McFaul on Democracy and the Market

Back in 2008, Stanford professor Michael McFaul wrote an article in Foreign Affairs along with Kathryn Stoner-Weiss which upset the Putin-supporting camp.  Then, following the election of Barack Obama, McFaul was appointed as the key Russia advisor, and became the architect of the reset policy, which upset the Kremlin skeptics.  After meeting up with the gray cardinal Vladislav Surkov as part of the U.S.-Russia Civil Society working group, the two split camps deepened in disagreement over what to think about McFaul’s measured position on Russia affairs.

With his latest comments made during a modernization conference, McFaul has indicated that the reset should not be interpreted as a wholesale legitimation of the political system.  Taking into account other critical comments on human rights from Amb. William J. Burns the other day, it looks like we’ve got some looser tongues in Washington this fall – which is perfectly natural given the election season.  On the other hand, it’s not that surprising or controversial to point out that Russia’s own stated goals for economic modernization are hampered by a lack of free political competition.

“Democracies in the developed world grow at asteady rate and do not have the economic disruptions that autocraciesdo,” McFaul told a Kremlin-backed conference about modernisation in theRussian city of Yaroslavl.

“Just as in the market, competition makes forbetter products and better companies, and just as in sports, competitionmakes for better sports teams, competition in a political system makesfor better government,” Mr McFaul said. (…)

“I wanted to tackle some of the mythologiesabout the instrumental role that autocracy plays in economicmodernisation,” Mr McFaul said at the conference, which President DmitryMedvedev is expected to address.