Sunday reading links (March 13th 2022)

Back to #SundayReading! These weeks I spent nearly all of my free time following events around Russian invasion of #Ukraine, so here are few articles that I found insightful and worth re-reading.

1. The first is the conversation with Stephen Kotkin who is giving us the best overview of the nature of Russian, or more precisely Putin's, regime. It is very enlightening to read what scholars and historians think since they spent a lot of time looking for patterns, and Kotkin is not shy from sharing his knowledge. As a teaser, he recites the most succinct definition of what The West is:

The West is a series of institutions and values. The West is not a geographical place. Russia is European, but not Western. Japan is Western, but not European. “Western” means rule of law, democracy, private property, open markets, respect for the individual, diversity, pluralism of opinion, and all the other freedoms that we enjoy, which we sometimes take for granted. We sometimes forget where they came from. But that’s what the West is.

2. The second one is also a conversation, again with a scholar, but this time it's an anthropologist, Ukranian Volodymyr Artiukh. Very precise introduction to the events currently unfolding from the insider's perspective.

The sanctions will not stop the war. Only tanks and guns can stop tanks and guns.

3. And now a Twitter thread by Kamil Galeev (he has a lot of Twitter threads dense with information, most probably not all of it correct, but very engaging and thought provoking). Here he develops an interesting concept where the growth of complex industries influences power balance in, what is currently case for Russia, mafia or cartel-like state. This resonated in me profoundly since I finally found an explanation of what is actually on-going in my home country #Serbia the last few decades, and it started to unravel really fast in the last ten years: Serbian government seems to actively undermine and works to destroy everything that is creating additional value and focuses on pure resource extraction, ore mining in short. A lot of people, me included until recently, can not comprehend why would a government want to practically cripple it's own country; it seems so non-intuitive that folks just ignore it happening before their own eyes. But Galeev's concept makes it all logical, rational.

The more mafia-like you are, the simpler you are, the less able to administer complex economic activities. If you engage in them, power balance within your structure will change and former strongmen might become irrelevant. Mafia can remain mafia only feeding of something simple. Extractive businesses are relatively simple in a sense that they can be administered by mafia for very long and still produce value. Of course they're being destroyed too but in the long run, so nobody cares. Complex businesses will be destroyed immediately.

4. And finally, something not related to the invasion of Ukraine, a short piece by Tyler Cowen giving advice on how to approach and weight views and on-going events. Timeless and preciously needed.

Look for strong analytical abilities, and if you don’t see it, run the other way.

Until the next time.