Kleptocracy - Rule by thieves


Kleptocracy, or “rule by thieves,” arises when a country’s government  begin to systematically steal from public funds on a vast scale. They do so by undermining democracy and the legal system, gaining control over vital economic assets (usually the banking and natural-resource sectors), and ultimately amassing unimaginable wealth.


In early 2004, the German anti-corruption NGO (Non-governmentmental Organization), Transparency International, released a list of what it believed to be the ten most self-enriching leaders in the previous two decades.  In order of amount allegedly stolen in US Dollars, they were:

Former Indonesian President Suharto ($15 billion – $35 billion)

Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos (at least $10 billion by 1986 equivalent to about $21.6 billion in 2014 dollars

Former Congolese President Mobutu Sese Seko ($5 billion)

Former Nigerian Head of State Sani Abacha ($2 billion – $5 billion)

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević ($1 billion)

Former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier ("Baby Doc") ($300 million – $800 million)

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori ($600 million)

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko ($114 million – $200 million)

Former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán ($100 million)

Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada ($78 million – $80 million)


Russia under Putin is seen as a present day, prime example of Kleptocracy

Current estimates of Putin's wealth range from $40 billion up to $200 billion

As political science professor Karen Dawisha (author of Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia) recently put it, kleptocrats manage to nationalize risk while privatizing profits.


Donald Trump a Kleptocrat?


Some are convinced that he is based on his actions to date (including ongoing unwillingness to reveal tax return) and his financial status, including his financial interests in many countries  (as President he can do things that benefit his foreign investments).  He is not putting his financial affairs into a blind trust.  He is appointing major businessmen to his cabinet, including a nominated "friend" of Russia and Putin, Rex Tillerson.  He and GOP members of Congress are attempting to block and/or eliminate ethics investigations and investigators.  His prior financial dealings, making money at all costs, including taking advantage of bankruptcy laws and fake businesses (e.g., Trump University).   And then there is his openly stated favorable impression of Putin.


Time will tell how much of a kleptocrat Trump is, or isn't, but since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, there are sound reasons to expect he will turn out to be a kleptocrat.  We just don't know how much of a kleptocrat he will be... 


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