Neoliberalism isn’t ending. It’s metamorphosing. And this happens in one of the most unlikely places.
Like any Capitalism worth its salt, the neoliberalism of Reagan’s and Thatcher’s mold is a shape-shifter.
Of all the places, Russia is showing the way to the rest of the world. President Putin has blazed new trails that two decades ago no one could imagine.
Putin is a de-ideologized political player. He hates ideologies, platforms, roadmaps, and brainy visions for a better future. They cramp his style. And he doesn’t believe in the future. The past makes much more sense to him.
But he was brought into politics by neoliberals. He is an anti-Communist, and it shows. He keeps shielding the “top 100,000 families” in Russia from price controls, regulated capital markets, and trade barriers. He keeps shrinking the rump social benefits we have from the Soviet era. A sworn austerity man, he trusts his monetary and fiscal policy to people who use old good neoliberal cookbooks. He seems to have no qualms about globalism in its Chinese version.
Also, consider the following:
- Putin is the man who brought us into the WTO—even though for an extractive economy this brings few economic benefits.
- He presided over the de-industrialization of the country. The process started before him when the Soviet military industry lay with a broken back after our loss in the Cold War. But the sheer number of industrial enterprises shut down under Putin far overgoes the darkest time of Yeltsin’s rule.
- On Putin’s watch, the number of Russian billionaires shot up from zero to over a hundred. Many of them relocated to London and other known nests of neoliberalism while staying on best terms with the Kremlin.
- He introduced the flat income tax of 13% on individuals. Even after its rise to 15% in 2020, Russia is a shining beacon of low taxation for wealthy people.
- He made the Russian Ruble a fully convertible currency.
- On his watch, as much as a trillion USD has left the country for Western shores. Despite several promises from the Kremlin, he did nothing to stem the capital flight.
- After the Crimea annexation, a combination of low petroleum prices and Western sanctions led to the stagnation of Russia’s economy. It continues to this day today. But the fortunes of our oligarchs have only increased.
Apparently, Putin’s anti-Westernism and the expansion of our mighty State into the economy go against his neoliberal grain. But the former is just a function of his internal politics. And the latter is little else but powerful state-oligarchical clans grabbing national wealth under the disguise of the State bureaucracy (“Stoligarchy”).
Below the radar, President Putin has boldly redefined the neoliberal game. In a way, he’s doing with neoliberalism what the Franks did to the Roman imperial legacy. The barbarians of the Dark Age absorbed its splendor as best they could and passed it on under their unique trademark to what is now Western civilization.
Below, President Putin greeting on the home turf Henry Kissinger. The two had at least 16 known rendez-vous during the post-Soviet era. The first of these happened well before Putin was summoned by Yeltsin to the service in the Kremlin.
No other proclaimed fighter against neoliberals has been observed having such a chummy relationship with the grey patriarch of America-dominated world order. Stalinists and radical nationalists in Russia have a nagging feeling that behind the wall of the anti-Western bluster, President Putin is quietly taking orders from international bankers and Anglo-Saxon globalists.