This article was originally published by The American Conservative.
Over 100,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners are in prison in Russia for not paying bribes to assorted inspectors or because parties to business disputes bribe police to arrest them on trumped-up charges. Russia???s private sector has very little security in law for its property rights. Almost everybody dragged before any court is found guilty. The consequences are minimal re-investment, low productivity growth, and owners who seek security by taking out maximum cash and, if able, stashing it abroad.
Consequently, Russia depends upon imports for 90 percent of its consumer goods. Its agriculture is still a shambles, with no secure property rights, lousy roads to get products to markets, and younger farm workers fleeing the boredom and poverty of the countryside. Just fly over any Russian city, as I have done, and see how little of the land is cultivated compared to cities in the rest of Europe.
Yet many leading libertarians have been very soft on Putin???s elimination of political freedoms and ruination of his country, excusing Russia because of NATO expansion and Western support for the overthrow of Ukraine???s Moscow-backed Yanukovych government. Some conservatives have even argued that Putin is an ally in supporting traditional ???family values??? because of his public opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage.
Ron Paul defends Putin, writing that there was no proof that Russian missiles shot down Malaysia???s Flight 17 over Ukraine. His allies argue that criticism or exposure of Putin???s regime merely strengthens the War Party in Washington, helping it to gain more spending and bring about more wars against more nations. They argue that it was NATO expansion and NATO???s attack on Serbia launched by Bill Clinton that ultimately led to the reactions and new aggressiveness of Russia. This is an argument I once appreciated, but it???s not a reason to whitewash today???s Russian dictatorship and incredible corruption. We???and I consider myself a Libertarian???can still oppose our military-industrial congress complex without excusing or hiding mention of monstrosities abroad. In fact such excuses weaken our moral standing and our competence as ???realists.???
Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative.