Ukraine’s Own Goal

Why, two decades after communism ended and Ukraine gained its independence, does the country remain mired in economic torpor and authoritarian politics? When a country like Ukraine develops slowly and remains poor, it is not because of natural disaster or resource constraints, but rather bad policies pursued by bad governments.

KYIV – Politics and sports are often an incendiary mix, as the controversy now swirling around the Euro 2012 football championship, to be co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, demonstrates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and other European Union leaders have said that they will boycott matches held in Ukraine, owing to the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other opposition figures.

Why, two decades after communism ended and Ukraine gained its independence, does the country remain mired in economic torpor and an authoritarian politics that has aroused such ire in Europe? When a country like Ukraine develops slowly and remains poor, it is not because of natural disaster or resource constraints. Bad policies pursued by bad governments are to blame.

Contrary to what many Western economists think, the worst economic breakdowns are not the result of free markets gone haywire, but of excessive concentration of political power. To insure against the worst human and economic catastrophes, limits to political power must be introduced and a system of checks and balances maintained.

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