November 20, 2017

Shorn of Violence and Coercion? The Soviet Model of Economic Development

Writing about web page https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21731113-even-today-some-see-it-way-kick-start-industrialisation-what-there

One of the joys of your own blog is that there is no editor to reject your contribution. (The corresponding downside risk is that there is no one to tell you not to be so bloody stupid.)

Last week, I wrote a letter to The Economist. I responded to a column entitled "What there is to learn from the Soviet economic model: Even today, some see it as a way to kick-start industrialisation." The column correctly pointed out that the Soviet way of doing things incurred heavy human and social costs. Nonetheless I felt it missed something. I wrote and said so, but my letter did not make it into this week's issue. Exploiting the prerogative of the blogger, I publish it here:

Sir

Jawaharlal Nehru asked whether the Soviet economic system could be “shorn of violence and coercion” (What there is to learn from the Soviet economic model, Nov. 9, 2017). Your correspondent correctly answers “No,” but, like Nehru, fails to grasp the reason. Nehru tried to understand the Soviet economy as a civilian project for economic growth and development. This was his mistake. The Soviet economy’s quantitative controls, priorities, and shortages, were the features of a war economy. The Bolsheviks’ first model was the German economy of sacrifice and mass mobilization for the Great War. Lenin expected to improve on the German outcome by dispensing with private property and the rule of law. The Soviet economy’s comparative advantage lay in supplying the means of national power in the age of mass armies. This advantage was revealed not in global market shares but in the global balance of power, where the Soviet Union was much more successful than its second-rate economy would have predicted. That is why the idea of it retains appeal for Russian nationalists in times of international tension.

Yours sincerely

Mark Harrison


- No comments Not publicly viewable


Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

I am a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick. I am also a research associate of Warwick’s Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, and of the Centre for Russian, European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Birmingham. My research is on Russian and international economic history; I am interested in economic aspects of bureaucracy, dictatorship, defence, and warfare. My most recent book is One Day We Will Live Without Fear: Everyday Lives Under the Soviet Police State (Hoover Institution Press, 2016).



Economics Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Mark talks about why and how he blogs on Warwick’s Knowledge Centre.

Search this blog

Blog archive

Loading…

Tags

Most recent comments

  • Prof. Harrison: Thank you so much for your very kind, complete and prompt response (and on a bank ho… by Froghole on this entry
  • @Froghole I understand your perspective, but I don't agree. You suggest two things (1) EU membership… by Mark Harrison on this entry
  • Many thanks for this excellent piece. I don't deny that Brexit will have a corrosive effect. However… by Froghole on this entry
  • I agree. In the longer term, Brexit will raise the prospects of both Scottish independence and a uni… by Mark Harrison on this entry
  • Great paper, and well written for a general audience. I agree that trust underpins all long–term rel… by Rick Berino on this entry
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIX