Saturday, November 06, 2010

Is Mikhail Khodorkovsky an "Entrepreneur?"

Chris Blattman* showcases a fascinating find: a statement in his own defense by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, later the railroaded victim of the Putin machine.   Perhaps there is nothing strictly new here except the source; still, it is invigorating to read such a lucid denunciation of the corruption and general falsity of the current Russian regime from a man in a position to know.

My only lingering concern is--Khodorkovsky presumes to plead the case of "the entrepreneur."  But is Khodorkovsky an "entrepreneur?"  Certainly it is customary to call him that.   And you'd have to concede that he did things--thought of doing things--that others didn't try.  One way to identify an "entrepreneur":  when he makes his billions, do you look at his work and say "why didn't I think of that?"  Or worse: "I did think of that--why didn't I do it?"  There must be legions in the debris of the Soviet Union and look at Khodorkovsky and say that to themselves every day (tinctured, of course, by the reflection that he now faces very likely the rest of his life in prison).

Still, it seems to me that when you get down cases, you find that Khodorkovsky's primary skill was resource pillage: seeing through Soviet corruption and fraudulence early on and understanding--understanding what?  How to end it, and to lift the shackles from the millions who groaned under its injustice?  Or simply to deploy the corruption and fraudulence to his own ends?

That's  your question for the day.  Entries will be graded on originality and aptness of thought.

*Joe Nocera has  a full spread in the Saturday NYT.

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