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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Needs Responsible Capitalism

It was not President Boris Yeltsin's latest decree to speed up the privatization process in the country, but the opening of a Rolls Royce dealership that made headlines recently in the international press.

Lately, Russia is more and more often portrayed as the Chicago of the 1990s, complete with the mafia shootouts, the bodyguards, the expensive limousines and the high-flying nouveau riche.

Apprehension in the West about providing assistance to this country is easily understandable, given that last year alone Russians stashed away an estimated $12 billion in foreign bank accounts, while the government still cannot pay its foreign creditors.

Equally disturbing, more top-of-the-line Mercedes were sold in Moscow than in all of Western Europe in the first half of 1993.

Clearly something has gone wrong in a reform process meant to offer new challenges and opportunities for the average citizen.

In embracing capitalism as the new economic system, Russia's leaders have failed to realize that this system could only work in the West because the economic aspects were counterbalanced by the efforts of the private sphere, including labor movements, churches and social organizations.

Take that out and any capitalist society in the West would be out of synch in no time. That is exactly what is happening in this society.

Reform should be more then an economic program. Some old-fashioned socialist ideals of morality and caring might be just what this country needs.

It is shocking to notice how fast the division between rich and poor has taken hold in this country. A tour of the Moscow streets demonstrates the stark contrasts between impoverished people trying to sell their last piece of family furniture and Russian millionaires tooling by in their expensive cars.

The conservatives do have a point when they claim the poor were better protected in the past. One of the yardsticks to measure any society is how it deals with its less fortunate citizens.

Here, Russia does not score many points.

In any civilized society the state plays an active role in issues like social welfare, education and health care.

The state budget is financed through taxes guaranteeing a more equal division of the wealth of a nation.

In Russia the concept of using tax funds to guarantee a more equal division of wealth seems alien, after so many years of abuse by the state. People resent paying taxes to a government where they feel politicians take the money and run.

The failure to stress social responsibility as part of economic reform is one of the great weaknesses in Yeltsin's rule.