1/14/2020

The Soviet Economy Was Not Growing; It Was Dying

"Beginning with the 1961 edition of his bestselling economics textbook, Paul Samuelson included a graphic displaying the comparative growth rates of the American and Soviet economies. Per this forecast, the Soviet gross national product would overtake the United States at some point between twenty-three and thirty-six years in the future. Curiously, by the 1980 edition of the textbook this same graph had shifted forward by two decades so that the point of projected intersection would still take place between twenty-two and thirty-two years in the future. Similar claims appeared in competing textbooks from the time and generally transferred over into the specialist literature on the Soviet economy as well.

At the midcentury mark, economist G. Warren Nutter (1923–79) provided one of the lone dissenting voices to challenge what had become a matter of conventional wisdom among Sovietologists. Whereas others perceived vibrancy and vitality in the socialist society’s industrial growth, Nutter recognized its long-term economic decline concealed behind a politically crafted veneer of propaganda about socialist industrial prowess."