Russia versus America — No Contest
Last week the U.S. government reported second-quarter growth of 2.4%, while the International Monetary Fund projected 4.3% growth for Russia in 2010. The Russian rate was nearly double that of the U.S., yet the IMF harshly qualified the Russian figure as merely “moderate.” It’s not hard to understand why.
IMF figures indicate that the annual value of the U.S. economy exceeds $14 trillion — the largest single value for any nation on this planet by a very wide margin (in fact, the U.S. GDP is as large as the next three largest nations in the world combined).
And Russia? Russia doesn’t even rank in the top 10 nations of the world according to the IMF, coming in at #12 with a puny, pathetic value of just $1.2 trillion in annual production (the vast majority of which is just the pumping of crude oil).
Run the numbers yourself. A growth rate of 2.4% for the U.S. means adding $336 billion in value to the U.S. economy. With just over 300 million people, that works out to over $1,000 in new wealth per person compared to the prior year.
And Russia? A growth rate of 4.8% for Russia means adding only $57.5 billion in new wealth to Russia’s coffers, nearly six times less than the U.S. achieved with only half the growth rate. With 140 million people, Russia’s anemic growth yields just $410 per person. Russia’s growth rate is double that of the United States, but each person ends up with less than half as much value.
And in fact, less than half is a vast overstatement. As Boris Nemsov has recently shown, Russia is infamous for allowing rich people and the state to hoard wealth rather than passing it on to the general population. While a huge amount of new wealth in America will be spread among the people who earned it, in Russia the vast majority will be sucked up by oligarchs and a greedy, corrupt state bureaucracy. Ordinary Russians will be lucky to see mere crumbs.
The chart you see at the top of this post provides further analysis, based on the Legatum Prosperity Index. It compares Russia (the blue line) with the United States (the green line) across a wide variety of social and economic and political criteria, with the outer edge of the figure representing the highest possible attainment. The U.S. is shown as a well-rounded world-leader, while Russia is shown as a misshapen, deformed, mutant. Even in education, where Russians like to imagine they are superior, Russia falls well short of the United States. In many other areas, Russia is really not developed at all. America is above the 80th percentile in every category, while Russia exceeds the 60th in only two and never once cracks the 80th percentile at all.
You tell us, then, dear reader: How is it possible that a wretched, backwards, nightmare of a country like Russia can even dare to dream of provoking a rival like the United States into a new cold war? Isn’t it obvious Russia has no chance of success? Isn’t it obvious that Russia would meet the same fate as the USSR in such a foolhardy, one-sided rout?
Apparently, nothing is obvious to Russians.