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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Demonstrations Disprove Democracy

Russians have taken to the streets for the first time in many years. It is particularly interesting to observe the protesters through the lens of state television, which showed us that:

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One, there were no demonstrations protesting the end of welfare benefits. There were only demonstrations in favor of reform. Two, if there were protest demonstrations, they were orchestrated by certain malicious and subversive elements serving a particular agenda. Three, President Vladimir Putin personally made sure that any reasonable demands from the protesters were met.

The authors of the monetization scheme wanted to accomplish the following:

One, to create a normal market in the country by canceling benefits. Transportation companies, for instance, only get 50 percent of what they are owed due to the plethora of welfare recipients. This means they can't afford to buy any new buses . Two, to keep people from getting angry, officials wanted to replace benefits with cash. Three, to avoid ratcheting up inflation, they were skimpy with the cash.

As a result of the reforms, the following things happened:

One, pensioners in urban areas who lost their right to free rides were disgruntled because the extra money from the state felt like a minor adjustment of their pitifully low pensions, while paying for a bus ticket felt like an unanticipated new expense.

Two, the money rural pensioners receive is ratcheting up inflation.

Three, the almost immediate decision to start selling seniors discounted tickets -- in St. Petersburg, pensioners can get a 600 ruble monthly pass for only 230 rubles -- will mean that, you guessed it, transportation companies will not get all the money they should. Because no one is stupid enough to buy a pass for 600 rubles when they can get one under the table for 260 or so.

For some mysterious reason, monetization is being called a liberal reform. This is absolutely ridiculous. You don't have to be a liberal to monetize welfare benefits. Leonid Brezhnev's regime considered doing the exact same thing and converting free rides into cash payments, though at the time there were only 32 categories of welfare recipients, versus today's 40.

While weighing the idea, the state conducted hundreds of surveys and polls. Industry institutes discovered who used which benefits how often and researched who should get how much in cash compensation. They spent so many years researching the issue that in the end, perestroika rolled around.

At least they tried! What happened today? The government conducted a sweeping reform without wondering who should get how much. But then again, whom could they ask? The Transportation Ministry? Commercially-minded Transportation Minister Igor Levitin would not be able to answer the question. He is far too interested in other, more lucrative matters. Thus, we see that:

One, the authorities did not add up the consequences of their economic decisions. Two, the authorities could not care less about the public, so long as people keep their mouths shut. Three, the authorities are absolutely terrified of the public the second they open their mouths. Four, once terrified, the authorities make economic decisions as in point one.

And last but not least, what is a demonstration, even if attended by thousands? Demonstrations are no big deal in democratic countries. Tens of thousands showed up to protest at U.S. President George W. Bush's inauguration. The turned backs and whistles meant nothing because Bush had just won a democratic election. In a democratic country, demonstrations are not the way the people express their will. The people express their will via elections.

However, people have to demonstrate in a country where there is no other way to express discontent. By backing down when confronted with demonstrations, the Putin regime has in effect acknowledged that Russia is not a democracy.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.