Something funny happened to Russia on its way from socialism to capitalism. A bunch of politically-connected "oligarchs" managed to subvert the process while making themselves hyper-rich. In a fascinating paper, Serguey Braguinsky asks " whether oligarchic capitalism represents a transition stage that will eventually lead to a true market economy and political democracy, or whether it is a blind alley that can only lead to another inefficient socioeconomic system." He is not optimistic. A major contribution of the paper is its database of almost 300 oligarchs covering a period of ten years. Among its conclusions: the newer generation of oligarchs, who had little connections to the old nomenklatura system and who could have produced a true entrepreneurial class, ended up engaging in rent-seeking and asset-stripping instead, becoming virtually indistinguishable from the old kind. UPDATE: A couple of readers have taken me to task for using the word "funny" in the opening sentence. As they correctly point out, what has happened to Russia in this respect is hardly funny. I apologize for my poor choice of words.