The Russian Hallucination
Russia’s most valuable company, Gazprom, has a market capitalization about $150 billion. That seems impressive, until you know that Exxon, America’s most valuable company, has a market capitalization more than double that of Gazprom.
Flip your perspective, and you see something even more amazing. Gazprom’s value constitutes more than ten percent of the total gross domestic product of Russia. Exxon’s value? It’s less than two percent of America’s GDP.
In other words, because the American economy is ten times larger than Russia’s, Exxon can fail and America will go merrily on, almost oblivious. But if Gazprom fails, Russia crashes into poverty and absolute collapse. And competing head to head in Russia’s area of greatest strength, America still wins hands down, in dominating fashion.
How is it, then, that Russians dare to continue to adopt such a provocative and hostile attitude towards the USA?
The answer is simple: With television technology at third world levels and TV news limited for most people to government-controlled propaganda just as in Soviet times, Russians remain oblivious of basic economic facts like these. They don’t realize how totally their government is failing because almost all the information they get about their society comes from the government itself.
Gazprom recently ran a propaganda item about itself on its website under the headline: “Gazprom ranked #8 in Fortune magazine’s ‘World’s Most Admired Companies.’” Only if you read the fine print do you then learn that Gazprom omitted the word “Energy” from the headline — it’s not #8 overall but just among energy companies. In fact, it’s not even in the top 50 overall, and virtually no other Russian firms are on the list of 350 most admired companies. Gazprom also, of course, fails to mention the gaping chasm between itself and Exxon even though Exxon is just one of many competing American firms while Gazprom is a national monopoly.
The Russian media teams with outrageous lies and misleading propaganda just like this every single day, and there is basically no countervailing force to correct the record — exactly the same as was the case in the USSR. It’s hard to expect Russians to demand that their government make better decisions and adopt better policies when they have no idea what their government is doing.
But the fact that they don’t know is their own fault, of course. What else could they expect from allowing their country to be governed by the KGB?
A recent public opinion poll revealed that a stunning two-thirds of the population take no interest in politics or public life, and the rest rarely go beyond voting in elections. Sixty-one percent of Russian respondents said they ignore politics, up from 39 percent in 2007. Allowing the KGB to assume control of the country and then totally disengaging from any effort to monitor its behavior will likely go down in history as the single most reckless, outrageous and self-destructive act of an national population in this century.
In other words, Russians deserve the misery that is rapidly heading their way. They have chosen to repeat history, to do the USSR thing all over again. The consequences will be no different. If anything, they will be worse.