The very first post-Soviet years in Russia saw numerous and tireless attempts to copy anything that the West could offer – anything was considered replica-worthy unless it was related to the commonly despised Communist regime. The economy was hardly crawling on all fours and was rightfully believed to require a serious shake-up of the underlying economic practices. We decided to turn to the West for advice, and the West “kindly” consented.
Advisors, experts and pundits of economics from international organizations would flock into the country to sing praises to free market and the prosperity it creates. They would assure us that the Western economic model (with the US as its most vivid example) was what our dilapidated economy needed. And I am sorry to say that we were stupid enough to believe them.
We believed that all governmental controls must be lifted and the entire economy would immediately thrive. We trusted the whole world had been waiting to open its economic borders to our goods and services and was eager to welcome us with open arms into the global civilized economy of equal opportunities and prosperity.
If you are rolling up your eyes and shaking your head as you read these words, you know what I mean – we were like little kids sitting by the fireside at midnight waiting for Santa to tumble down the chimney. Yes, we were stupid enough to believe.
The prosperity so boldly promoted by various economic advisors to Boris Yeltsin's airheaded administration turned out to be a myth. We were blind to the fact that US debt levels had been rising all along. The US is still in debt, and their possessions, high consumption levels (which are still unthinkable for most Russians) as well as economic successes commonly attributed to special entrepreneurial traits are all due to ever-expanding credit. The entire economy is a debt bubble. Technically, they are already bankrupt, but nobody will allow that to be officially recognized for obvious reasons. They would simply lift up the national debt limit each time the total amount of national liabilities got a little too close to the brink. Similar things are hapening to other developed countries.
We couldn’t grasp that the US economy was a result of deliberate cooperation between global transnational corporations and US governmental agencies in channeling the world's resources into one economy by means of political and military manipulations. That is what makes them "rich" – it is not about any special entrepreneurial traits, democracy, free market or the rule of law. Who cares about all these if you can legally “print” as many dollars as you want and obtain enormous resources for your economy almost free of charge?
Any attempt to outrun an economy like this is like chasing afternoon shadows – no matter how fast you run, you are always several steps behind them. In fact, we were not the ones to write the rules of the game we had been invited to join. The world could not care less about the problems of our dilapidated economy. And the global economy itself was far from the ideals of equal opportunities and prosperity – it is still an arena for global transnational oligopolies that have already set the rules, staked their claims and are ready to rip any country into shreds to get what they want. They did not need any competitors, but they needed resources, preferably cheap ones.
We were naïve to believe that the kind-hearted white-bearded Santa was sure to bring us presents for Christmas if we were good boys and played by the rules we couldn’t change. Thus, we pretty much destroyed what had been left of our economy with our own hands while shouting out free-market slogans and made ourselves more import-dependent than ever. Free market did not solve our problems, it only made them worse. To our surprise, Santa turned out to be a drug pusher, figuratively speaking.
We thought that copying the outer form of the western economy would be enough. Not much thought was given to grasping its inner essence. We only fooled ourselves. We should have taken time to grow mature and strong enough to face the globalized world on our own terms and according to our own schedule. China has been reforming its economy for about 30 years now. Singapore is another example of planning and gradual economic development. There may be other examples. What is common for all of them is their unwillingness to copy the West or worry about what the West might say. They may not have the American-style democracy, but they have their sense of direction in economic development. They find it necessary to take time to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Russia, on the contrary, is still struggling to come up with a meaningful long-term plan of development. The more cash would come from foreign oil and gas deals, the more short-sighted we would grow. We have been talking about the need to modernize and diversify the economy ever since the collapse of the USSR, but nothing has been done yet. The roaring and chaotic 1990’s dealt our development such a blow that we are still recovering from it.
Stupid, stupid, stupid…