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A summary by Bob Allen Nuffield College 2005. This book undertakes a reassessment of Soviet economic history:. What institutions and policies worked? Which failed? Why? What lessons does Soviet history have to teach?. The reassessment is based on three axes:.

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slide1

A summary by

Bob Allen

Nuffield College

2005

this book undertakes a reassessment of soviet economic history
This book undertakes a reassessment of Soviet economic history:
  • What institutions and policies worked?
  • Which failed?
  • Why?
  • What lessons does Soviet history have to teach?
the reassessment is based on three axes
The reassessment is based on three axes:
  • Repositioning the debate on Soviet performance in a world historical context.
  • Recalculation of national income from 1928 to 1940 including, in particular, the growth in consumption.
  • The use of simulation models to explore historical and policy counter factual trajectories
    • What was the effect of investment strategy and collectivization on industrialization and living standards in the 1930s?
    • What was the effect of famine, world war, and fertility on population growth?
slide4

This inquiry leads to a more favourable assessment of Soviet performance than is usually reached. It is not an unqualified endorsement of the Soviet system:

  • Dictatorship was a political model to be avoided
  • Collectivization and political repression were human catastrophes that brought meagre economic returns.
  • The strength of central planning also contained the seeds of its undoing, for it required a planner. When plan objectives were misguided, as in the Brezhnev period, the system stagnated.
i will examine the following issues
I will examine the following issues:
  • Soviet growth in a world historical context
  • Growth in the late imperial economy
  • The standard of living, 1928-40
  • Causes of rapid growth, 1928-40
  • Soviet demographic history
  • The Soviet growth slowdown
part i

Part I

Soviet Growth

in World-Historical Perspective

the main facts about economic growth include
The main facts about economic growth include:
  • Income per head has gone up in almost all countries.
  • Among the rich countries of the OECD, there has been a convergence of income as poor countries have grown faster than rich countries.
  • The reverse, however, is generally true: The countries that were poor in 1800, 1900, or whenever, have grown less rapidly than the rich countries.
  • As a result, incomes have diverged around the world.
by many indicators 19th century russia was among the poor countries
By many indicators, 19th century Russia was among the poor countries.
  • Income per head
  • Share of the labour force in agriculture
  • High fertility demographic system
  • Capriciousness of the law
  • Authoritarianism of the state.

If the normal pattern applied, Russia would have remained poor

throughout the twentieth century.

the remarkable feature of the soviet period is that russia bucked the trend
The remarkable feature of the Soviet period is that Russia bucked the trend.
  • Japan was the most successful economy—one of the few poor countries that became rich.
  • The USSR was the second most successful poor country.
  • More recently, South Korea and Taiwan have joined the club.
  • But these few are exceptions to the general pattern.
slide10
USSR did better than most countries that were poor in 1928 and beat the OECD catch-up regression line.
question why did the ussr perform so much better than so many poor countries
Question: Why did the USSR perform so much better than so many poor countries?

This is not the usual question about the Soviet economy!

part ii

Part II

The late Imperial economy,

1870-1917

per capita income rose in many countries 1870 1913 including russia key questions
Per capita income rose in many countries 1870-1913 including Russia. Key questions:
  • What caused the economic growth?
  • Would it have continued in the twentieth century and closed the gap with the West?
  • Did the pattern of growth play a role in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917?
slide14

Agricultural expansion was the main cause of growth in the late Imperial economy.After 1896, wheat prices rose world-wide and wheat exports fuelled growth in Canada, Australia, Argentina, India, and Russia.

slide15
Without industrial tariffs, Russia would have become more agricultural. State promotion of industry was a secondary cause of growth.
would russian growth have continued in 20 th century and closed the gap with the west
Would Russian growth have continued in 20th century and closed the gap with the West?
  • Only one country—Japan—did that.
  • Russian growth would have had to be at the top of the world league table.
  • The causes of Imperial expansion did not continue
    • World wheat price collapsed in 1920s
    • No more railroads to build (and they wouldn’t have been profitable)
    • Other wheat exporters stagnated or declined for half a century.
  • Only by changing the bases of growth could the economy have continued to develop. Would Tsarist Russia have had the institutional revolution of Japan?
russian economic growth was not fast enough to benefit all russians
Russian economic growth was not fast enough to benefit all Russians.
  • Real wages stagnated.
  • Extra income accrued to capital and land.
  • In western Europe, growth was fast enough to raise wages giving workers a stake in the system. This underlay their conversion to social democracy.
  • In Russia and other peripheral parts of Europe (e.g. Spain), growth was not rapid enough to benefit workers, and the polity cracked.
russian growth was not fast enough to create a high wage economy
Russian growth was not fast enough to create a high wage economy.
  • Output per worker in industry rose by a factor of 2.4,
  • while real wages were constant:
real wages were again constant
Real wages were again constant.
  • The rise in income accrued to land.
  • Rising land values were common on the wheat frontier around the world.
  • Land ownership, therefore, was the dominant economic issue in the countryside.
  • Increasing returns to scale in agriculture meant that the society of small farmers was not in equilibrium and explains the appeal of the equal division of the (increasingly valuable) land.
the character of tsarist development
The character of Tsarist development:
  • A one-off natural resource boom souped up with some tariff induced industrialization.
  • The wheat boom would not have continued through the twentieth century.
  • Further growth required ‘doing a Japan’. Was the Tsar that flexible enough to restructure the whole society?
  • Growth was feeble enough that labour markets were slack, and the gains did not trickle down to the working class.
  • Rising inequality and disputes about the ownership of land, an asset increasing in value, underpinned radical politics and political instability.
part iii

Part III

Standard of Living, 1928-40

gdp grew rapidly 1928 40 investment soared did the standard of living rise
GDP grew rapidly 1928-40. Investment soared. Did the standard of living rise?
  • Food consumption per head
  • anthropometrics
  • Consumption per person
  • Real wages

Four indicators:

These indicators show that the standard of living increased.

anthropometrics
Anthropometrics
  • Life expectancy of men increased by 3 years and women by 5 years in the 1930s.
  • Army recruitment data indicate that the average heights of men in the late 1940s were considerably higher than their counterparts in 1910.
slide27

Real earnings rose

for those who moved

from the country to

the city.

That’s most city

residents in the

late 1930s.

slide28

Conclusion: Soviet growth 1928-40 included rising consumption as well as soaring investment.This was a remarkable achievement.How was it accomplished?

part iv

Part IV

Causes of rapid growth and rising living standards, 1928-39

slide30

Explaining Soviet growth must begin with agriculture, which was the largest sector of the economy in the 1920s.Detailed comparisons of European Russia with the Canadian prairies and US northern plains shows:

  • Little difference in biological efficiency (crop and animal yields).
  • Great difference in efficiency in employment and labour productivity.
there was a great difference in employment and labour productivity
There was a great difference in employment and labour productivity.
  • The average north American farm was 84 hectares, while the average Russian farm was 11 hectares.
  • Differences in mechanization played a big role.
  • Even without mechanization, the Russian farm labour force was larger than necessary for cultivation.

Russia was a classic labour surplus economy. The development

problem was increasing the capital stock to provide jobs for

everyone.

how is this diagram related to history movement from d to e to f involved
How is this diagram related to history?Movement from D to E to F involved:
  • The concentration of investment on heavy industry to rapidly increase the industrial capital stock and provide industrial jobs.
  • The collectivization of agriculture to feed the industrial workers, to provide them with raw materials, and to push them out of the countryside.
  • Plan targets and soft-budget constraints to guide business output and to ensure full employment.

The movement of labour from farm to factory was the motor

of Soviet growth, and these were the processes that accelerated

that movement.

i use a multi sector simulation model to measure the importance of these factors
I use a multi-sector simulation model to measure the importance of these factors.
  • Model tracks population and accumulates capital from one year to the next.
  • 50 equations describe the main sectors of the economy, and they can be altered to explore counterfactuals.
counterfactual thought experiment what explains the rise in gdp
Counterfactual thought experiment:What explains the rise in GDP?

e is the fraction of producer goods output reinvested in that sector.

causes of growth in gdp
Causes of growth in GDP
  • Raising e from .07 to .23 added 50 billion rubles to 1939 GDP.
  • Soft budgets instead of hard budgets added 60 billion rubles.
  • Collectivizing agriculture only added 20 billion rubles.
causes of growth in consumption per head
Causes of growth in consumption per head
  • Raising e from .07 to .23 added 100 rubles to 1939 consumption per person.
  • Soft budgets instead of hard budgets added 200 rubles.
  • Collectivizing agriculture added 80 rubles.
this graph contrasts the effects of institutions on industrialization
This graph contrasts the effects of institutions on industrialization:

Note: e = .23 in all simulations.

overall conclusions
Overall conclusions:
  • Expanding heavy industry and industrial employment via soft budgets were the keys to rapid growth.
  • Collectivization made a positive—but small—contribution to economic growth.
  • Most of the output gains of Soviet industrialization could have been achieved by the planned management of industry within the framework of the NEP.
part v

Part V

Soviet Demographic History

there are two ways to raise gdp per head
There are two ways to raise GDP per head:
  • Increasing GDP
  • Reducing the number of heads

Was the rise in GDP per head due to high mortality from

Stalinist repression, collectivization, and the Second World War?

a slowly growing population was a significant feature of soviet history
A slowly growing population was a significant feature of Soviet history.
  • On constant territory, the Soviet population grew 70% between 1928 and 1989.
  • Over the same period, populations in developing countries grew three to five times.
  • In the 1920s, the USSR had a high fertility population like those in less developed countries.
  • Why did the USSR not experience a similar population explosion? Why did the population not reach 1 billion?
the impact of collectivization and world war ii was studied with a simulation model
The impact of collectivization and World War II was studied with a simulation model.
  • Both events increased mortality and also reduced fertility by changing the age and sex distribution of the population.
  • Both events caused permanent and persistent reductions in the size of the population.
  • Neither of these reductions was large enough to explain why the USSR did not have a population explosion.
slide47
The reason that the USSR did not have a population explosion was the rapid fall in the fertility rate.
why did the fertility rate fall
Why did the fertility rate fall?
  • Fertility model estimated from Russian/Soviet censuses of 1897, 1939, and 1959.
  • Results very similar to models estimated for third world countries in late twentieth century.
  • The key variables explaining fertility decline were the education of women and higher incomes.
  • Educating women and higher living standards were important features of Soviet policy, and they had a major demographic pay-off.
part vi

Part VI

The Soviet growth slowdown:

If the system was so good, why did it fail?

slide52
The growth slowdown was concurrent with the end of ‘surplus labour’. Weitzman has offered an elegant analysis linking the two:
the soviet isoquant was close to a right angle and the economy turned the corner in the 1960s
The Soviet isoquant was close to a right angle, and the economy turned the corner in the 1960s:
slide55

The Soviet economy acted ‘as if’ investment suddenly ran into diminishing returns when full employment was reached, but the appearance is illusory.

  • The real problem was two changes in investment policy:
    • Modernization of old factories rather than the construction of new ones.
    • Depletion of old oil fields and mining districts led to massive redirection of investment from Europe to Siberia.
  • It was ‘as if’ the USA tried to rebuild the rust belt and supply it with Canadian raw materials rather than shutting it down and reconstructing the economy.
  • The accumulation of unproductive capital created the statistical illusion of an almost right angle isoquant.
the cold war also reduced the growth of the soviet economy
The Cold War also reduced the growth of the Soviet economy.
  • The allocation of R&D resources to the military in the 1970s and 1980s cut innovation in the civilian economy.
  • Half of the decline in the growth rate was a decline in productivity growth.
  • This decrease provides an upper bound to the impact of the arms race with the United States.
this interpretation of the soviet decline is the reverse of those that emphasize incentives
This interpretation of the Soviet decline is the reverse of those that emphasize incentives.
  • Planning worked well in its own terms: Shifting the energy base from coal to oil to gas was an impressive achievement.
  • The problem was that this was not the best approach to energy problems.
  • The problem was not that managers failed to follow the plan.
  • The problem was that the plans did not make sense.

The early strength of the Soviet system became its great weakness

as the economy stopped growing because of the failure of

imagination at the top.

slide58

For more

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