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Democracy, Capitalism Loosening in Former Soviet Union, Union is Being Missed

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All stats from pewglobal.org and images from englishrussia.com

Intellectuals of the early decades now tell the present days younger generation how another super power used to exist in this world parallel and side by side to the present day super power. A power that kept the imperialists in their limits. A multipolar world then was much better than now, where nobody is there to prevent the western superpowers from opening newer fronts.

If the socialist economy fell down in 1991, the capitalist economy is now falling down due to recession. On the one hand democratic countries like US, Russia, Greece and India are seeing various revolts and movements showcasing anger among the public for their government. On the other hand non democratic countries like Arab World and north Africa saw similar revolutions. Then which one is better? Non democratic like China, or Democratic like India?

Without putting us in this long and old debate, we analyse the situation in the three countries of former Soviet Union after 20 years: Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia, which adopted the democratic government.

A study by the Pew Research Center shows the result that after two decades of the collapse of USSR, the people in Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania are unhappy with the direction in which their country is going. Energy, Enthusiasm which was on top of of everyone after the collapse for the democracy and rights has now waned considerably in last two decades. While many believe that the changes which their country underwent all these years have done nothing good but given a negative impact to public morality, economy and law and order and standard of living.

Democracy and Capitalism

Source: pewglobal.org

Russia, in the name of democracy has hardly enjoyed any benefits, as a stronger opposition lacks in the country which can give tough competition to powerful Putin. Ukraine has seen bad politics, interference by western diplomacy and colour revolution, whereas Lithuania, unlike Russia and Ukraine believe that changes in past 20 years have done good for them. 49% of the people are satisfied with the changes while 30% says no.

Despite the belief that capitalist economy is better than socialist only 42% of the Russians now approve a change to market economy, just before the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991 the count was 54%. The change of 11% fall. In Lithuania 76% used to approve in 1991 whereas now only 45%, In Ukraine this has slipped to 34% from 54%.

Who is benefited?

Source: pewglobal.org

There is a general feeling among these countries that the only benefit during these two decades were enjoyed by politicians and business elites, whereas common people were left behind, unlike Soviet Union where everybody was considered equal. The only thing which people like about democracy in their country is the improved judiciary and free media.

The transparency in the coverage of Moscow protests by Russian media is indeed a colour of democracy. Public is able to protest freely against their own government is democracy unlike Arab world where military was ordered to attack their own civilians. The public might be protesting against Putin as they don’t want him or his party yet again for another 4 or 8 years, but still if we look at the stats in 1991 just before the former Soviet Union was officially dissolved, there was a general optimism among the public for a change towards a multiparty system.

Change to a Multiparty System can Solve the problems?

Almost 61% of Russians then believed a change to multiparty system will be good for their society, now that belief has shrunk to 50%. Similarly, in Lithuania the count was 75% back in 1991, now only 52%. In Ukraine the optimism has slipped from 72% to 35%, but it is true that in all the three surveyed countries, the youth, the well educated class and the urban population only supports the change to multiparty system.

Source: pewglobal.org

Vladimir Putin has all the qualities of a strong leader, who has transformed the broken Russia into a powerful economy within past 12 years. He has brought back the respect to Russia which was lost after the break up of Soviet Union. Russia now is now leading in race to become a military as well as economy super power. Unlike strong leader of Arab world, Vladimir Putin is far more democratic also. Despite the protest against him, only 32% of Russian feel that they need a democratic form of government compared to 51% in 1991. When asked whether they should rely on democratic leader or strong ruler to solve their national problems only 3 in 10 Russians and Ukrainians chose democracy, whereas in Lithuania 52% prefer democratic leader now compared to 79% back in 1991.

When asked whether people are happy with the current state of democracy in the country, a large number of the people in all these three countries showed dissatisfaction with the present state of democracy and how it is working in their country when compared to the results in 1991. Moreover, in Lithuania and Ukraine this belief has only changed only in past two years. According to the survey by Pew Global in 2009, 60% of Lithuanians said they were dissatisfied now this feeling has spread to 72%. In Ukraine the same unhappiness has risen from 70% to 81%.

Just when the world lost confidence in socialist economy after the collapse of Soviet Union, these three countries lost the confidence in capitalist economy after the recession. 76% of Lithuanians were optimistic about switching to a market economy in 1991, now only 45% feel the same way. Among Ukrainians, optimism fell from 52% in 1991 to 34% after 20 years. Although, 42% of Russians currently endorse the free market approach, a 12-percentage-point drop since 1991, eight points of which occurred in just the last two years during recession.

Slipping confidence in the capitalism is due to the reason that the people don’t feel that their country is doing good in economy. In all the countries those who have not seen the life in Soviet Union or were too young when the giant collapsed are only the people who support capitalism and democracy.

Russians Missing the Soviet Union

Source: pewglobal.org

There is a feeling among majority of Russians that Soviet Union was a great place to live. According to the survey by pewglobal more than half of the
Russians believe that it is a great misfortune that Soviet Union now no longer exists. While only 36% disagree to this belief.

US and Russia who is better?

When asked about the influence of these countries whether positive or negative on Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania. The results were not very shocking. Majority of the people support Russia and Russian cause and its foreign policy rather than going the western way. While US enjoys positive influence on Lithuania with 73% of Lithuanians considering US as favourable and 20% considering it as unfavourable, Russia enjoys positive influence in Ukraine with 84% Ukrainians considering Russia as favourable and only 11% considering it as unfavourable

Views of European Union and NATO

Source: pewglobal.org

All the three countries surveyed considers EU important for economy and development and hence EU enjoys positive views, whereas NATO is considered as America’s military expansion towards these countries rather than a security network. Lithuania being involved in EU and being a member of NATO gives plus points to both the organization.

While 49% of Lithuanians think joining EU is a good thing, 31% doesn’t find any change, whereas 8% feel it is not a good thing. Lithuania being a member of NATO also backs the idea of Ukraine joining the security group. Whereas 72% in Russia and 51% in Ukraine oppose Ukraine joining NATO.

Source: pewglobal.org

It is true since the day the Soviet Union fell down, democracy ended in the world. After the collapse of Soviet Union we have seen more wars on small countries than ever before. But it is true as well that the world was on the brink of a real big war which could have turned into a nuclear war when both the super powers existed side by side.

The time when US is understanding that soon its supremacy could be taken over by Asian giants, US is welcoming warmer ties with as many countries possible. At this time rise of Russia, which is more open and transparent than before along with China, Europe and possibly India and Japan will lead us towards a multipolar world. Which would be more complex but peaceful.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Opinion

Yes, You Should Start Caring About Politics!

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One of the most common things that you hear from people a lot of the time is something along the lines of “I just don’t really care about politics.” In fact, you might have even said something along those lines yourself. And it can be tempting to fall into this line of thinking. After all, politics are hardly the most exciting or exotic things in the world. However, the truth is that they impact your life in different ways every single day and if you choose to ignore politics, then that just meant that you’re going to end up falling victim to policies that harm you and the people around you. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can start being more politically minded right now.

Know the issues

Do you know where you stand on many of the most important issues of the modern day? Do you know what most of those issues are? The truth is that many people would rather ignore a lot of the problems that society and the world at large face simply because it can feel as though they’re too big to deal with. Things like the economy, climate change, and social justice aren’t just abstract concepts; they’re things that impact the lives of real people every single day. Being more informed about the issues will allow you to have a much better understanding of your own political views.

Know who to speak to

Do you know who your senator is? Your representative? Most people tend to only know major politicians who have held office at one point or another. Sure, you probably know the president or a senator like John Mccain. But what about all of the other senators like Doug Jones or Mike Crapo? These are the people you can actually contact if you want to start making some changes in the world. Getting to know who you can contact can help you feel much more involved in the modern political process.

Forget about personalities and focus on policies

Modern politics has become as much of a game of personalities as anything else. But the truth is that the personalities of individual politicians are far less important than the policies that they and their party want to enact. After all, the policies are the things that will actually make a difference in people’s lives. You should never vote just because you like or dislike the way that a particular politician talks or what their personality seems to be like. Always vote on policies, not personalities.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly let politics take over every conversation that you have or that you need to be constantly thinking about it. But trying to bury your head in the sand and ignore the things that are going on around you isn’t going to do you any good. The only way that you can start to make some genuine changes in the world is if you face up to the realities of the modern world and try to do something about it.

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How Mafia-States Get Away with Criminality

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In theory, all 195 states adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and therefore pledge “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. In other words, to play the game and adhere to basic governmental principles. That’s in theory: in practice, a handful of states in the world behave like mafias, and get away with it.

President George W. Bush first used the terms “failed states” or “rogue states”, during his office. Rogue states seem more adapted because, if they are failed states in the sense that they do not carry out their mission, they are not failed for everyone. Afghanistan is, still today, one of the most prominent examples of how to get personally rich by pretending to represent people. In the wake of the NATO intervention in Afghanistan, billions of dollars were poured into the country in reconstruction efforts, based on the belief that if the population was schooled and busy at work, they would be less likely to join rebel ranks. The idea was good, but most of the massive funds were sidetracked to line officials’ pockets and Afghanistan is pretty much in the same shape as it was before the program, if not worse. Business Insider covered the subject (1): “All districts receive central government budget to cover salaries of front-line forces,” reporter Jessica Purkiss wrote for the Bureau. “In many areas in Afghanistan, some of this budget disappears and the actual number of officers tasked with holding back the Taliban is much lower than the number actually allotted.”

And such rogue states also exist close to the Western sphere of Europe and the US. Almost every single State in Central and South America is at the warning level on the Fragile State Index (2) (the term was brushed up to sound less definitively damning than President Bush’s wording). Hungary was bashed this year, along with the rest of EU low-performers, for dropping sharply in the EU’s good governance ranking, as reported by Nicolaj Nielsen, for the EU observer (3): “Bulgaria scored the worst among EU states with 41, followed by Greece (44), Italy (47), Romania (48), Hungary (48), and Croatia (49). Dolan faulted the crackdown on civil society and other independent institutions in Croatia and Hungary for their worsening performance. Both governments were also embroiled in scandals last year. In one case, Hungary’s government allegedly funneled money from the Central Bank to friends and family.” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán learned from the report (4) that “Hungary loses 200 billion forints every year due to the corruption that exists in public procurement cases.”

Not to forget that States are not all mutually recognized and accepted, some of them are self-proclaimed. While some do indeed strive to carry out their stated mission and serve the people they claim to represent, some other are merely mafia groups with a political cover, which deal in various traffics and racketeering. Bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, lies Western Sahara, where a group named the Polisario Front announced to the world that it was the shield of the Sahrawi people, who originate from the arid strip of land, with the stated intent of creating a sovereign state. But that must be put into perspective with the endless list of allegations and accusations carried against it, regarding the Polisario’s management of refugee camps in Algeria for example. The self-proclaimed government of the Sahrawi – namely the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) – is known for keeping the refugees captive in the camps, or keeping family members as hostage to guarantee men’s returns, maintaining a general state of violence and lawlessness within the compound. In addition, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has serious doubts (5) as to what becomes of the humanitarian aid it sends. It suspects not only the food to be sidetracked and sold on the black market, but also to be requested in excessive numbers – the Polisario front claims it holds up to 200 000 refugees but has systematically refused census, leading humanitarian donors to believe the figures are doubtful.

Can this be avoided? Hardly, at the general level. Pablo Escobar coined the phrase which underlies the entire system : Plata o plomo (silver or lead). Officials could be paid off to keep silent and play along, or be shot. Therefore, it is in the nature of corruption systems to maintain themselves because, should a “pure” official arise, he will be removed and replaced by a more complacent one.

Mafia states use the cover of darkness or, better still, a politically activist stance. The Colombian FARCs – Polisario’s allies, incidentally… – and the Medellin Cartel, run by Pablo Escobar, had an intense PR activity with many “social and humanitarian” poses, to help improve their public image and stymie political push-backs. The Polisario Front has moved much of its assaults to the judicial level, in a new form of “civilized” piracy, including with the surprise attempt to seize a Moroccan shipload earlier this year in South Africa. “The conclusion of this case will actually tell us whether it is now conceivable, on the judiciary level, that international shipping industry – which carries 90% of global trade – become hostage to some form of unprecedented and increasingly vicious political piracy,” wrote Philippe Delebecque (6), a French judge specializing in maritime affairs.

Mafia states are here to stay, because the mafia creates the state, and not the other way around. Once the mafia has developed its tentacles and political power enough, it will make kings and topple uncooperative administrators. Other states in the world are fully aware of this fact, and that if they bust a mafia-state, another will replace it within weeks. So, in the best cases, neighboring countries let it be; in the worst cases, they get involved in the graft.

1) http://uk.businessinsider.com/afghan-national-security-forces-us-assistance-70-billion-2017-9
2) http://fundforpeace.org/fsi/
3) https://euobserver.com/political/136664
4) http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/01/26/hungary-has-been-steadily-becoming-more-corrupt/
5) http://www.eubulletin.com/4018-exclusive-olaf-report-reveals-diversions-of-eu-aids-to-western-sahara.html
6)https://seapiracy.einnews.com/article/406654813/_j2VsuC3itgcmo3C?lcf=YCp5Ip9ztVBQmLVnDO55vXzEICMe6RFJuBE3DVQzur8%3D

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Should You Support Universal Basic Income? Who else is in favour?

Manak Suri

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In the previous article “Universal Basic Income: In Action” we explored that Universal Basic Income under different variants is already being put to trial in different provinces of a number of countries around the world. Before that, in “Universal Basic Income: The Idea” we weighed the potential of UBI in creating a monumental change in the way humanity as a society functions as of today. While there’s still quite some time required to ascertain how easily and efficiently the system can be put into effect and whether it should be put into place at all, some of the more apparent advantages, as well as flaws of the system, are repeatedly considered by experts in determining the answers to the aforementioned questions. In addition, many influential figures have also come out both in support of UBI as well as against it. Let’s take a look at the support UBI has garnered as well as the supposed benefits and criticisms of UBI.

Pros of Universal Basic Income

The first argument often cited in favour of UBI is for its potential to alleviate poverty, improve the standard of living and vastly reduce income inequality no matter which country it is implemented in. the Alaska Permanent Fund (AFP), which we’ve already discussed, was instrumental in improving the state’s income equality rank from 30 to 2. UBI trials in Namibia, Kenya, and parts of India have also yielded positive results in this regard. UBI has also resulted in the improvement of health, especially mental health, as reported by people who have been part of UBI trials in Ontario, Canada. UBI also encourages entrepreneurial behaviour since it guarantees basic subsistence thereby providing an incentive for people to take up a line of work of their liking. UBI trials in India and Namibia have also shown that it has helped promote financial decision making by women resulting in their empowerment. A guarantee of a fixed income every month also brings more power to people when it comes to deciding where they should spend money. The Roosevelt Institute research we discussed previously also suggests an overall growth in the US economy with a countrywide implementation of UBI. UBI is also expected to lead to a positive job growth and lower the dropout rates in schools since it provides more security to families.

Cons of Universal Basic Income

The critics of UBI argue that money that is essential for the poor is being redirected towards the wealthy and those citizens who have no need for it. Robert Greenstein, founder and President of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C.  “if you take the dollars targeted on people in the bottom fifth or two-fifths of the population and convert them to universal payments to people all the way up the income scale, you’re redistributing income upward. That would increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them.” In addition to that, it is often argued that UBI programs are highly ineffective when compared to welfare programs that are implemented on targeted populations. Therefore, unless UBI is implemented without the scrapping off of such welfare schemes, it is likely to find opposition from a huge number of people who currently benefit from these programs. Another argument against UBI one may repeatedly encounter is that UBI reduces the incentive to work, which leads to huge costs for the economy. This may also lead to a dearth of skilled and unskilled labour in the economy. The Swiss government have opposed the implementation of UBI for the very same reason, fearing that the current labour shortages may be exacerbated. Finally, an argument that also holds the door open for many debates is that UBI is too expensive to implement and will cost a lot to the government. As opposed to studies which show a growth in the economies through the implementation of UBI, many economists have also opposed it, claiming that UBI in the more developed nations will be very expensive to guarantee an acceptable standard of living to all the citizens.

Who Supports Universal Basic Income?

Since the idea was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, UBI has found suitors throughout recent history. Founding father of the United States Thomas Paine was in favour of it, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell argued in its favour, and even Martin Luther King said: “the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” American economist Milton Friedman, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and even former US President Richard Nixon came close to bringing UBI to the United States. As of today, a number of high profile names in the Silicon Valley have expressed their support for UBI. An advocate of entrepreneurship and creativity, Mark Zuckerberg sighted UBI as an worth a look in his statement at his Harvard commencement address: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk believes implementation of UBI is inevitable. “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk said in an interview in 2016. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay also donated towards a UBI experiment in Kenya. Coursera founder Andrew Ng expressed on Twitter: “More than ever, we need a basic income to limit everyone’s downside, and better education to give everyone an upside.” The list does not stop here.

UBI has at least gained enough attention to get people, investors, world leaders, and governments to talk about it and more importantly experiment with it. The results are not yet out and will take a considerable amount of time still to be able to present a final verdict on UBI and its effectiveness. However, as robots make humans redundant in recurring waves, is there still enough time to just be experimenting?

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