Democracy often seems bureaucratic with high ‘transaction costs’, while autocracies seem to get things done at lower cost. This column discusses historical research that refutes this. It finds empirical support from Soviet archives for a political security/usability tradeoff. Regimes that are secure from public scrutiny tend to be more costly to operate.
Mark Harrison, 15 January 2014
Anton Cheremukhin, Mikhail Golosov, Sergei Guriev, Aleh Tsyvinski, 10 October 2013
Soviet Russia’s industrialisation was a pivotal episode in the 20th century, and economic historians have spent decades debating the role of Stalin’s policies in bringing it about. This column argues that Stalin’s industrialisation was disastrous even in purely economic terms. The brutal policy of collectivisation devastated productivity, both in manufacturing and in agriculture. The massive welfare losses in the years 1928-40 outweighed any hypothetical gains from Stalin’s policies after 1940, and Russia would have been better off under a continuation of the ‘New Economic Policy’.
Anders Åslund, 21 August 2012
It has become increasingly fashionable to talk about Europe without the euro. But this column points out that in the last century Europe has seen the collapse of three multi-nation currency zones: the Habsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia – and they all ended with disastrous hyperinflation. The lesson for the Eurozone is clear: avoid break up at almost any cost.
Mark Harrison, Andrei Markevich, 11 May 2012
At the start of the 1920s, Russia’s economy suffered the greatest economic catastrophe of a turbulent 20th century. This column argues that measuring this experience yields lessons for the relationship between state capacity, government policies, and economic development.
Kazuhiro Kumo, 02 June 2010
Before the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia's total fertility rate was 2.01. By 1999 it was below 1.20, before rising closer to 1.5 in 2007. This column uses micro-data analysis to examine what factors have driven this change. It supports the evidence from other countries that fertility is not solely determined by short-term factors such as rising incomes, the economic climate, or government initiatives.
Konstantin Sonin, 31 October 2008
Stalin’s mass killings are often viewed as the acts of a deranged dictator. But according to Konstantin Sonin of the New Economic School in Moscow, such violence may have reflected the Soviet leader’s rational efforts to avoid losing power. In an interview with Romesh Vaitilingam, recorded at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Milan in August 2008, he discusses his research and its implications for thinking about modern day dictators.
Konstantin Sonin, 09 August 2008
Stalin’s mass killings are often viewed as the acts of a deranged dictator. This column suggests that such violence may have been the Soviet leader’s rational attempt to avoid losing power in a revolution.