By Ion Lacatus (Bucharest)
The Soviet Union produced the fastest submarine, the biggest submarine, the largest plane, the largest helicopter, the biggest man-made explosion. It was the first to put a satellite in orbit, a man in space and build the first space station.
The Soviet Union did not produce tampons (or not enough anyway). They made a lot of formidable tanks and a few bad cars and they had more secret agents then waiters (even if we count as waiters those who were actually both).
This is not specific to Russia/Soviet Union but to the system.
Communism failed not because it mistreated its capitalists but because it mistreated its labor.
In case you didn’t get it yet, the state WAS the capitalist. It doesn’t matter that it was not called “Joe” or “Jim” but the “socialist republic”. The state was making the investment, doing the hiring and firing, paying the wages, making the profit or loss. Attempting to eliminate the greedy capitalist, the state became one. Trying to fit the capitalist’s shoes it inherited almost all the characteristics and in particular the greed. It was the infinite monopoly controlling not just one good or service but all of them. The same entity was a monopsony on the labor market, the central bank, the lawmaker and the cop.
If you want a suggestive metaphor think of the rich bad guy in American westerns. He owns everything and everybody works for him including the judge and the sheriff.
Producing but not consuming is characteristic of a slave not a citizen and at some point we collectively had enough.
After the collapse? Well …
In the early ‘90s I had to read a paper written by one American economist (required reading at the university) and to this day I regret not keeping the article (or at least remembering the author). At the time we thought it was funny and we were joking about it and we toyed with a particular phrase that I still remember (the funny part at least):
“… soft communist governments lacking the legitimacy to propose and the authority to impose austerity measures …”
I keep wondering ever since just who was the one “lacking authority to enforce austerity”: Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? Or maybe our beloved Ceausescu (at that time just recently departed).
I’ll probably never get an answer to that question but in the end that was just theory.
And while me and other idiots like me argued the philosophical aspects of our countries plight, the wise guys (domestic and foreign) robbed the place blind.