Questions About Ukraine

March 4th, 2014   Submitted by Seth King

ukraineI recently asked Daily Anarchist author Roman Skaskiw several questions concerning Ukraine. I had hoped he would write an article on the subject, but instead he proposed me simply publishing the question/answer format. Enjoy!

Is the “new government” collecting taxes? If so, from whom?

The old, corrupt system is still in place and as functional (ie disfuntional) as it has ever been. 50-80% of Ukraine’s economy is underground. I’ve heard of a $20,000 tax bill being settled with a $100 bribe. But before you rejoice at the ease of tax evasion in Ukraine, re-read my article about Libertarianism being a first world problem. Such evasion is only possible in a low-trust society, and you’ll inevitably have along with it weaker property rights and less division of labor.

I know that the Berkut got disbanded. What about the prison guards? I mean, who is paying their salaries? Are they working for free?

Berkut got disbanded. A photo circulated of some of them getting Russian passports. Good riddance, I say. So far, Ukraine’s finances are still intact, so prison guards and gov’t workers are getting paid.

In Lviv, where I live, the local police got disbanded. I’ve blogged about this on http://romaninukraine.com. Volunteers in reflective vests patrol the streets and even guard the Russian consulate. According to at least one news report, crime has dropped.

Are the Russians, or any government, pumping foreign aid money into Ukraine to keep the prisons, etc. running?

Not yet. So far the money is still flowing, but this problem is coming. Yatzenyuk, the new PM appointed by Ukraine’s congress, is exactly the sort of spineless, sleazy, two-faced narcissist who I imagine the world bank loves to work with. He’s negotiating a deal with them.

What has been your experience with the Hryvnia? They say the value has dropped. That’s in relation to other currencies, or are you also experiencing price inflation yourself? Do groceries cost twice as much?

During most of the protests (which started all the way back in November) the exchange rate to the dollar climbed from 8 to about 8.5. Then after the February 20th violence and the toppling of the government, it jumped to 11-something. It has since settled back to below 10.

I think the perception of a world bank loan stabilized it. Temporary relief purchased at the price of long-term servitude.

The best thing for Ukrainians would be to allow the centralized, corrupt ineffective bureaucracies to collapse. Sadly, the world bank’s man in charge is not going to let that happen. I’m trying to spread good ideas. I have a second television appearance on Saturday.

How is your Bitcoin meetup going? Have you used Bitcoin at all in Ukraine lately? Are people starting to catch on? Are people really struggling with ATM’s that only put out $100 per day, or whatever?

There isn’t a panic yet, but as a precaution I’ve advised all my friend to keep a store of essentials and to not delay any purchases they were planning on making. Ukrainians are accustomed to bank holidays and crises, consequently, it’s a cash economy. The withdrawal restriction only affects one bank, albeit, Ukraine’s largest.

If I were a tax evader in Ukraine should I be at all happy? I mean, let’s say I had to live in fear of not having paid taxes in 5 years. Is there a chance that I’d be home free now that the government is toppled?

This question speaks to such an American perspective it’s hard to address. The tax collection system, like most systems is corrupt and broken. Violating the law does not mean that agents of the state will dutifully apply the letter of law in your prosecution. It means that agents of the state, rival businesses, opportunists and whomever else have a leverage over you through which they can exploit you to their fullest ability.

Living in a lower trust society has really made me question that Rothbardianism or property rights alone are sufficient for a successful society. I express this skepticism in many of my essays on DA, including “Libertarianism is a First World Problem.” American libertarians aren’t aware of the norms they inherited from the Enlightenment. The existence of these norms are the exception of the world, not its rule.

Do you feel like you could “get away” with more now? I mean, if you smoked a joint in public, what’s likely to happen? Before you would have been arrested. But now what? A shrug of the shoulders or would there be any police to come and seize you?

Pretty much everything I wanted to do was already legal, including enjoying a hot cup of wine as I walk through L’viv beautiful streets in the winter. People here look down on drug use, so smokers keep it at home. I’m not aware of any prosecution, though I haven’t paid much attention either.

There are no police in L’viv right now, but there’s societal pressure to keep everything orderly. It’s beautiful. Moving. These are such good people and history has treated them so unfairly. I have no desire to push the boundaries of their decency to see what I can “get away with.” Lviv is consciously resisting the 70-year-old Kremlin propaganda about all the residents being Nazis. Sadly, it has been echoed by some of the libertarian press.

I’m really trying to understand what it would be like for an anarchist in times like these. I can totally see some sort of thing happening here in the states… eventually. And while anarchists haven’t toppled the government in Ukraine, are anarchists “benefiting” at all from the government having been toppled?

I bet we could have an interesting discussion on what an anarchist society would look like. I suspect that I differ from most of your readers in that I imagine an anarchist society to be one of very many strict rules enforced by voluntary segregation. I imagine many small groups testing various behavioral norms, and most city state eventually choosing something beyond simply the NAP as a condition of residency.

8 Responses to “Questions About Ukraine”

  1. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been interested in Roman’s thoughts on the recent Ukraine stuff. Thanks Seth!

  2. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    What are the thoughts in Ukraine about war with Russia? Are the Ukrainians feeling the pressure? Or is all this shit floating across fedbook misinformation?

    • Hi Michael. Sorry for the delay in answering your Question.

      Thoughts on war with Russia. Well, so far the invasion of Crimea has claimed the life of one Ukrainian soldier, and wounded several more.

      It’s certainly on people’s minds. 40,000 Ukrainians volunteered for a defense force after the military announced, quite pathetically, that only 6,000 soldiers were combat ready.

      Life hasn’t really been disrupted though. Businesses and services all continue to function.

      I can’t imagine Putin would try to take Kyiv. It would turn into another Sarajevo. And it took even the Soviet Union 10 years to stamp out armed resistance in western Ukraine after WWII.

      The most realistic questions are 1) whether Putin will hold Crimea, and 2) whether he’ll make a move for some Eastern provinces.

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for secession. But what happened in Crimea was aggression and fraud. “Stay with Ukraine” wasn’t an option on the ballot. Polls have been taken regularly for the last 20 years and have consistently showed that about 40% of Crimeans want to join Russia. A huge minority.

      In the eastern Donetsk province, it’s about 30%. Here’s a great eye-witness account of the protests in Donetsk during which two pro-Ukrainian demonstrators (both natives) were stabbed to death:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gL_tBcg8lc

  3. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    The toppling of a state by another state does not result in Anarchy. It can create a worse situation because the state that takes over could be more oppressive than the former state. i.e. North Vietnam when it overthrew South Vietnam. Some Anarchists cheered when South Vietnam fell to what was North Vietnam at the time. However there was nothing good to cheer about because the North Vietnamese rulers were far from being Anarchists. That’s why they were rulers; they were not Anarchists. They were statists. The fact is when Anarchy exists it seems to be a temporary situation. Historically, a state has steeped in to fill the vacuum when there has been a brief Anarchy.

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

      Vietnam was a complicated affair. The Southern Regimes weren’t exactly nice.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I don’t see why Vietnam was brought into this discussion at all. There were no anarchists in Vietnam. And any “anarchists” who were watching were likely armchair anarcho-socialists in the west.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        The reason I brought up Vietnam is because there were Anarchists who
        celebrated the fall of South Vietnam because is was the fall of a state.
        My point was that the fall of a state by another state does nor result in Anarchy.
        the state of what was North Vietnam was more oppressive than the former state
        of South Vietnam. There was no reason for an Anarchist to celebrate the fall
        of the former state of South Vietnam.

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          In that case I think you’re preaching to the choir. I don’t think anybody here is celebrating the fall of the old guard Ukrainian government as a victory for anarchism.