Gleaned from here:
“We have a saying; ‘once compromised, forever controllable.’ At the top they are convinced that a corrupted subordinate will remain loyal because he is allowed to steal, and he will always fear being exposed as a criminal or thrown out of the feeding-trough …
“The tragedy is that this is a false idea of stability, one that undermines the effective work of government and brings only personal stability for those at the top.”
The question by cynics is “Is there any other form of government today?” and if so “How does it work?”. One way to think about this question is the form of favors granted. In the old Soviet union, as in the pre Enlightenment kingdoms, the favors were prestige and perquisites. I very much doubt that Stalin had a secret bank account with millions stashed away. He had power and all the things that money could buy. So did those near him.
The modern Russian system sounds to me like the same plan with the convenience of money in place of the awkward perquisite system. The mechanism is the easy opportunity to cook the books and the favor from above is to look the other way. This explains the opinion commonly expressed in Russia that corruption is what holds the government together.
Russia is certainly not the only current manifestation of this pattern but the internal cynical commentators speak the same intellectual language as the west.
Recent internal notes from China describe the same pattern. The pattern seems to fit the organization of quite a few African governments today. Indeed is there any difference in this phenomenon and the properties that the ranking by Transparency International organizes?
The next question is whether the countries near the good end of that list actually escape from the pattern and if so how—what is the nature of other stable power structures?
Democracy certainly challenges the pattern—does democracy thwart it? The cynic asks why people spend so much money getting elected. The counter cynic asks “Is that money well spent?”. Is the money to be seen as pushing a candidate, or pushing an attitude toward social patterns, such as economic and personal values? Is there a difference—one seems cynical; the other merely cheerleading.