Tuesday, June 22, 2010

American Oligarch

New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov didn't become a billionaire on the up-and-up, in a strictly capitalist system, as this piece in the New York Times points out. Like other Russian "oligarchs," he made his money the post-Soviet way, by manipulating a corrupt "system" from the inside to line his pockets. The way he made his fortune wouldn't be legal in the United States, as the story points out. Oligarchs reaped unfair advantage from a too-cozy relationship with government.

The troubling irony in his continuing "success story," as the foreign owner of an American professional sports team, is how adroitly he worked the "system" in New York City to similar advantage. Prokhorov has plenty of cash with which to hire top coaches and talent -- no objection there -- but he will also profit from taxpayer funding of his new arena in Brooklyn. Other government help for Prokhorov "includes eminent domain, major subsidies, a naming-rights giveaway and bad, undemocratic urban planning," reports The Times.

Prokhorov is working the system in New York City the same way he worked the system in the former Soviet Union, by using public resources and government power to get his way and enrich himself. That the two systems are so similar, and similarly corrupt, should be deeply troubling to Americans.

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