TITLE

Robber Baron

AUTHOR(S)
Lichfield, Gideon
PUB. DATE
November 2003
SOURCE
New Republic;11/17/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 20, p13
SOURCE TYPE
Periodical
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
The author argues that Russian oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was recently arrested on charges of fraud and tax evasion, is wrong to compare himself with the robber barons who built the industrial foundations of the United States. When journalists ask Mikhail Khodorkovsky to explain how he made $8 billion in the decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, he usually admits that his methods bordered on the unethical--though not, he would insist, the illegal. But, he adds, he and his fellow Russian cutthroat capitalists are not so different from another group of industrialists in an emerging democracy: America's robber barons, men like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, or Leland Stanford, who laid the foundations of the world's biggest economy. Since Khodorkovsky's politically motivated arrest this week by the Kremlin and his decision to step down from Yukos since then, some leading Russia-watchers have endorsed his self-conception. But Khodorkovsky isn't Rockefeller, and his corporation, Yukos, isn't Standard Oil. But, then, Russia is no United States. Khodorkovsky seized the opportunities the dissolution of the Soviet Union presented. Unfortunately for Russia, those opportunities--the result of chaos and the lack of transparent legal and political institutions--allowed tycoons to act more rapaciously than in the United States of a century ago. Worse, by keeping his money offshore and undermining political institutions, Khodorkovsky has done less than they did to improve the system he took advantage of. Then again, so has Putin. While early twentieth-century America passed antitrust laws and broke the robber barons' monopolies by strengthening the regulatory system, Putin has done no such thing.
ACCESSION #
11337895

 

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