Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Putin Regime Transforming Death into an Economically Rational Choice, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – In totalitarian states in the past, the powers mobilized people for war and celebrated those who died for the cause but did not provide the kind of financial incentives for soldiers and the families of those they left behind in the case of combat losses that made service and even death an economically rational choice, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            But now, while the Putin regime has promoted certain ideological memes that echo rthose of the totalitarian past, the Russian economist says, it has radically raised the pay of soldiers and the benefits their survivors receive to the point that for many accepting death is a rational choice (

            Indeed, Inosemtsev says, it is entirely appropriate to describe the system that the Kremlin has put in place as one of “deathonomics,” in which money is being used to transform the calculations of individuals and groups about death and about how their relatives can benefit from it, creating “a strange nexus” between worshipping death and worshipping money.”

            This approach has transformed the Rsusian army. In 2019, before the war, professional soldiers were paid only slightly more than the average in the population while draftees were paid far less and the families of those who died could count on receiving relatively little either immediately or over the long haul.

            Now, professionals are paid far more and their survivors given orders of magnitude more money in compensation, a pattern that makes military service and even death an attractive option for men from poorer parts of the country.  “In other words,” Inozemtsev says, “in Russia today, death in war is not only ‘an honorable fate’ but also a profitable way to end one’s life.”

            The economist documents the ways in which soldiers and the families of those military men who die are paid in detail showing that those in uniform and especially those who die receive millions of rubles more than the same people would have had they continued in civil life, something that provides supporters for war from an unexpected quarter.

            According to Inozemtsev, “’the purchase of lives’ has been turned into an industry in Russia; and the only question is whether the payment of the average salary for the future working life is really ‘an equivalent amount’ or whether the authorities will have to raise it. The latter possibility seems remote but the current arrangements are already attractive.”

            “One thing is clear,” the economist says. “After the essential ‘ideological preparation,’ the Russian authorities have put in place a system where life is not invariably the optimal economic choice for an individual.” That will have enormous consequences for the country, consequences far beyond the military sphere alone.

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