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27 November 2012

Natural Experiment for Political Economies

It occurred to me the other day that we have a developing natural experiment for political economies. One common criticism of socialism has been that it is vulnerable to abuses in a way that other political systems are not: On the large scale, many socialist governments became tyrannical; on the small scale, many socialist governments experience widespread corruption. In 1991, Russia exited the Soviet Union (i.e. centralized socialism) and became a democracy (i.e. neoliberal capitalism). While the world was quite optimistic about this transition, what we have seen is that Russia continues to demonstrate unexpectedly high levels of tyranny and corruption. This natural experiment calls one criticism of socialism into question. It seems likely that, at least for Russia, the problems once assumed to be part of socialism are actually more accurately attributable to cultural predisposition (although, I would speculate that there are probably some structural explanations for the cultural differences).

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