Who pays for greed?

America’s post high school educational system is arguably the best in the world. I was fortunate in that I was able to graduate from what then was one of the global top 25 schools in my major. That being said, there were still tremendous gaps in my education. One of them was close to zero exposure to the classics. (In Phase II of retirement I have tried to somewhat repair that. The classics are the number two category – behind non-fiction – of my reading and one of the book clubs I belong to.) One of the few classics I did read in my youth has stuck with me all these years. It is Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales. In it Chaucer outlines seven cardinal sins one of which is greed. Does that ever apply in history and politics!

History, and certainly fairly recent history, has taught us that authoritarian leaders expend much of their efforts on garnering wealth for themselves and their small inner circle almost always via other than kosher methods. I use Vladimir Putin as a glaring example.

I am not a military expert but I was among the billion that were amazed that basically a month into his invasion of Ukraine his forced have largely failed. (Although, for a variety of reasons, I am certainly not counting them out! It’s far, far from over!) The Russian forces appeared to be overwhelmingly superior. Among the variety of reasons coming out for the lack of a swift success is that the troops were nowhere nearly as well equipped as they were assumed to be. Much of the food they had with them was well passed its expiration date. (There is an old adage that an army marches on its stomach.) It also appears that some of their munition systems were not as updated as Russian press releases would have led us to believe. The troops also appear to be lacking proper clothing for the weather conditions (although that may be primarily due to the need to deceive them as to their mission.)

Putin is generally assumed to be the richest man in the world. If that is true (or even nearly true) the vast majority of his wealth came from ill gotten gains; primarily skimming from the Russian people. For all his time in power Putin has surrounded himself with yes men and other scam artists (often in the same person). Putin, like most leaders, basically does nothing (my blue-collar heritage is showing) and delegates the work/passes out contracts to his boys. They are expected to kick back. Simultaneously they do their own skimming. The chain doesn’t stop there, although the degree of skimming dissipates. The net result is that by the time the goods reach the troops in the field they are only a portion of what was paid for (by the people).

Now I come to an old adage: Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. As the skimming goes on all parties take increasingly larger and bolder rake offs. They get to the point that the “final product” is diminished beyond usefulness and in the extreme none existent. There are no real checks and balances in an authoritarian system. The reports to the head man (in this case Putin) are that his orders were executed. He is not someone who tolerates anything but perfection so those reporting to him find it life preserving to lie; that gets them through the day. In most cases they are among the scam artists and they certainly aren’t going to blow the whistle on themselves.

In case you are thinking this is exclusively a Russian/Putin problem you are sadly mistaken. What do you think was happening here under Trump? More importantly what would a second Trump administration look like?

I commenced this article with a question: Who pays for greed? The answer is the people in both treasure and often with their lives.

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