national interests. I live in France and many people here would love to have a Putin rulling the country instead of the little tyrant we currently have in the Elyseum palace. And we cant because the only alternative is Marine Le Pen , an idiot who cant stop committing political suicides like before the debate during the last Presidential election when she backed on getting out of euro.

    • Replies: @silviosilver

    The ” western liberal democracy” is largely a myth .
     
    It is not really a "myth." It is just commonly misunderstood. So when it fails to live up to a given person's individual conception of what it means (or what it "should" deliver), it gets dismissed as a "myth."

    Western countries are more oligarchical than democratic nowadays.
     
    Some degree of oligarchic influence is unavoidable, no matter the political system, so this is hardly a devastating critique.
  36. @AnonFromTN

    it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.
     
    Looks like you live in the Empire or one of its sidekicks.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless not only in the US, but in most self-proclaimed “democratic” countries. Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.

    Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.

    It must be pure hell for you, torn away from Mother Russia, working in the US in a system so inimical to your own obvious preferences to breathe freer in a truly democratic society. Living vicariously through the internet and Skype just can’t be enough for somebody so informed by Russian cultural sensitivities as you. Hang in there, Tovarishch…I feel for you. 🙁

    • LOL: iffen
  37. @silviosilver
    For all the problems with western liberal democracy, I still think it's far preferable to the loljob of non-democratic political systems.

    Why is the illusion of choice supposed to be preferable?

    • Replies: @216
    I think there is something to be said about the division of power and the plurality of elected offices.

    In the US, there are often multiple elected officers at the state and county level. This allows a so-called "split ticket" which is unfathomable in most other countries. Otoh, the US usually doesn't have proportional representation anywhere (which would help the GOP return to city councils that it is locked out of on plurality voting).

    Say what you want about how this system creates gridlock, and it does, but not all of these elections are "rigged". The elected Sheriffs (uniquely American) are at the lead of the resistance to the Virginia gun confiscation laws.
  38. @AnonFromTN

    it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.
     
    Looks like you live in the Empire or one of its sidekicks.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless not only in the US, but in most self-proclaimed “democratic” countries. Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.

    An example of the the Chinese government giving its citizens “what they want”:

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
    Now, a simple question at the level of elementary school math: what fraction of Chinese citizens lives in HK? FYI, you can find both the numbers and the calculator to divide one by the other on the web. You can even use your smartphone for the whole thing, in case you are wondering.

    In fact, if Chinese government actually went as far as following the feelings of 80% Chinese citizens, those HK losers would be pulverized or smeared on the roads.
    , @melanf
    This argument is completely ridiculous. Do you want similar videos from Western Europe or America? It's easy
  39. @Mr. Hack
    An example of the the Chinese government giving its citizens "what they want":

    https://youtu.be/O5mCUkskEUg

    Now, a simple question at the level of elementary school math: what fraction of Chinese citizens lives in HK? FYI, you can find both the numbers and the calculator to divide one by the other on the web. You can even use your smartphone for the whole thing, in case you are wondering.

    In fact, if Chinese government actually went as far as following the feelings of 80% Chinese citizens, those HK losers would be pulverized or smeared on the roads.

    • Replies: @iffen
    God! I feel for your students.
    , @Mr. Hack
    It's common knowledge that China's authoritarian state has been able to turn the society into one that is controlled by a massive system of electronic surveillance - everybody is perfectly happy with every facet of life there, as in Stalinist Russia (no wonder you choose to whitewash the harshness of suppression within China)l. You're probaby one who believes all of the BS regarding the Uighurs volunteerily signing up for "reeducation" in the new Chinese gulag system. Open up your red stained eyes, Professor:

    https://youtu.be/dEkliuqQo-g
  40. @AnonFromTN
    Now, a simple question at the level of elementary school math: what fraction of Chinese citizens lives in HK? FYI, you can find both the numbers and the calculator to divide one by the other on the web. You can even use your smartphone for the whole thing, in case you are wondering.

    In fact, if Chinese government actually went as far as following the feelings of 80% Chinese citizens, those HK losers would be pulverized or smeared on the roads.

    God! I feel for your students.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
    Must disappoint: they like what they get in my lab: solid broad education in biochemistry and cell biology and strong publication record. When they interview for post-doctoral positions, they usually get as many offers as they had interviews.
  41. @Mr. Hack
    An example of the the Chinese government giving its citizens "what they want":

    https://youtu.be/O5mCUkskEUg

    This argument is completely ridiculous. Do you want similar videos from Western Europe or America? It’s easy

    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    Freedom of expression should be allowed to take place unhampered wherever on the planet. Try focusing on the current expressions of Chinese malfeasance of human rights.
  42. @iffen
    God! I feel for your students.

    Must disappoint: they like what they get in my lab: solid broad education in biochemistry and cell biology and strong publication record. When they interview for post-doctoral positions, they usually get as many offers as they had interviews.

  43. @AnonFromTN
    Now, a simple question at the level of elementary school math: what fraction of Chinese citizens lives in HK? FYI, you can find both the numbers and the calculator to divide one by the other on the web. You can even use your smartphone for the whole thing, in case you are wondering.

    In fact, if Chinese government actually went as far as following the feelings of 80% Chinese citizens, those HK losers would be pulverized or smeared on the roads.

    It’s common knowledge that China’s authoritarian state has been able to turn the society into one that is controlled by a massive system of electronic surveillance – everybody is perfectly happy with every facet of life there, as in Stalinist Russia (no wonder you choose to whitewash the harshness of suppression within China)l. You’re probaby one who believes all of the BS regarding the Uighurs volunteerily signing up for “reeducation” in the new Chinese gulag system. Open up your red stained eyes, Professor:

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN

    It’s common knowledge that China’s authoritarian state
     
    Common knowledge among whom? Kool-Aid drinkers? I am not surprised. They would believe any BS in Western lugenpresse. See, I personally know someone from Xinjiang, so the efforts of the liars are lost on me.
  44. @melanf
    This argument is completely ridiculous. Do you want similar videos from Western Europe or America? It's easy

    Freedom of expression should be allowed to take place unhampered wherever on the planet. Try focusing on the current expressions of Chinese malfeasance of human rights.

  45. @Anatoly Karlin
    No, he's way too fat for that anyway.

    There's a coded outline here, Pobedo is #73. He's the skeletal guy beneath the third chandelier from the left making the "happy merchant" gesture.

    That’s the guy I meant. Should I’ve said 7th at the table. But he does have a vulturine look to him, even so.

  46. @Mr. Hack
    It's common knowledge that China's authoritarian state has been able to turn the society into one that is controlled by a massive system of electronic surveillance - everybody is perfectly happy with every facet of life there, as in Stalinist Russia (no wonder you choose to whitewash the harshness of suppression within China)l. You're probaby one who believes all of the BS regarding the Uighurs volunteerily signing up for "reeducation" in the new Chinese gulag system. Open up your red stained eyes, Professor:

    https://youtu.be/dEkliuqQo-g

    It’s common knowledge that China’s authoritarian state

    Common knowledge among whom? Kool-Aid drinkers? I am not surprised. They would believe any BS in Western lugenpresse. See, I personally know someone from Xinjiang, so the efforts of the liars are lost on me.

    • LOL: Mr. Hack
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    It's obvious that you're the one doing the lying here, Professor. I suspect that the Kool Aid that you regularly drink is laced with a lot of vodka. :-(
  47. @AnonFromTN

    It’s common knowledge that China’s authoritarian state
     
    Common knowledge among whom? Kool-Aid drinkers? I am not surprised. They would believe any BS in Western lugenpresse. See, I personally know someone from Xinjiang, so the efforts of the liars are lost on me.

    It’s obvious that you’re the one doing the lying here, Professor. I suspect that the Kool Aid that you regularly drink is laced with a lot of vodka. 🙁

    • Troll: Blinky Bill
  48. @Aly
    I completly agree.
    I don't understand all this love for authoritarianism and strong-man bulshit. Putin has done a lot of good things for Russia, we may even say his rule saved it from total collapse but goal for Russia should be to became normal, free, democratic country.
    I live in shithole half-autoritarian-partly-democratic and male dominated country and it's a shit of a country. Complete shit.

    Correlation is not causation. In fact what we generally see is not that democracy leads to prosperity, but the other way around–a wealthier populace more influenced by Western ideals makes political demands after it has already become affluent. For example, Taiwan, Spain, South Korea, and Chile.

    Also keep in mind that human capital plays a huge role: European countries are more likely to be democratic, and are wealthy, but their increased wealth relative to the rest of the world predates liberal democracy. “Authoritarian” Germany did far better in the late 19th century than republican France. Furthermore, we can see regions where the correlations is actually reversed; e.g., in West Asia open monarchies and dictatorships do considerably better than republics. This pattern holds without regard to the presence of oil (Kuwait vs Iraq, Oman vs Yemen). Oman is a particularly good example: basically a desert backwater in the 50s, ruled by an absolute monarch, it ranks as one of the most improved countries in the world since then.

    With regards to Russia, the new PM looks competent, but imo the actual constitutional changes will be harmful in the long run (except the foreign residency exclusion part). A strong president is better than a weak figure whose actions are warped by term-limit-induced high time preference.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
    A strong president can also cause more damage than a weak one.
    Yeltsin established the current super-presidential system and at the end of his rule the future of his country looked bleak.

    "warped by term-limit-induced high time preference"

    Reminder that 2 current Russian presidential terms means 12 years of rule or 3 US presidential terms/German chancellor terms or almost 2 1/2 French presidential terms.
    That is enough time for any good leader.
    , @216
    Presidentialism is not the norm outside of the Americas. And in the Americas, the President is often limited to one or two terms in office. I favor that the US President should be elected like the Mexican and Confederate presidents, a single six year non-renewable term.

    What few countries do though, is have a bicameral system where the lower house turns over every two years. Had Russia and South Africa had such systems, the opposition would have likely won at least a couple elections since 2000.

    Futher than that, the constitutional renovations don't include a copy of the American 2nd Amendment, not that it would ever be seen as politically desirable over there. It was a major error that the US did not burden the Marshall Plan upon the adoption of said right.
  49. @Dreadilk
    From a long term view 25 years is nothing, so is being banned for life from presidency. This means if you want a stake at the table you have to commit for at least a generation.

    25 years are a generation.

  50. @Elmer's Washable School Glue
    Correlation is not causation. In fact what we generally see is not that democracy leads to prosperity, but the other way around--a wealthier populace more influenced by Western ideals makes political demands after it has already become affluent. For example, Taiwan, Spain, South Korea, and Chile.

    Also keep in mind that human capital plays a huge role: European countries are more likely to be democratic, and are wealthy, but their increased wealth relative to the rest of the world predates liberal democracy. "Authoritarian" Germany did far better in the late 19th century than republican France. Furthermore, we can see regions where the correlations is actually reversed; e.g., in West Asia open monarchies and dictatorships do considerably better than republics. This pattern holds without regard to the presence of oil (Kuwait vs Iraq, Oman vs Yemen). Oman is a particularly good example: basically a desert backwater in the 50s, ruled by an absolute monarch, it ranks as one of the most improved countries in the world since then.

    With regards to Russia, the new PM looks competent, but imo the actual constitutional changes will be harmful in the long run (except the foreign residency exclusion part). A strong president is better than a weak figure whose actions are warped by term-limit-induced high time preference.

    A strong president can also cause more damage than a weak one.
    Yeltsin established the current super-presidential system and at the end of his rule the future of his country looked bleak.

    “warped by term-limit-induced high time preference”

    Reminder that 2 current Russian presidential terms means 12 years of rule or 3 US presidential terms/German chancellor terms or almost 2 1/2 French presidential terms.
    That is enough time for any good leader.

  51. @Elmer's Washable School Glue
    Correlation is not causation. In fact what we generally see is not that democracy leads to prosperity, but the other way around--a wealthier populace more influenced by Western ideals makes political demands after it has already become affluent. For example, Taiwan, Spain, South Korea, and Chile.

    Also keep in mind that human capital plays a huge role: European countries are more likely to be democratic, and are wealthy, but their increased wealth relative to the rest of the world predates liberal democracy. "Authoritarian" Germany did far better in the late 19th century than republican France. Furthermore, we can see regions where the correlations is actually reversed; e.g., in West Asia open monarchies and dictatorships do considerably better than republics. This pattern holds without regard to the presence of oil (Kuwait vs Iraq, Oman vs Yemen). Oman is a particularly good example: basically a desert backwater in the 50s, ruled by an absolute monarch, it ranks as one of the most improved countries in the world since then.

    With regards to Russia, the new PM looks competent, but imo the actual constitutional changes will be harmful in the long run (except the foreign residency exclusion part). A strong president is better than a weak figure whose actions are warped by term-limit-induced high time preference.

    Presidentialism is not the norm outside of the Americas. And in the Americas, the President is often limited to one or two terms in office. I favor that the US President should be elected like the Mexican and Confederate presidents, a single six year non-renewable term.

    What few countries do though, is have a bicameral system where the lower house turns over every two years. Had Russia and South Africa had such systems, the opposition would have likely won at least a couple elections since 2000.

    Futher than that, the constitutional renovations don’t include a copy of the American 2nd Amendment, not that it would ever be seen as politically desirable over there. It was a major error that the US did not burden the Marshall Plan upon the adoption of said right.

    • Replies: @Mitleser

    What few countries do though, is have a bicameral system where the lower house turns over every two years. Had Russia and South Africa had such systems, the opposition would have likely won at least a couple elections since 2000.
     
    The price for having so many lower house elections is that the lower house is not the dominant house in the bicameral system despite being the more democratic house.
    It reduces the importance of winning any lower house election.
  52. @Mitleser
    Why is the illusion of choice supposed to be preferable?

    I think there is something to be said about the division of power and the plurality of elected offices.

    In the US, there are often multiple elected officers at the state and county level. This allows a so-called “split ticket” which is unfathomable in most other countries. Otoh, the US usually doesn’t have proportional representation anywhere (which would help the GOP return to city councils that it is locked out of on plurality voting).

    Say what you want about how this system creates gridlock, and it does, but not all of these elections are “rigged”. The elected Sheriffs (uniquely American) are at the lead of the resistance to the Virginia gun confiscation laws.

  53. @AnonFromTN

    it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.
     
    Looks like you live in the Empire or one of its sidekicks.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless not only in the US, but in most self-proclaimed “democratic” countries. Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless*

    From a historical perspective, a characteristic of rulers is that they go to great lengths to retain power, often paying scant regard to the human cost. Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from “meaningless.”

    (* Yet another in a long line of asinine exaggerations.)

    • Replies: @Yevardian

    Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from “meaningless.”
     
    Look at elected politicians today. Do you really (really?) think they hold any real power in today's world?
    , @AnonFromTN

    democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power
     
    Looks like the propaganda does its job reasonably well: people do believe incredible BS. Yours is an “asinine exaggeration”, if there is one. Elections are pure fig leaf. They change the figureheads, whereas the rulers with real power remain the same. A recent example: is the US in the 21st century: we went through Bush Jr, Obama, and Trump, but the key policies remained unchanged: internally, reduce taxes for the mega-thieves (and who cares about the resulting deficits, the expression “fiscal responsibility” totally disappeared from political vocabulary); externally, perpetrate whatever crimes seem necessary to maintain the exclusive position of the Empire.
  54. @Maïkl Makfaïl
    The " western liberal democracy" is largely a myth . Western countries are more oligarchical than democratic nowadays. Russia at least has a leader that is actually loved and supported by its people and that conducts a policy of national interests. I live in France and many people here would love to have a Putin rulling the country instead of the little tyrant we currently have in the Elyseum palace. And we cant because the only alternative is Marine Le Pen , an idiot who cant stop committing political suicides like before the debate during the last Presidential election when she backed on getting out of euro.

    The ” western liberal democracy” is largely a myth .

    It is not really a “myth.” It is just commonly misunderstood. So when it fails to live up to a given person’s individual conception of what it means (or what it “should” deliver), it gets dismissed as a “myth.”

    Western countries are more oligarchical than democratic nowadays.

    Some degree of oligarchic influence is unavoidable, no matter the political system, so this is hardly a devastating critique.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
    It fails to live up not just to individual conception. Real-existing democracy is not the rule of the people which is what democracy supposed to mean.

    Each of our four theoretical traditions (Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, Majoritarian Interest-Group Pluralism, and Biased Pluralism) emphasizes different sets of actors as critical in determining U.S. policy outcomes, and each tradition has engendered a large empirical literature that seems to show a particular set of actors to be highly influential. Yet nearly all the empirical evidence has been essentially bivariate. Until very recently it has not been possible to test these theories against each other in a systematic, quantitative fashion.

    By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful
    measures of the key independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

    The failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are estimated to have the least effect.
     
    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf
  55. @silviosilver

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless*
     
    From a historical perspective, a characteristic of rulers is that they go to great lengths to retain power, often paying scant regard to the human cost. Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from "meaningless."

    (* Yet another in a long line of asinine exaggerations.)

    Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from “meaningless.”

    Look at elected politicians today. Do you really (really?) think they hold any real power in today’s world?

    • Replies: @silviosilver
    The view that they have considerable power is surely much closer to reality than the view that they hold no power. Elected officials are certainly not the only sources of political power in a democracy, but there is really no requirement that they be in order for democracy to be preferable to non-democracy. And anyway, the problems posed by oligarchy in an established democracy are unlikely to be solved through a reduction in democratic practices.
  56. @Yevardian

    Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from “meaningless.”
     
    Look at elected politicians today. Do you really (really?) think they hold any real power in today's world?

    The view that they have considerable power is surely much closer to reality than the view that they hold no power. Elected officials are certainly not the only sources of political power in a democracy, but there is really no requirement that they be in order for democracy to be preferable to non-democracy. And anyway, the problems posed by oligarchy in an established democracy are unlikely to be solved through a reduction in democratic practices.

  57. The State Council of 1901 by Ilya Repin (Russian Museum, own photo).

    “This is a great painting. This is Carthage before its destruction”
    Vasily Rozanov on the painting above

  58. @AnonFromTN

    it’s a shit of a country. Complete shit.
     
    Looks like you live in the Empire or one of its sidekicks.

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless not only in the US, but in most self-proclaimed “democratic” countries. Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want. In that Russia and China are way ahead of the West.

    …Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want.

    A key point that most Western intellectuals don’t understand. Nothing else is a ‘democracy’, having elections, constitution, pretend free press, etc… none of that makes a country into a democracy. Only actual results of doing what most people want means that a country is a democracy.

    This was well understood by foes of democracy in the past, they worked long and hard to create institutional constraints to make sure that the actual results are not based on what most people want. West is so deep into this emasculation that it doesn’t occur to people that having a ‘democratic process’ is not the same as having a democracy.

    Regarding Russia: it also has very strong non-democratic results, e.g. how many people support the oligarchic business interests? Or 8-10% mortgages? The problem with Putin is not that he is a ‘strongman’, it is that he is quite weak. They all are.

    I once read that ancient Irish had a system where a leader of a tribe was elected for one year – with power to decide everything. At the end of the year, if he was deemed successful he was elected for another year. If things didn’t work out, he was killed. They understood that power comes with responsibility for results. We no longer understand it and the elites (everywhere) like it that way.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
    I am not saying that there is 100% democracy in China or Russia. Preservation of oligarchs is not the only counter-democratic thing Putin is doing, although it’s a good illustration: ~95% of the populace want oligarchs stripped of their loot and jailed for thievery, and the same 95% wants Chubais, who got his riches by looting in the 1990s and has the gall to pontificate about the successes of that period, hanged publicly. Recent pension reform is another example: at least 80% of the population was against it.

    However, no more than 5% of government decisions in the US follows the wishes of the people, with the rest serving exclusively oligarchs against those wishes (see scientific study on the subject here:
    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf). In China and Russia the ratio is more like 50:50. Thus, by the measure that matters, China and Russia are about ten times more democratic than the US.
  59. @216
    Presidentialism is not the norm outside of the Americas. And in the Americas, the President is often limited to one or two terms in office. I favor that the US President should be elected like the Mexican and Confederate presidents, a single six year non-renewable term.

    What few countries do though, is have a bicameral system where the lower house turns over every two years. Had Russia and South Africa had such systems, the opposition would have likely won at least a couple elections since 2000.

    Futher than that, the constitutional renovations don't include a copy of the American 2nd Amendment, not that it would ever be seen as politically desirable over there. It was a major error that the US did not burden the Marshall Plan upon the adoption of said right.

    What few countries do though, is have a bicameral system where the lower house turns over every two years. Had Russia and South Africa had such systems, the opposition would have likely won at least a couple elections since 2000.

    The price for having so many lower house elections is that the lower house is not the dominant house in the bicameral system despite being the more democratic house.
    It reduces the importance of winning any lower house election.

  60. @silviosilver

    The ” western liberal democracy” is largely a myth .
     
    It is not really a "myth." It is just commonly misunderstood. So when it fails to live up to a given person's individual conception of what it means (or what it "should" deliver), it gets dismissed as a "myth."

    Western countries are more oligarchical than democratic nowadays.
     
    Some degree of oligarchic influence is unavoidable, no matter the political system, so this is hardly a devastating critique.

    It fails to live up not just to individual conception. Real-existing democracy is not the rule of the people which is what democracy supposed to mean.

    Each of our four theoretical traditions (Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, Majoritarian Interest-Group Pluralism, and Biased Pluralism) emphasizes different sets of actors as critical in determining U.S. policy outcomes, and each tradition has engendered a large empirical literature that seems to show a particular set of actors to be highly influential. Yet nearly all the empirical evidence has been essentially bivariate. Until very recently it has not been possible to test these theories against each other in a systematic, quantitative fashion.

    By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful
    measures of the key independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

    The failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are estimated to have the least effect.

    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

    • Replies: @silviosilver

    Real-existing democracy is not the rule of the people which is what democracy supposed to mean.
     
    Firstly, the paper you cited does not conclusively demonstrate that real-existing democracy controverts 'the will of the people'; the authors themselves admit that it more of than not satisfies it (albeit not in a way likely to generate enthusiasm among populist-type democracy advocates).

    Secondly, it is real-existing democracy, not some idealized system, that I'm defending and which I consider preferable to other political systems (as found in, say, Russia, China, Cuba), so it doesn't particularly matter to me if this can be described as a "true" democracy or not.
  61. @Mitleser
    It fails to live up not just to individual conception. Real-existing democracy is not the rule of the people which is what democracy supposed to mean.

    Each of our four theoretical traditions (Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, Majoritarian Interest-Group Pluralism, and Biased Pluralism) emphasizes different sets of actors as critical in determining U.S. policy outcomes, and each tradition has engendered a large empirical literature that seems to show a particular set of actors to be highly influential. Yet nearly all the empirical evidence has been essentially bivariate. Until very recently it has not been possible to test these theories against each other in a systematic, quantitative fashion.

    By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful
    measures of the key independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

    The failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are estimated to have the least effect.
     
    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

    Real-existing democracy is not the rule of the people which is what democracy supposed to mean.

    Firstly, the paper you cited does not conclusively demonstrate that real-existing democracy controverts ‘the will of the people’; the authors themselves admit that it more of than not satisfies it (albeit not in a way likely to generate enthusiasm among populist-type democracy advocates).

    Secondly, it is real-existing democracy, not some idealized system, that I’m defending and which I consider preferable to other political systems (as found in, say, Russia, China, Cuba), so it doesn’t particularly matter to me if this can be described as a “true” democracy or not.

  62. @silviosilver

    Democracy is not an elections ritual, which is totally meaningless*
     
    From a historical perspective, a characteristic of rulers is that they go to great lengths to retain power, often paying scant regard to the human cost. Since democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power, they are far from "meaningless."

    (* Yet another in a long line of asinine exaggerations.)

    democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power

    Looks like the propaganda does its job reasonably well: people do believe incredible BS. Yours is an “asinine exaggeration”, if there is one. Elections are pure fig leaf. They change the figureheads, whereas the rulers with real power remain the same. A recent example: is the US in the 21st century: we went through Bush Jr, Obama, and Trump, but the key policies remained unchanged: internally, reduce taxes for the mega-thieves (and who cares about the resulting deficits, the expression “fiscal responsibility” totally disappeared from political vocabulary); externally, perpetrate whatever crimes seem necessary to maintain the exclusive position of the Empire.

    • Agree: Yevardian
    • Replies: @silviosilver
    A simple way for you to stop embarrassing yourself would be to stick to biology; politics clearly isn't your strong point.
  63. @Beckow

    ...Democracy is when the government mostly does what the majority of the people want.
     
    A key point that most Western intellectuals don't understand. Nothing else is a 'democracy', having elections, constitution, pretend free press, etc... none of that makes a country into a democracy. Only actual results of doing what most people want means that a country is a democracy.

    This was well understood by foes of democracy in the past, they worked long and hard to create institutional constraints to make sure that the actual results are not based on what most people want. West is so deep into this emasculation that it doesn't occur to people that having a 'democratic process' is not the same as having a democracy.

    Regarding Russia: it also has very strong non-democratic results, e.g. how many people support the oligarchic business interests? Or 8-10% mortgages? The problem with Putin is not that he is a 'strongman', it is that he is quite weak. They all are.

    I once read that ancient Irish had a system where a leader of a tribe was elected for one year - with power to decide everything. At the end of the year, if he was deemed successful he was elected for another year. If things didn't work out, he was killed. They understood that power comes with responsibility for results. We no longer understand it and the elites (everywhere) like it that way.

    I am not saying that there is 100% democracy in China or Russia. Preservation of oligarchs is not the only counter-democratic thing Putin is doing, although it’s a good illustration: ~95% of the populace want oligarchs stripped of their loot and jailed for thievery, and the same 95% wants Chubais, who got his riches by looting in the 1990s and has the gall to pontificate about the successes of that period, hanged publicly. Recent pension reform is another example: at least 80% of the population was against it.

    However, no more than 5% of government decisions in the US follows the wishes of the people, with the rest serving exclusively oligarchs against those wishes (see scientific study on the subject here:
    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf). In China and Russia the ratio is more like 50:50. Thus, by the measure that matters, China and Russia are about ten times more democratic than the US.

    • Replies: @Beckow
    We could quibble about the percentages. It all depends how much weight you assign to individual policies over what period of time. And in what countries.

    I have never been to Russia and my exposure is to Russian people who tend to dislike Putin (exiles, or people working abroad). Two things that I hear a lot is the oligarch issue - that Putin is protecting them, and de facto monopoly on power by Putin and his people. Those are both fair points.

    In US defense, a large percentage of what people want (the 'results') exist for most Americans regardless of politics, the country used to quite rich and a lot of it has carried over. That makes dysfunctional politics less relevant and US can get away with less of a real democracy for now.

  64. @AnonFromTN
    I am not saying that there is 100% democracy in China or Russia. Preservation of oligarchs is not the only counter-democratic thing Putin is doing, although it’s a good illustration: ~95% of the populace want oligarchs stripped of their loot and jailed for thievery, and the same 95% wants Chubais, who got his riches by looting in the 1990s and has the gall to pontificate about the successes of that period, hanged publicly. Recent pension reform is another example: at least 80% of the population was against it.

    However, no more than 5% of government decisions in the US follows the wishes of the people, with the rest serving exclusively oligarchs against those wishes (see scientific study on the subject here:
    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf). In China and Russia the ratio is more like 50:50. Thus, by the measure that matters, China and Russia are about ten times more democratic than the US.

    We could quibble about the percentages. It all depends how much weight you assign to individual policies over what period of time. And in what countries.

    I have never been to Russia and my exposure is to Russian people who tend to dislike Putin (exiles, or people working abroad). Two things that I hear a lot is the oligarch issue – that Putin is protecting them, and de facto monopoly on power by Putin and his people. Those are both fair points.

    In US defense, a large percentage of what people want (the ‘results’) exist for most Americans regardless of politics, the country used to quite rich and a lot of it has carried over. That makes dysfunctional politics less relevant and US can get away with less of a real democracy for now.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN

    That makes dysfunctional politics less relevant and US can get away with less of a real democracy for now.
     
    Living in the US for the last 29 years, I beg to differ. Roads deteriorated in the last 5-10 years, both highways and local roads. You can see that more and more resources is being sucked out for MIC, away from anything useful. Corrupt to the core politicians are responsible for that.

    Education beyond school is affordable for a small fraction of the population, so a lot of natural talent never has a chance to reach its potential and benefit the society.

    US healthcare works like an extortion racket: it bleeds you dry, and when there is nothing left to steal from you, it throws you away. Many of the hundreds of thousands of homeless in the US became destitute because of healthcare costs.

    The level of inequality of the US approaches the worst African cases. The top 1% of the population owns 42.7% of national wealth, the next 19% of Americans own 50.3%, and the bottom 80% own 7%. There is huge differentiation by income and wealth within that top 1% (see here: https://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/never-mind-1-percent-lets-talk-about-001-percent). In fact, top 0.1% owns as much as the bottom 90%. (https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2019/jan/31/elizabeth-warren/warren-top-01-own-about-much-bottom-90/).

    What’s more, everything that makes any sense for the country disappeared from political discourse. Nobody even talks about education, healthcare, infrastructure, or fiscal discipline. All you get from the politicians is talk about how dirty the opponent is (which is true, except that the accuser is usually just as dirty) and war, war, war.

    Overall course of the Empire is suicidal. The key problem is, it will likely take a big chunk or the humanity, possibly all of the humanity, with it to its grave

  65. What do you think will happen to Novorossiya,Ukraine and Belarus? It’s obvious that as Europe and the US go into strong internal conflict, support to annex Ukraine and Belarus will increase.

  66. @Beckow
    We could quibble about the percentages. It all depends how much weight you assign to individual policies over what period of time. And in what countries.

    I have never been to Russia and my exposure is to Russian people who tend to dislike Putin (exiles, or people working abroad). Two things that I hear a lot is the oligarch issue - that Putin is protecting them, and de facto monopoly on power by Putin and his people. Those are both fair points.

    In US defense, a large percentage of what people want (the 'results') exist for most Americans regardless of politics, the country used to quite rich and a lot of it has carried over. That makes dysfunctional politics less relevant and US can get away with less of a real democracy for now.

    That makes dysfunctional politics less relevant and US can get away with less of a real democracy for now.

    Living in the US for the last 29 years, I beg to differ. Roads deteriorated in the last 5-10 years, both highways and local roads. You can see that more and more resources is being sucked out for MIC, away from anything useful. Corrupt to the core politicians are responsible for that.

    Education beyond school is affordable for a small fraction of the population, so a lot of natural talent never has a chance to reach its potential and benefit the society.

    US healthcare works like an extortion racket: it bleeds you dry, and when there is nothing left to steal from you, it throws you away. Many of the hundreds of thousands of homeless in the US became destitute because of healthcare costs.

    The level of inequality of the US approaches the worst African cases. The top 1% of the population owns 42.7% of national wealth, the next 19% of Americans own 50.3%, and the bottom 80% own 7%. There is huge differentiation by income and wealth within that top 1% (see here: https://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/never-mind-1-percent-lets-talk-about-001-percent). In fact, top 0.1% owns as much as the bottom 90%. (https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2019/jan/31/elizabeth-warren/warren-top-01-own-about-much-bottom-90/).

    What’s more, everything that makes any sense for the country disappeared from political discourse. Nobody even talks about education, healthcare, infrastructure, or fiscal discipline. All you get from the politicians is talk about how dirty the opponent is (which is true, except that the accuser is usually just as dirty) and war, war, war.

    Overall course of the Empire is suicidal. The key problem is, it will likely take a big chunk or the humanity, possibly all of the humanity, with it to its grave

    • Replies: @Beckow
    Good points, there has been a decline. But because of all the accumulated riches from the past few hundred years, US is still able to function without a proper democracy. It takes a long time to use up the enormous wealth. I am sure there will be a tipping point - probably when the demography fully flips to a Third World model, but that could be 1-2 generations down the road.

    Many countries that are lucky in terms of resources misrepresent the fortune as their own genius. Lucky people and companies sometimes do the same. That leads to a certain inattention to reality and a blase attitude about problems. As the wealth is used up, they start leveraging everything with debts. It is easier than alternatives.

    But debts are in effect two, three or more effective owners of the same asset - it is a convenient fiction that makes people feel richer than they are. Mathematically it can't go on, either the multiple ownership confusion is resolved via defaults or with a sizeable inflation. Both are destabilising - that's why the current behind-the-scenes fear among the elites: they don't like what is coming and they know it is inevitable.

    In the meantime, living well is by far the best strategy. Only real wealth that humans can have is what they manage to actually consume while they live. By that standard, prolonging the party in US - as Trump is successfully doing - is the best available strategy. It is mildly irresponsible, but the irresponsibility has been so ubiquitous and deep in the system that embracing it was a natural next step. I suspect that other countries will shortly follow.
  67. @AnonFromTN

    democratic elections routinely remove rulers from power
     
    Looks like the propaganda does its job reasonably well: people do believe incredible BS. Yours is an “asinine exaggeration”, if there is one. Elections are pure fig leaf. They change the figureheads, whereas the rulers with real power remain the same. A recent example: is the US in the 21st century: we went through Bush Jr, Obama, and Trump, but the key policies remained unchanged: internally, reduce taxes for the mega-thieves (and who cares about the resulting deficits, the expression “fiscal responsibility” totally disappeared from political vocabulary); externally, perpetrate whatever crimes seem necessary to maintain the exclusive position of the Empire.

    A simple way for you to stop embarrassing yourself would be to stick to biology; politics clearly isn’t your strong point.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
    I wish I could identify your strong point, but I can’t. That does not prevent your gainful employment here, though.
    , @AnonFromTN
    Here is another vignette on “democracy”. My tax moneys are used to employ the likes of you. I’d be vehemently opposed to it, if anyone asked me. But the key point of Western “democracy” is that nobody ever bothers to ask the people. Big brother knows best.
  68. @silviosilver
    A simple way for you to stop embarrassing yourself would be to stick to biology; politics clearly isn't your strong point.

    I wish I could identify your strong point, but I can’t. That does not prevent your gainful employment here, though.

  69. @silviosilver
    A simple way for you to stop embarrassing yourself would be to stick to biology; politics clearly isn't your strong point.

    Here is another vignette on “democracy”. My tax moneys are used to employ the likes of you. I’d be vehemently opposed to it, if anyone asked me. But the key point of Western “democracy” is that nobody ever bothers to ask the people. Big brother knows best.

  70. @AnonFromTN

    That makes dysfunctional politics less relevant and US can get away with less of a real democracy for now.
     
    Living in the US for the last 29 years, I beg to differ. Roads deteriorated in the last 5-10 years, both highways and local roads. You can see that more and more resources is being sucked out for MIC, away from anything useful. Corrupt to the core politicians are responsible for that.

    Education beyond school is affordable for a small fraction of the population, so a lot of natural talent never has a chance to reach its potential and benefit the society.

    US healthcare works like an extortion racket: it bleeds you dry, and when there is nothing left to steal from you, it throws you away. Many of the hundreds of thousands of homeless in the US became destitute because of healthcare costs.

    The level of inequality of the US approaches the worst African cases. The top 1% of the population owns 42.7% of national wealth, the next 19% of Americans own 50.3%, and the bottom 80% own 7%. There is huge differentiation by income and wealth within that top 1% (see here: https://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/never-mind-1-percent-lets-talk-about-001-percent). In fact, top 0.1% owns as much as the bottom 90%. (https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2019/jan/31/elizabeth-warren/warren-top-01-own-about-much-bottom-90/).

    What’s more, everything that makes any sense for the country disappeared from political discourse. Nobody even talks about education, healthcare, infrastructure, or fiscal discipline. All you get from the politicians is talk about how dirty the opponent is (which is true, except that the accuser is usually just as dirty) and war, war, war.

    Overall course of the Empire is suicidal. The key problem is, it will likely take a big chunk or the humanity, possibly all of the humanity, with it to its grave

    Good points, there has been a decline. But because of all the accumulated riches from the past few hundred years, US is still able to function without a proper democracy. It takes a long time to use up the enormous wealth. I am sure there will be a tipping point – probably when the demography fully flips to a Third World model, but that could be 1-2 generations down the road.

    Many countries that are lucky in terms of resources misrepresent the fortune as their own genius. Lucky people and companies sometimes do the same. That leads to a certain inattention to reality and a blase attitude about problems. As the wealth is used up, they start leveraging everything with debts. It is easier than alternatives.

    But debts are in effect two, three or more effective owners of the same asset – it is a convenient fiction that makes people feel richer than they are. Mathematically it can’t go on, either the multiple ownership confusion is resolved via defaults or with a sizeable inflation. Both are destabilising – that’s why the current behind-the-scenes fear among the elites: they don’t like what is coming and they know it is inevitable.

    In the meantime, living well is by far the best strategy. Only real wealth that humans can have is what they manage to actually consume while they live. By that standard, prolonging the party in US – as Trump is successfully doing – is the best available strategy. It is mildly irresponsible, but the irresponsibility has been so ubiquitous and deep in the system that embracing it was a natural next step. I suspect that other countries will shortly follow.

  71. I sure do hope that the system that Mr. Putin has set up lasts beyond the end of his presidency. Russia may or may not be a democracy, but the United States definitely isn’t one, and Putin’s Russia is doing a lot of things right that my own country is doing very wrong.

    As an American born and raised in the States with no connections to Russia, a lot of people are baffled when I defend Putin and his government and say that the country has a good human rights record compared to the United States. But nobody ever has any good refutations for my actual reasons for believing this:

    http://www.twilightpatriot.com/2019/10/stop-projecting-things-onto-russia.html

    It’s just assumed that America is a land of liberty and Russia is not. The caricature of “Putin the Czar” is all that most Americans ever see in the media. And the NGOs tasked with ranking countries by how “democratic” they are keep putting the United States near the top of the list, even though nearly all its laws (i.e. the legalization of same sex marriage and abortion, the immigration policy, the decisions about with whom to go to war) are made by entities other than the elected legislature. Go figure.

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