The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Living under corrupt government means facing a high ‘tax’ on everything

Customers at Eliseevskiy store in Moscow on April 2, 2021. (Arthur Bondar for The Washington Post)
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Nicholas Eberstadt’s May 2 op-ed, “How demographics could thwart Putin’s ambitions,” described how, notwithstanding ample natural resources and good higher education, “the Russian system produces remarkably little private wealth.” But the headline focused on a symptom rather than the underlying issue: We all respond to the incentives we face, and even the “talented, enterprising, impressive people” Mr. Eberstadt mentioned won’t spend their time creating value just to have it expropriated.

Living in a kleptocracy means facing a high and capricious “tax” on everything. Despite the complaints of crass materialism and stark inequalities in our own country, it might be that capitalism is the worst economic system “except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Mark D. Richardson, Takoma Park