We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Is Omarova evil (and stupid) or stupid (and evil)?

In 1989, Boris Yeltsin visited a supermarket in Texas (in the past, such things were reported even in the NYT):

“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people.”

Not so Biden’s candidate for comptroller of the currency, Saule Omarova. Biden chose her because she would be “the first woman and person of color” to serve in that role, but that would not be her only ‘first’. In that same year of 1989, she graduated from Moscow State University on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. She thought the Soviet system superior to capitalism then, and thirty years later, she still believes:

“Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best’.” (Omarova, 2019, quoted here)

She’s also outright hostile to the idea of supply and demand determining the likes of salaries and product prices, preferring instead to see the federal government — the state — set such values.

I say ‘also’ in the paragraph above, but my question in this post is: does she know how much socialism relies on the second when ‘achieving’ the first?

“The beauty of this system was that an NKVD man could receive twelve times what a doctor did and the doctor didn’t know it. The doctor knew what the NKVD man was paid, which was the same as he was, but he didn’t know what the NKVD man could buy with it.”

You didn’t have to be in the communist secret police to discover how a state that controlled distribution could match equal pay for interrogators and doctors to unequal reward. In Stalin’s day, an earlier defector (Kravchenko, ‘I Chose Freedom’) thought that, as regards the very highest ranks of this system,

not one Russian in a thousand suspected that such abundant shops existed

but he discovered for himself that, although

as department head in the sovnarkom, I did not earn half as much as I used to earn in industry, and I received none of the administrative bonuses that factory administrators awarded themselves,

the amount he was paid meant little, because what mattered was

the shops in which you were permitted to buy.

His new post gave him access to certain additional outlets – outlets which might still have looked shabby if compared to Yeltsin’s Texas supermarket, but which would have looked as wonderful to ordinary Russians as that supermarket did to Yeltsin, had they been allowed inside.

By 1989, far more than one Russian in a thousand knew this – and so did some visiting foreigners. A women I met at Oxford had spent months on a course in the Soviet Union about five years earlier than Omarova – an unusual course where the foreigners lived like the Russian students, shopping in the same outlets. She had her Yeltsin moment upon her return: “When I went into Sainsbury’s, I burst into tears.” (her exact words).

IIUC, Omarova would have lived better on a Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship – would have had access to some of the special suppliers most Russian students had to do without – although their stipends were probably much the same in rouble terms. What I wonder is, does she know how much socialism’s on-paper ‘elimination’ of pay-gaps (gender and otherwise) depends on control of distribution, or is her enthusiasm for both simply the effect of swallowing the whole ideological package? Is she as thick as a brick (as we say in Britain), or is she as thick as two short planks (as we also say in Britain)? Is she useful, and idiotic only with the deep absurdity of desiring to be useful to such a cause, or is she a useful idiot of a shallower kind?

21 comments to Is Omarova evil (and stupid) or stupid (and evil)?

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Biden did not “choose” anyone – the choice was made by others and he rubber stamped it.

    There should not be a “comptroller of the currency” for the same reason that there should not be a “comptroller of bread” or anything else – people should choose what they value (not have it chosen for them by the government). Historically people have chosen gold or silver (or both), in the future they may choose Bitcoin – we shall have to see (it is up to them).

    As for a system where the government and “pet” Credit Bubble banks create money-from-nothing and dish it out (at basically zero interest rates) to the politically connected – well yes it does indeed seem Soviet, because it is Soviet. It is Central Planning – wrong even in theory, and squalid and corrupt in practice.

    Lending should be about REAL SAVINGS (the actual sacrifice of consumption – so that cash-money may be saved), not creating money-from-nothing and dishing it out to favoured individuals and Corporations.

    As for appointing some Marxist on the basis of her being a women and black – well why not, at least it brings the utterly farcical nature of Frankfurt School Marxism out into the open. But the position should not exist even it was not filed by this nonentity – see above.

    As for the “good people” I am told still exist in the FBI (and the other alphabet agencies) and the United States military.

    Well if you are one of these good people – have a hard look at what you are now serving. You are serving evil – yes evil. There is no point in sugar coating the truth – and this appointment, along with all the others, makes it horribly obvious.

  • Paul Marks

    We are still, as far as I know, not allowed to see the pro Marxist Soviet Union thesis of Barack Obama.

    But this lady graduated from Moscow and was making pro Marxist (and anti market, anti freedom of choice – supply and demand) statements as recently as 2019 (and anyone who claims that men and women were equal in the Soviet Union is a liar or an idiot – or both).

    No one can be so stupid that they can not see what the United States Federal Government now is – and it does not need Moscow to educate its officials in evil, the American universities have been dominated by evil (by Collectivism) for long years now.

    It is time to choose – are you for this evil, for the Federal Government, or are you against it?

    There is no middle ground or non political position – the ESG (Environment and Social Governance) system that now controls banking and finance, rules out neutrality.

  • Dr. Caligari

    The matter of equality of men and women in the territory of the former Soviet Union and the other socialist states is not completely false or absurd.
    To this day, there are more female executives in Eastern Europe than in the West.
    Russian women could vote even before English, French or American ones could.
    The idea of creating economic equality by nominally giving everyone the same income and then allowing just some of them to buy more goods than others….
    This idea is more a reminder of racism, feudalism or aristocratic privilege than of the equality postulated by leftist theorists.

    Intellectually, this is definitely an absurdly ridiculous idea.

    Even a moron must be clear that this has nothing to do with equality!

  • staghounds

    She’s not an idiot, she’s a very clever and hard working ideologue who has climbed right up a very greasy pole. I don’t have the will, skill, or brains to get onto the short list for any national appointment, and I don’t expect anyone reading this does.

    She obviously believes that the “pay gap”, whatever that is, is a significant evil and she will use her powers to fix it.

    Stop pretending people aren’t exactly what they say and show that they are.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    I don’t have the will, skill, or brains to get onto the short list for any national appointment, and I don’t expect anyone reading this does.

    I think that a majority of the Samizdatistas and regular commenters are more intelligent than her.

    Leftists are well known for compensating for their lack of imagination and nuance with extraordinary surpluses of simple-minded passion and naivete, which they disguise as confidence and arrogance, respectively.

    There is a famous quote that I can’t find at the moment. Basically the idea is: “one ought not expect wealth/power from pursuit of justice/truth”.

    You are right about the “will” part. Good people here.

  • Chester Drawd

    Women got to vote in the USSR before the UK. That’s hamusing in its utter witlessness. Vote for what?

    If the USSR was such a beacon of equality, how is it that ended up entirely Russian men running it?

    It actually managed to get less “diverse” over time.

  • Russian women could vote even before English, French or American ones could. (Dr. Caligari, October 23, 2021 at 9:21 pm)

    Dr Caligari’s comment illustrates my point (by analogy), while trying to qualify it. 🙂

    Let us ignore factual errors and petty technicalities in the quoted sentence, and simply compare the voting of French women to the indisputably-earlier ‘voting’ of Russian women. Once she obtained it, a French woman’s vote was worth the same as a man’s, and when General de Gualle led it, the Gaullist party was (I believe) unique in the world amongst major political parties in having a natural, un-quota-contrived 50% female membership. By contrast, Conquest quotes a 1930s Russian newspaper headline “Women voters: a powerful force” to illustrate the propaganda farce of Soviet state media faking all the usual accoutrements of a western ‘election campaign’ to disguise that the election meant nothing.

    To summarise: women had equal voting rights in the USSR in the same sense that they had ‘equal pay’. The Soviet state could easily afford to equalise on paper what it had nullified in fact.

  • Tim Worstall

    On the special stores. I was there right at the end. Actually living/working there. Still food rationing when I arrived. Then the massive changes, privatisation, end of the ration system and the special shops.

    At which point what had been the special shop in the Lubyanka became just another private sector store. This wasn’t for top dog KGB types, but certainly no member of the general public got in there.

    So, anyway, it’s now private, competing on economic terms. And they strike a deal with Tesco. Who send over a couple of containers of this and that to test out the market. Sent it on spec. Of course the retailers sold the stuff and didn’t pay Tesco so that was the end of that idea.

    But two things hit home. One was that a couple of containers of Tesco stuff really raised the choice and quality on offer. The other was that this special store for the KGB types, the one actually in Lubyanka, was about the size of a small Tesco Metro (or whatever the small stores are called these days).

    It’s difficult to get over these days just how appallingly shit the Soviet food supply system was. There’s video of that Boris visit to the supermarket out there on YouTube. He’s not faking it by any means. Russians used to gawp in wonder at the quality and quantity of food available to Poles…..

  • Alan Peakall

    A slightly earlier record (1978/79) of contemporary Soviet life perceived by an outsider living as a local can be found in Russian Journal by Andrea Lee. I am moving house this quarter, but that is one volume which will certainly be migrating from my old bookshelves to my new ones. I just looked at the purchase date I had written inside the cover of my copy and fouund I acquired it 35 years ago yesterday.

  • Lee Moore

    Dr C : The idea of creating economic equality by nominally giving everyone the same income and then allowing just some of them to buy more goods than others….
    This idea is more a reminder of racism, feudalism or aristocratic privilege than of the equality postulated by leftist theorists.

    Actually the system sounds more like a low tech version of the developing Chinese Socal Credit system. Merit badges and black marks from Teacher are the true currency, and the folding stuff is decoration. Surprising that this idea should show up in Communist China, after the low tech version shows up in the Communist Soviet Union. I wonder what the connection might be. It’s on the tip of my tongue…..

    ….though practically, you might say that Communist China is really now Fascist China, making social credit a “right wing” idea.

    Or that fascism is really……no it can’t be that.

  • Plamus

    “Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best’.”

    This is blatant BS. There may have nominally been “equal pay for equal work”, but that definitely did not result in equal pay for men and women on average. The pay system evolved over time. During the early years, piecework was the norm, and men, being more competitive, received most of the Stalin-approved bonuses. Men became Stahanovites at much higher rates than women, because while you can mine 15 times your coal quota, it’s hard to milk 15 times the milk out of your assigned cows.

    This largely ended in the early sixties, but job categories remained. Engineers and scientists were paid roughly twice what a “low-qualified laborer” was paid, and those professions were dominated by men. There was legislation restricting women’s employment in hazardous jobs (which paid a hefty hazard bonus) and physically-demanding jobs, so they dominated education, retail, healthcare. White collar jobs paid less – Marx preferred the “productive” economy.

    None of this is controversial. There is a good bit of research on the gender pay gap in the USSR, and none of it concludes there was none; most of it estimates it in 30-40% range.

    So, no. When you start with the wrong premise, you reach the wrong conclusion.

  • Alan Peakall’s reference above is to the account of a young Afro-American woman who noticed more than Omarova did (not hard). One of the book’s reviewers at the link quoted a passage from it that reminded me of a quote I had thought of putting in my OP. ‘Report on Russia’ was written by Paul Winterton after he returned from several years as foreign correspondent in Moscow. (He feared that writing criticism of Russia could land him “in unwelcome political company”, but felt a duty to restore some balance to the very one-sided picture he had felt obliged to report while stationed there.) He observed that women in Russia are

    “expected not only to undertake the heaviest industrial tasks … but also to produce the largest possible number of children. This in Russia is called the equality of the sexes.”

  • Paul Marks

    “Russian women could vote before English, French and American women could”.

    I do not know if women could vote in Russian local council or Duma (Parliament) elections or not – but we are not talking about Russia we are talking about the SOVIET UNION, there were no real elections in the SOVIET UNION (at local or national level), so what what Dr C. is saying does not make any sense.

    By the way female local taxpayers could vote in British local council elections in the 19th century – voting in national elections started in two stages, 1918 and 1928.

    In the United States female property tax payers could vote in such States as New Jersey in 1700s – they lost the vote in the early 1800s, and women started to regain the vote in Wyoming (mid to late 19th century) followed by other States.

    I repeat Dr C. may be correct about women voting Russian local council and Duma (Parliament) elections in Imperial times (I do not know) – but to talk of “elections” in the SOVIET UNION is indeed “false and absurd” – these were farcical exercises.

    As for women in leadership roles in the various Marxist dictatorships – I am not aware of this. As far as I know all the Marxist dictators, and their chief enforcers, were male.

  • Paul Marks

    “But Paul – people, including women, who did not pay the Property Tax in the 19th century could not vote in British and American local elections”.

    And why should people who do not pay set the rate for people who do pay? “Of course they should” – perhaps, but this was not clear to people in the 19th century. Even most Radicals did not think that local councils should be controlled by people who did not pay anything – perhaps they should have been, but this was not the position at that time. A different view was taken at the time – and I would be astonished to hear that the local councils set up by Alexander II in the 1860s (or the Duma set up in the early 1900s) had many non taxpayers voting.

  • @Lee Moore:

    Perhaps a closer relation to the Soviet system of “We’re all equal and paid the same but some have access to better stuff” is Sumptuary laws which arose during the classical Greco-Roman period and were enforced until the early modern period. Adam Smith commented on them in The Wealth of Nations (not positively 🙂 )

    After all, what is the point of climbing the greasy pole if some rich merchant can afford better stuff than you?

  • Paul Marks

    National voting was not tied to paying the income tax in Britain or the United States – in the United States there was no national income tax till 1913 (although the State of Wisconsin had a State Income Tax – which was used to subsidise the city of Milwaukee, enabling that city to indulge in high city government spending without PAYING FOR IT).

    In the United Kingdom it is a myth to say (as so many do) that the income tax came with the Napoleonic Wars and never left. Sadly many people (including “history graduates”) do not know even basic history. The British income tax was abolished after the Napoleonic Wars under Prime Minister Liverpool (who also restored gold money) – it was brought back in the 1840s by Sir Robert Peel, NOT to “pay for wars” but to pay for his Free Trade policy (i.e. his policy of removing taxes on imports). More than a century before Sir Robert Walpole (the first “Prime Minister”) suggested getting rid of taxes on imports and replacing them with an internal “exercise” (Sales Tax) – but Parliament did not like that idea.

    Peel did indeed intend the income tax to be temporary – and his follower Gladstone almost got rid of income tax in 1874 (he had it down to about 1 or 2 per cent – had he won the election it would have gone, Disraeli also promised to get rid of the income tax, but Disraeli was a liar).

    The chief biographer of Gladstone was John Morley – a “Social Reformer” at first, but a man who came to have doubts about that ever bigger government policy. As John Morley rightly pointed out, judged by his own standards, Gladstone was a failure – Gladstone stood for limited government, and income tax (especially the “Progressive”, graduated, income tax – created in the 1890s, in imitation of PRUSSIA) meant ever bigger government.

    Disraeli? The statement attributed to him “Conservative men, Liberal measures”, a favourite of Richard Nixon (a man very similar to Disraeli) shows that he did not know what the “Conservative” (defender of tradition) means and did not know what the word “Liberal” (supporter of liberty) means – and also did not know that people are judged by WHAT THEY DO, not what they “identify as”.

    If Disraeli, Bismarck, Richard Nixon and Edward Heath are “Conservatives” then who needs Radicals? The road to the ever-bigger-state with a blue flag on it, is just as destructive as the road to the ever-bigger state with a red flag on it.

    Lord Liverpool (who Disraeli despised) was a conservative – Disraeli was not a conservative, and he was not a liberal either. Disraeli said things, and did things, in order to be popular and get-and-keep office – and that is about it.

    Gladstone (yes a failure, by the objective he set himself – but a man who did his honest best, which is all any man can do) regarded Disraeli as unprincipled, in both domestic and foreign policy – and Gladstone was correct, that is what Disraeli was – a waste-of-space.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I remember reading that President Biden hates the late Milton Friedman, much as students might dislike the crusty schoolteacher who marks down shoddy maths test results. The rage against the blunt facts of economics, such as the forces of supply and demand, are the wailings of infants.

    Unfortunately, as we see with the present Green movement and the demented drive for Net Zero, this magical thinking and hatred for facts of reality is everywhere.

    The fall of the Berlin Wall, and the supposed utter discredit of socialism and the former Soviet Union, appears a long time ago.

  • Paul Marks

    If the tradition one is defending is that of liberty – then one can be a conservative and a liberal at the same time, as the Old Whig Edmund Burke was (as Chief Justice Sir John Holt had been before Edmund Burke was born).

    People are taught that Burke supported “gradual and peaceful reform” – which leaves out the most important point, what DIRECTION that “reform” should be in.

    Edmund Burke supported changes that meant more liberty, in both one’s body and goods (property), a more limited and liberty respecting government – at home and overseas.

    If someone does not know that about Edmund Burke (and most academics, and those they teach, do NOT) then they have missed the most important thing (the central thing) about the person.

    “Gradual and peaceful change” in the direction of BIGGER government, LESS liberty, is not what Edmund Burke is about – indeed this whole “gradual and peaceful” thing is a Red Herring.

    It is a Red Herring because Edmund Burke was quite happy with very RAPID change (for example getting rid of all the “Engrossing” and “Forestalling” regulations with a single Act of Parliament), and quite prepared to use FORCE (VIOLENCE) – for example against the thieves and murderers of the French Revolution.

    So it is not “gradual” and it is not “peaceful” that sums up Edmund Burke – it is the DIRECTION of policy, the direction of policy being the the protection of the liberty (the lives and goods) of individual persons and private voluntary associations – against both the state and private criminals, at home and overseas.

    Rolling back the state – and rolling back private criminals.

    This is why when modern politicians (and academics) mention Edmund Burke in their writings and speeches my teeth go on edge – because I know politicians (and academics) are going to mess up the subject. As they also mess up everything else they speak and write about.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes J.P. – Mr Biden did hate Milton Friedman.

    The late Milton Friedman was a moderate (very moderate actually – contrary to his reputation) – but he held that government intervention (government spending and regulations) often did HARM rather than good.

    That simple, indeed obvious, point destroys the “Social Reform” (or the even more wrong headed “Social Justice”) doctrine – the very foundation of the left, going back from Joseph Biden to Woodrow “101 reasons to intervene in the economy” Wilson, and Richard Ely – and long before these dreadful people.

    The entire political position of Joseph Biden as a young man (long before he became the senile puppet he is today) is the doctrine that more government spending and more regulations “helps the poor” over time.

    And the doctrine of Joseph Biden is the opposite of the truth – as vast government spending and endless regulations, over time, undermine both the economy and society (the culture), and the people who are hurt most by that are THE POOR.

    “But Pope Leo XIII said…..” – the first paragraph of the once famous Encyclical of 1891 says that the masses have been impoverished by capitalism, and that morality had also been undermined by capitalism.

    Neither of these claims was true. On the contrary people in 1891 were better (not worse) off than they had been in 1791 or 1691 or 1591 or 1491, and the idea that morality was worse in 1891 than it had been in previous centuries is utterly absurd. If anything people were far LESS cruel and perverse than they had been in previous centuries.

    A document whose basic claims (laid out in the first paragraph) are false, is unlikely to offer good policy advice – and the encyclical of 1891 is not an exception to that general rule. Although I am certainly NOT saying that Pope Leo XIII would support the utterly insane level of government spending and regulations that exists now – his position was vastly more moderate. The present situation would have horrified him as the road to bankruptcy – both economic and moral (cultural) bankruptcy, which it is.

    Even if Mr Biden was a well man, he could not repeal the laws of reality – and the laws of reality doom his experiment in unlimited government.

  • Stonyground

    From what I can tell from following a US blogger, the wheels seem to be falling off the American economy in quite a big way. Lefty governments don’t usually manage to screw things up quite as quickly as this. Maybe the current administration is partly a victim of circumstances beyond their control but things seem to be going quite badly there.

  • Paul Marks

    Stonyground – what is happening in the United States goes back many decades, but yes the Biden-Harris regime (produced by the rigged election of November 2020) had accelerated the process of destruction.

    But remember this is an international thing – the United Kingdom is also on the path of vast government spending, funded by money-created-from-nothing by government (Bank of England) and the Credit Bubble bankers – who have nothing in common with honest money lenders (who deal in Real Savings – not money-created-by-book-keeping-tricks).

    The present system in the Western World can not last – and it has nothing to do with the free market, or Capitalism that is based on Real Savings (the actual sacrifice of consumption so that cash-money, gold or silver or whatever commodity the money is, may be saved) and investment in productive industry.

    But yes, the United States is a extreme example of the forces of destruction at work – people who think the United States is a “safe haven” or the Dollar (a fiat currency with no connection to reality) is a “safe haven” are utterly mistaken.

    Get away from the cities – especially cities that are dependent on banking and financial services.