Russia vs. China

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First point, a discussion about ATM fees in Argentina. I am not sure why this is the way that it is. But ATM fees and trying to get money here in Argentina is quite difficult and outrageously expensive. If you wish to use an ATM card from outside Argentina here are the restrictions.

There are few ATM machines at all. Compared with places like Thailand which seems to have ATM machines from numerous banks every hundred meters or so or even Cambodia, it is extraordinarily difficult to find ATM machines. Having found an ATM machine, it would appear, based I admit on a statistical sample of only three different banks, that you can only withdraw 2000 pesos at a time (which is the equivalent of at this point about $90), and for that privilege, they will charge you 249 pesos, which is about $12. That is simply appalling. That is blatant out and out robbery. I would not even mind the 249 peso fee, provided that one could actually withdraw maybe up to $600, $700 or $800 at a time. But when you can only withdraw a little under $100 and are paying >12% for that privilege… Really? What the hell are they thinking?

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The comparative course that I just finished on Economics had a very interesting comparison on the transition from socialism to capitalism for Russia and China. One would have to be even blinder that I am not to realize what an incredible difference there is between the two countries. I think the best way to present this is to put it into a matrix form and here it is below. I found the professors analysis really eye-opening, and I hope you do also. Quite a bit of food for thought.

This is just a surface look at the issues that faced both countries, but I found it fascinating.

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BTW, the Washington Consensus was a series of free market reforms (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Consensus ) that were heavily supported and pushed by Western economic advisors coming into Russia after the USSR collapsed. I have seen it noted in more than one source that the total leap to privatized, free market economy advocated by these advisors was never used by any of the Western countries themselves at any point in time. And if the Russians are irate and humiliated by the fact that they were given a bunch of “do as I say, not as I do” advice, I don’t blame them. In the wild West environment that ensued from trying to jump to a totally free market economy in Russia, what happened was that the most connected people with the most resources went on a wild power and resource grab to benefit themselves. So, what did we end up with? A country run by multiple organized crime syndicates (known as oligarchs). And presided over by a megalomaniacal, egotistical, (albeit extremely smart and cunning) jackass. Hmmm, that’s not the only country in the world with the leader like that, is it? Well, minus the extremely smart and cunning part.

I should mention that John Williamson, the economist that originally developed the Washington consensus guidelines, was horrified to find that the list of recommendations ended up being used as an overly aggressive blanket policy for all countries rather than being taken in context of what each country (meaning an underdeveloped country) might need for their specific circumstances.

Nonetheless, the thing about Russia that just totally floors me is that I see it as a country of enormous positive potential. It is the largest country in the world, it has a well-educated population, and incredible natural resources. Vladimir Putin (Who just won another 6 years in office with 76% of the vote – imagine that 😊 ) has all the tools he needs in order to make Russia a positive world power. But what is he doing? He supports his cronies, actively has the GRU (Main intelligence Directorate Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, tr. Glavnoye razvedyvatel'noye upravleniye) pursuing cyber warfare tactics against all and sundry, and in general seems to be totally oblivious to the general standard of living of the average Russian while he and his cronies rape the country on a daily basis. Which brings me nicely to the next course I am taking on Globalism and Nationalism and why nations fail.

But I will write about that next week. For now, I am trying to adjust to the, for me, extremely cold weather in Buenos Aires. This morning it is 6°C, 42 Fahrenheit. Definitely not used to that but trying to get acclimated.