Russia: Vladimir Putin and Attaturk
From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer writes; "A good comparison for Putin might be Attaturk. Attaturk and his faction took a disintegrated, failed country and pulled it together using the best institutions he could find at the time. He did not create a utopia. He did not solve the 1000 year old Ottoman tradition of corruption. He was quite authoritarian himself, persecuted his enemies, and created a cult of personality. But he did create a democracy of sorts, and the relative economic mismanagement of Turkey over the last 80 years is mostly the result of dirigist economic ideas plus IMF poison plus corruption. Despite all of that, Turkey is a model for the Middle East -- relatively prosperous, by far the most democratic (excepting only Israel), by far the most secular (including Israel), and most likely with a bright future. This is very much Attaturk's work despite all of the obvious flaws. (I am writing about Turkey under the influence of a week sailing in the Aegean between Turkish ports, marvelling again, as I do every time I come here, at what a pleasant country Turkey is, clean, orderly, friendly, modern, nearly crime-free. I am able to write this because the little port of Yalakavak has a free high speed Internet connection which yachtsmen may access from their boats via WiFi).
Putin's flaws are similar to Attaturk's, except, thank God, for the cult of personality (I shudder every time I walk into a Turkish office and see that portrait staring down at you). But Putin has the benefit of much better economic ideas than those which were in fashion in Attaturk's day. Putin's extreme capitalist model has the additional benefit of reducing the damage caused by the corruption which he has been unable (or unwilling) to curb: the less the state is involved in the economy, the less opportunity for corruption, and the less harm corrupt bureaucrats can do. The high economic growth rate in Russia will also strengthen democracy -- well-off, well-educated people who are not dependent on the state for anything are the best citizens and the most critical and responsible voters".
RH: IMF poison? That's food for thought. I will take Cameron's word that Yalakavak exists; I cannot find it, even on detailed maps. It must have developed to cater to the tourists flooding into Turkey's southern shore, which may have given Cameron a rosy view of Turkey. I had my wallet stolen in Turkey, and a thief sneaked into our hotel room; I frightened him away. Istanbul clean? Not when I visited it, but that was several years ago.
Ronald Hilton -