Confusion is power
- The New Few, or a Very British Oligarchy: Power and Inequality in Britain Now by Ferdinand Mount
Simon and Schuster, 305 pp, £18.99, April 2012, ISBN 978 1 84737 800 2
You can tell Russia is not a real democracy because there is no great mystery about its politics. Democracies are slightly baffling in how they work: just look at America; just look at Europe; just look at us. In Russia the basics are easy to understand: people use money to get power and power to get money. The country is ruled by a narrow, self-serving elite who go through the motions of holding elections and transferring power. No one is fooled. When Putin moves from the office of president to prime minister and then back again, it is not exactly smoke and mirrors stuff. It’s just out one door and in through another. He doesn’t care that no one is fooled. This is how oligarchies work: the people at the top care much more about their dealings with each other than their dealings with the public. It is also the reason oligarchies fail in the end: the public tires of being treated in this way. Democracy may well be bubbling up in Russia in ways that the elite will eventually be unable to control. But until they lose control, there is no doubt about who is in charge.