Ayn Stalin: Soviet Inequalities In 1929-1954

While researching my article on Soviet economic performance relative to the US (it was bad), I came across this fascinating graph showing income inequality in the USSR since 1946. As you can see, the 10% richest Soviet citizens in the first postwar year were more than seven times as rich as the 10% poorest. That is […]

The Soviet Economy – Charting Failure

Many Communists, leftists, and even patriots (I’m sorry to say) have a pronounced tendency to make out the Soviet economy as not quite the resounding failure it really was – or even to paint it as a success story that was only brought down by perestroika and liberal reforms. The above chart – based on […]

Russian Wages Are Fast Converging To Western Levels

Via The Economist, I’ve come across some fascinating research by Orley Ashenfelter and Stepan Jurajda (Comparing Real Wage Rates, 2012) showing how real wages can be meaningfully compared across different regions by taking notes on prices and wages in McDonald’s restaurants. The methodology seems solid. Big Macs are a very standardized product, hence they are already […]

More Russians Vacationing Abroad

According to a recent Levada poll, more Russians are starting to go to fun places on vacation. The total numbers of those going to the Black Sea or the Far Abroad rises to 16% in 2012, compared with 9% in 2006, 5% in 2000, and 4% in 1997. The percentage of those saying they won’t […]

Moscow Isn’t Another Country

There is a certain Russian expression: “Москва — не Россия” (i.e. Moscow, isn’t Russia), to denote the idea that while the capital may be rich, at least by Russian standards, the rest of the country languishes in grinding poverty. This is a trope is frequently taken up by the Western media, which at times presents […]

Are Russians As Rich As Czechs?

In terms of new cars, they now are. According to 2011 statistics, Russians bought 17.6 new automobiles per 1000 people. This indicator is still quite a bit below most of Western Europe, such as Germany’s 38.5, France’s 33.4, Britain’s 31.9, Italy’s 30.1, and Spain’s 20.0. However, it has already overtaken most of East-Central Europe, whose […]

The Race To Collapse

As readers of this blog know, I have long regarded the return of economic crisis as an inevitability (because the core energy and no-growth predicament facing the Western world wasn’t solved in 2008-9 but merely kicked further down the road by increasing debt and printing money). It looks like 2012 will be the crunch year, as […]

Open Thread: The US Debt Crisis

As with the previous such post, this thread will primarily serve as a meeting ground where S/O readers can discuss the impending US fiscal crisis. As usual, I try to provide some context and avenues for discussion: 1. On August 2nd, give or take a few days, the US Treasury will run out of money. […]

OPEN DISCUSSION: Russia’s Economy In The Next Global Crisis

The response to the last global crisis only consisted of kicking the can further down the road, and the chickens are showing signs of coming home to roost. Of particular note: (1) the recent upwards spike on bond yields for Italy and Spain*; (2) The political paralysis in the US that may (conceivably, if unlikely) […]

Russia’s Economic “Stagnation” In Global Perspective

Иn the wake of the 2009 recession, declinist rhetoric has come to dominate discussion of Russia’s economic prospects. Jim O’Neill, the founder of the BRIC’s concept, has his work cut out defending Russia’s expulsion from the group in favor of Indonesia, Mexico, or some other random middle-sized country. Journalists in the Western media claim its economy is […]

Names Of The Oligarchs On A Map Of The Motherland*

Not really arguing anything in this post, just sharing some interesting stats I found about the affluent class in Russia (as compared with BRIC’s and others). First, as we know Russia is (in)famous for the opulence of it oligarchy. But according to the research firm Wealth-X, despite a relatively high number of billionaires, its overall share […]

Corruption Realities Index 2010

The most famous corruption indicator is Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Its only problem is that the perceptions of their self-appointed experts have nothing to do with reality! As I explained in previous posts on this blog, it suffers from numerous flaws. Part of it has to do with its questionable methodology: using changing mixes of […]

Exercises in Banality: The Moral Preening By Khodorkovsky Apologists

My views on Khodorkovsky – and by extension his being found guilty of $25bn embezzlement – aren’t exactly a secret (1, 2, 3) so I’ll keep this brief. 1. As usual, the only people who care about this are Western politicians eager to score cheap shots against Russia’s “assault” on transparency and rule of law […]

Another View of the US Economy: Observations on Exergy, GDP & Median Incomes

The standard view of the American economy is one of exponential growth: even if interrupted by a recession once a decade and a Depression once every two generations (the 1890’s, the 1930’s, the 2010’s?), the engines of industry would always come back roaring again. Output per American could always be expected to increase as it […]

The Red Slope to Caviar Road

The Russian magazine Esquire came up with some pretty shocking figures: It would be cheaper to pave one 48km road for the Sochi Olympics with elite beluga caviar than asphalt. The total cost would come in at a cool 227 billion rubles, or $160 million per kilometer – five times higher than what it costs […]

Russia’s Roads to Nowhere, or: build Railways instead!

Though it’s not quite true that Russia has “no roads, only directions”, the old saying isn’t far off the mark. The World Bank’s recent report on Russia’s economy notes that the Eurasian giant’s road network is primitive and crumbling, coming in 111th in a global ranking (the railway system does much better at 33rd); more […]

Some Updates on Russia’s Economy

There is a wide divergence of views on Russia’s economic future. The pessimists project near zero growth (e.g. SWP, Guriev & Zhuravskaya), or even a renewed collapse if Europe goes haywire. The inventor of the BRIC’s concept (and Russia bull) Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs believes it will manage to eke out growth of 7%, […]

Why Russia is Cemented to the Other BRICs

In the wake of the economic crisis in which Russia’s GDP fell by a stunning 7.9% in 2009, its status as a BRIC economy – with its connotations of promise and progress – was brought into question. After all, isn’t it a dying nation with rapidly degrading infrastructure? Isn’t it amazingly corrupt? Wouldn’t its contempt […]

The Transition 20 Years On: The Reckoning

It is now nearly 20 years since market reformers began liberalizing the economies of Eastern Europe, or as some smart-ass put it, trying to revive the fish in the centrally planned fish stews. These stews, cooked to diverse recipes from goulash socialism to Soviet “structural militarization“, were subjected to a wide spectrum of overlapping treatments ranging […]

The Endgame Begins

A year ago I predicted that there will be a “decoupling from the unwinding“, as “emerging markets” by and large ride out the temporary shocks of declining Western demand for their exports (China) and the interruption of Western credit intermediation (Russia) before resuming growth. This is one aspect of the trends leading to the imminent demise […]