This is the first of the two issues of Otechestvennye zapiski devoted to the problem of property. Subtitled “an attempt at rationalization”, it presents the reader with diverse approaches to the problem, ranging from Greek philosophy to modern economic science, to polemical articles that argue over the system of property rights best for Russia.
Grigory Sapov, in “Property: A Condition of Human Activities and a Legal Category,” considers property from the point of view of praxeology, a general theory of human activity. He concludes that private property is an indispensable condition of human freedom. Using ancient Greece as an example, he shows how limitations on property rights restrict freedom of the individual in ways that cannot be compensated for by the legal sophistication or practical efficiency of wellwishing legislative measures.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in “On The Ultimate Justification of The Ethics of Private Property,” a chapter from The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (1993), analyzes the views of Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist and major representative of the European rationalist tradition. Mises claimed that economics was the original form of anthropological activity. Hoppe shares Mises view that human “economic” activity is a form of social behavior that is fundamentally pragmatic and can be explained logically. Hoppe adds what he thinks is the missing element of Mises thought, a rational justification of the libertarian position on private property on ethical grounds.
Alexander Buzgalin argues that “Private Property is Out of Date.” He observes that as the old industrial economies based upon mass production recede in importance, new forms of property have come to play a dominant role in the global economy. Cultural values are now considered economic resources. The bases of the new “knowledge economy” are “universal resources.” Access to this “knowledge” does not need to be restricted, and it should not be considered private property.
This issue of OZ includes the report “Christianity and Labor”, which Sergei Bulgakov addressed to a Council of the Russian Orthodox Church held in Moscow on February 9, 1918. Preserved in the State Archive of the Russian Federation, the report was his personal attempt to present to the assembled Church positions that it might adopt on the issues of labor, property and socialism.
Leonid Siukiyainen writes in “Moslem Property Law: The Legal Rationalization of Religious Postulates” that a notion of goods and chattels is at the center of Moslem views on ownership. Under Islam, Allah is the ultimate owner of all worldly goods; while ownership is the Sharia-endorsed link between goods and man. In this system, the aim of ownership is not the accumulation of property, but the use of property for one’s own needs and for aiding others. These religious and ethical principles are expressed legally in religious restrictions on ownership. They echo principles outlined in modern theories on the social function of property, and are enshrined in the laws of Islamic countries. Currently, the Moslem conception of ownership figures prominently in Islamic approaches to economics and law.
“The Property Right” by Rostislav Kapelyushnikov reviews modern scientific ideas on property rights as authorized behavioral norms and a set of partial powers. It also analyzes the complete spectrum of liberal private property rights, as well as the problem of the economic efficiency of different forms of ownership and of specific forms of property rights.
Douglass C. North’s “Lecture in Memory of Alfred Nobel” is the prolegomena to a general theory of economic dynamics that focuses on the historical development of economic systems. North undertakes a critical revision of neoclassical economics, targeting several of its central premises, including assumptions about the static nature of economic systems and the supposedly rational behavior of market agents.
“Property in the X-Matrix” by Svetlana Kirdina considers property relations in Russia in the light of the new sociological theory of institutional matrices. In most modern societies, market relations are the main element of economic organizations,. In Russia, however, as a result of the particularities of Russian history and of its current situation, this is not the case. Kirdina illustrates the link between the economic, political and ideological aspects of property relations, and speculates about the future of property in Russia.
The main theme of an interview with Alexander Auzan, President of the Institute for the National Project “Social Contract,” is whether it is possible to create a civil society in Russia and what the consequences its creation would be for the economy in general and for property relations in particular. Having gained a foothold in Russia № 6 2004 five centuries ago, the so-called “vertical contract,” which delegates the right to deal with all vital national problems to a central executive authority, has never seen any essential change. Auzan argues that in spite of its history, Russia currently possesses all of the prerequisites for the establishment of a new “horizontal contract,” that is a democratic, public agreement regarding political decision-making. He assigns the key role in this process to the subjective, personal factor in Russian politics.
In “An Oasis of the Closed Economy,” Vladimir Mylov analyzes the legal status of mineral resources as public property in Russia. The article proposes that government regulation and control of the mineral sector of the economy should be abolished as soon as possible and that market relations in that sector be encouraged. The stated objective of existing legislation – the securing equal rights for all users of mineral resources – has not been met, while current administrative practices leave considerable room for official mismanagement and abuse. According to the author, the state ought to assume the role of a mediator, arbitrating conflicts between private investors and maintaining a healthy balance between public and private interests. He thinks it expedient to privatize mineral resources, although he acknowledges that it will probably not happen soon.
In “Russian wealth,” Alexander Goryanin discusses Richard Pipes’s revisionist interpretation of Russian history, focusing on Pipes’s linkage of Russia’s relative poverty with the absence of property rights typical of the wealthier countries of “the West.” Russian politicians and economists of both right and left .seem to have accepted Pipes’ controversial claim that the idea of private property is foreign to Russia. The present article is not a review of Pipes’s works but an attempt to deal with what Goryanin regards as the mythic, ahistorical foundation of his theories.
Russian government agencies have been more active lately in promoting public-private economic partnerships on a national scale. Vladimir Varnavsky, however, claims that the civility of these partnerships face numerous challenges, all linked to the lack of clear guidelines for the management of public property, the weakness of civil society, and rampant corruption. Varnavsky also points to the fact that the intensity of these relationships between businesses and the government is growing and that the scale is comparable to that which existed during the privatization process of the 1990s.
Country of OZ Section
“Konigsberg — Zimmerbud. 1945–1947” by Valery Igarsky contains the reminiscences of a little boy brought to East Prussia by his parents in the first postwar years. They include memories of children’s games with toys other than those children typically play with, of German friends, of Russian friends, and of the parents who taught their son how to love both.
The essay “The Performance of the Guerilla Oath in Polar Conditions, the Highest Price of Victory” won the second prize in the historical contest “Man in History. 20th-century Russia.” It is devoted to the guerillas of the polar regions during World War II. Like other entries in the contest, it is based on an impressive collection of newly discovered documents and facts about a movement that has been suppressed in our historiography. Its author, Andrei Menshenin, a highschool student from Monchegorsk, tells the story of people who crossed the Soviet border as many as 26 times and, in doing so, sheds light on their motivation and character.
Tatyana Nefedova’s “The Plot. An Ordinary Story of Yet Another War that thee Bureaucracy Wages against the People” is about an attempt to privatize the writer’s own dacha and a small plot of land near Moscow. Started last August, this unequal battle with the bureaucracy continues to this day.
Invitation to Discuss
“The Doomsday and the New Assassins” by Vadim Bakusev analyzes the causes of modern terrorism, stressing the symbolic nature and transcendent motives of terrorist action. It argues that, regardless of the terrorists’ conscious aims and attitudes, terror is an unconscious protest against the Western way of life.
Under the title, «How our ancestors took baths», Sergei Karp presents a document (1771) from the archive of the Golitsyn princes that illustrates with extraordinary precision how people in those days regarded baths and answers the questions who, how and with what goal they took baths. The document also provides insight into eighteenth century Russian views about science and medicine.