Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Victim of the New
On Monday of this week, the Russian Prosecutor General levied new criminal charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The new charges mean it is likely that Khodorkovsky will remain imprisoned at a Siberian labor camp past 2008, when he is currently up for parole. Khodorkovsky has been incarcerated since July 2003 after being charged and then convicted of tax evasion, stealing and sundry similar charges.
What is really going on here?
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has been ruthlessly stamping out all forms of opposition. He is re-nationalizing companies and closing down independent television stations and newspapers. He now appoints provincial governors who used to be elected. While he has been in office, more than 40 journalists have been assassinated. Under his watch, none of these crimes has been prosecuted. He is confiscating foreign business interests in
When he was an active KGB officer serving in the
Putin is going out of his way to make sure that a man like Mikhail Khodorkovsky spends more time in the gulag. Why is he such a threat?
Men like Khodorkovsky are a threat to dictators everywhere because they are independent. Khodorkovsky was a double threat to the dictator, a man independent in his thinking and independently wealthy. Khodorkovsky was not just the wealthiest man in
All of the business steps Khodorkovsky took resulted in Yukos’ oil production growing at a nearly 20% annual rate during the last three years before his arrest and the Russian government's confiscation of Yukos. The proof of his Western managerial style was in these results.
Based on the public information available, Khodorkovsky’s actions are those of a highly competent, intelligent and successful business executive. His rise was a remarkable sign that
One of the charges against Khodorkovsky is that he unfairly acquired the assets that formed the base of Yukos during the corrupt privatizations of the 1990s. This may be true, but it is irrelevant. In a Communist society, no one “owns” the industrial plants, equipment and resources. The state was not the owner; it was the confiscator of property that had been formerly owned by private individuals prior to the Revolution. Such property would lie fallow until men like Khodorkovsky stepped forward to make it valuable. This process is similar to the appropriation of land by the Homesteaders in the
That men such as Khodorkovsky stepped forward to appropriate such property, and make it far more valuable than it had ever been under the Communists, we should all be thankful. By doing so, he created wealth that he enjoyed and all those who did business with him enjoyed. That wealth was created, after having been dissipated by the Communists before. By doing so, he also helped bring the rule of law through modern business practices and accounting standards to
Stated in simplest terms, the proof of Khodorkovsky’s moral right to the property that formed the base of Yukos is the fact that he made it productive. He was a Homesteader.
Moral leaders in the West have said little about Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment (under horrible conditions, he was recently slashed by a fellow inmate). In the United States, leaders such as President Bush, who himself excoriated American businessmen and imposed punishing new rules on them such as Sarbanes-Oxley, have been incapable of taking a moral stand in support of Khodorkovsky. Instead, Bush, speaking of Putin, utters such grotesque inanities as, “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. // I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” With statements like that backing him up, it is no wonder that Putin feels morally empowered to stamp out the independent minds in
I wish Mikhail Khodorkovsky well. May justice prevail.