The USSR Did Not Fail

It’s commonly argues that the USSR failed. I would argue that it did not fail at all; instead, it was a spectacular success. For instance, in pre-revolutionary Russia there were famines and starvation deaths, often countless ones, every single year. There was never enough food to go around. Safe drinking water was rare outside the cities. Hardly anyone had electricity.
Soon after the USSR was established, everyone had safe drinking water. The whole country was wired up. And after the collectivization famines of the early 1930’s, full food security was achieved for the first time in Russian memory. And Soviet citizens at the end of the USSR’s reign ate just as well as West Europeans, as noted in a previous post.
It depends on your definition of success.
In fact, since the return of capitalism, agricultural production of fruits, vegetables and livestock collapsed. Production of all these things was much higher in the USSR.
This is what I would call a “market failure.” Apparently the reason for this market failure is that farming has been privatized, and the oligarchs with all the money in Russia now do not see agriculture as a profitable medium, hence they refuse to invest in it as there’s no money in it. And the banks don’t want to loan for farmers as they see it as a risky loan.
The majority of farm production is now occurring on small family farms, not large concerns.

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0 thoughts on “The USSR Did Not Fail”

  1. I never took economics beyond Freshman 101, but looking back, it does seem that the models they used assumed that the effects of economic policies would be confined within the economic arena. I suspect this is a premise of laissez-faire capitalism (it sure seems to be a premise of Ayn Rand) that economic losers would still work to maintain a civil society and to help the economy keep moving along seamlessly.
    If a nation’s (or regions) economics are functioning so badly that people fear for their very lives, the effects become societal breakdown through crime and revolution. I suspect this is why the modern Republican party flogs “family values” so much. If they really thought family values were so important, they would try to imitate the jobs security people felt in the 1950s, which empowered a record marriage rate and baby boom. But Republicans look back at that time as a kind of golden era of values, while demeaning the economic base that it made it possible. The modern free agent economy they love, encourages free agent lifestyles that they hate.
    They need to decide if values are important enough to design an economy that encourages them. Or it they’re just a tool intended to prevent to effects of their pro-wealthy economics from spilling into non-economic effects.

    1. Why not? Reproduction itself thrives under dire economic conditions. Certainly not the physical and emotional well being and happiness of children who have already been hatched, but that is all social conservatives care about.
      I’ve also heard conservative pundits (jokingly) gloating that the increasing unemployment rate and rising cost of day care has forced women to stay home with their children.

    1. Yeah but they had the money to buy the food from us. Before there simply was not enough to go around. Wheat production has collapsed after the fall of the USSR. It was much higher under the USSR.

  2. Well the rational argument against socialist economics is that the state can not predict future inventories of consumer goods. The needs of individuals tend to vary & change very rapidly. No bureaucracy at this point can predict those future needs & supply the consumer goods necessary to satisfy them. This is why the Soviet Union was not very good at provide consumer goods like cars, washing machines, & other middle class perks. They were able to manufacture consumer goods, just not mass produce them very rapidly.
    Now socialist societies tend to be very good at providing basic services like clean water, roads, and healthcare. In capitalist societies the states usually provide services & manage the infrastructure. This is because their is no short term profit in those economic activities. No corporation or entrepreneur is going to invest capital into a project that will not make them money. Also both entrepreneurs & corporations do not always invest in the most economically efficient services & infrastructure.
    For example railroads. There is this idea that railroads became popular in the United States due to cutting transportation costs. However, according to economic historian Robert Fogel in the book “Railroads and American Economic Growth”, corporations did not invest in railroads because they were efficient.Fogel showed that the United States could have easily relied on improved roads & canals to cut transportation costs. The railroad was simply favored over other technologies due to being very profitable to corporations & entrepreneurs.
    Fogel made the point that states traditionally supported infrastructure like improved roads & canals. States could have easily cut transportation costs & promote economic efficiency without the need of market forces. This idea that you need the free market to provide basic economic services & infrastructure is silly.
    The real argument between capitalism & socialism is how much you value consumer goods & not quality of life. The truth is that consumerism & not capitalism won the cold war. Many middle class Russians became entranced with American consumerism. This led them to reject the Soviet system. However, the Soviet system simply was not that bad. It was infinitely better than the type of society that emerged in the nineties with shock therapy.
    This is the big problem with economic debates about the Soviet Union. Most moderate liberals, conservatives & libertarians act like the Soviet Union was Somalia or Ethiopia. The truth is the Soviet Union was a modern society that just did not have as many toys like the West. It is one thing to criticize an economic system for its’ failures & another to pretend never achieved anything at all. Often debates about Soviet Union descend into this anti-socialist hyperbole, which ignores the basic economic activities of states in even very capitalist societies like ours.
    The Soviet Union would have survived if the Soviet middle class had lower expectations. I think socialist societies tend to be better in the long run. They are better achieving farsighted goals due to the lack of a short term profit motive. However, the drug of consumerism attempts the masses to accept capitalism. In the United States, the acceptance of the last thirty years of neoliberalism is based on cheap consumer goods. You could call it Wal-Mart syndrome. Capitalist societies survive & spread because of cheap consumer goods. Without them, people would likely reject capitalism overtime.

  3. I have questions, not answers.
    Why did it collapse in the end? Didn’t its collapse involve some kind of failure?
    How different would things have been if it wasn’t for such high rates of defence spending that consumed large parts of the economy?
    Were people satisfied with the communist regime and if not, why?
    What do you think was bad about the soviet union?

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