February 08, 2004

Russian Stability

There are two roads to stability. The first is to just rule forever. This is the authoritarian model and creates all sorts of problems because of two little inconvenient facts. People die and political ambition is not limited to the current ruler. The second road to stability is the western democratic model of competing schools of thought around a national consensus with deep political bench strength. This has the disadvantage of being messy and very hard to quickly and broadly shift in a new direction.

An article over at SiberianLight over a Russian constitutional initiative to allow Putin to serve as President until 2018 got me thinking once again about these two models. The authoritarian model is tremendously weak in the transitions of power. There is no guarantee of continuity between authoritarians and no really good succession strategy. For every Kim Jong Il, there are dozens of Nicu Ceausescus and Uday Husseins.

The problem is when the national consensus is centered around horrible, self-destructive ideas. The bickering and back-and-forth semi-stasis of the bench model is a good way to lead the country down the drain if change cannot be effected fast enough.

So, getting back to Russia, which model is best seems to be a hybrid, starting at the authoritarian model and morphing to the school/bench model as the authoritarian moves the political class' consensus to the general area that marks long term viability for the nation. This does not answer the question of whether the term lengthening idea is a good initiative or not, but it does give some good pointers on how to question Putin and try to hold him accountable to keeping to that road of traveling from de-facto authoritarianism to school/bench.

President Putin:

1) If, God forbid, you were suddenly struck down, are you comfortable with the level of leadership you would leave behind in all major parties that no matter who won, Russia would be led by a responsible figure that the nation could survive? If no, what is your plan to take us out of this dangerous situation?

2) In your opinion, is the center of gravity of the Russian political class' opinion in a place that would promote the long-term growth of Russia or do you believe that significant intellectual leadership is still required to institutionalize ideas that will make Russia prosper for the long haul?

3) Are you satisfied with the level of civic-mindedness in the average Russian citizen? Do you think they have gotten enough beyond the communist attitude of waiting for solutions from above or do you think they need to become more involved in local civic life as part of what Edmund Burke called "little platoons" that organize to make life better? And what are you going to do to further encourage such civic organizations?

SiberianLight thinks that Russia today reminds him of Chile. Hopefully, it will have an even better ending.

HT: The Argus

Posted by TMLutas at February 8, 2004 11:04 AM