Monday, February 9, 2015

The Inside Take on Elvira Nabiullina

Elvira Nabiullina and Vladimir Putin
By Robert Wenzel

A Russian economist is visiting San Francisco. I'll call her K.

I had the opportunity to meet up with K this weekend and we discussed the Russian economy, Vladimir Putin and Russian central banker Elvira Nabiullina.

K attended and studied economics at Moscow State University at the same time that Nabiullina did.

She told me that Nabiullina is very smart. I asked her how was it that Nabiullina was named head of the Bank of Russia. I said,, "Is she political?"

K said, "No."

"She is loyal," K told me. "Putin only puts people around him that are loyal."

I mentioned that I was surprised that in a Bloomberg profile it was reported that  Nabiullina studied the works of the Austrian school economist Robert Higgs.

I said that Higgs was a very good, important economist, but he is not that well known even in the United States. She shrugged and  didn't seem surprised that Nabiullina would be familiar with his work.

I pushed a bit more and said, "Do you really think that  Nabiullina would know the work of Higgs?"

K replied, "Nabiullina studied under Yevgeny Yasin. He is considered the father of liberal economic reforms in Russia. Those that studied under Yasin, like Nabiullina, were all exposed to Western economists. They read them all. She would have been exposed to Higgs."

K herself seemed quite familiar with Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, but when I mentioned the famous Polish communist economist  Oskar Lange, she did not seem to recognize the name.

I asked K about price inflation in Russia, she said it is significantly under reported in official government statistics. She said it was possibly as high as 50%.

I asked her about Putin and his popularity in Russia. She said that she travels in a liberal intellectual circle that does not support Putin. She said his strongest support is among the lazy-poor, who want the free food and free medical care that is available to the poor under Putin.

I asked her who she would prefer as president of Russia instead of Putin, she said that there is no one that would be any good.

I asked her how much freedom there was in Russia to start and run a business. She said, "We are able to own private property now and Russians are free to open any business. The business freedom in Russia is the same as it is in the United States."

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics


  1. One of my favorite times watching Book TV was the three hour interview with Robert Higgs discussing his books. As for her attitude toward Putin, replace Putin with Obama: his support is among the lazy poor who want free food and medical care; no else would be any good either. In other words, politicians are all bad in the same way.

  2. For the sake of argument, lets say Putin understands the value of the free market. This doesn't mean he could simply implement radical reforms in Russia in that direction. The results of the Soviet Union and Gorbachev are relevant. Radical change would undermine his own power. The ideal solution is to let the world continue thinking Russia is 2nd rate and backward at the same time as quietly introducing free market reforms. Given how well he has handled various political footballs with Obama and others, the guy appears to be pretty savvy. It wouldn't surprise me if this is exactly what is happening.