Obama’s Nobel Prize

The astounding news has reached the baffled ears and eyes of the world today that the Storting, Norway’s national Parliament, has incongruously decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the American President Barack Obama. The official statement appears to imply it is essentially an award of encouragement, which is itself also strange – so far, Nobel Peace Prizes had almost always been given either for lifetime achievement or for a specific occasion, such as a peace treaty. Recently, the Storting committee had expanded its range somewhat by including activism for environmental issues as well as for providing credit to the Third World ‘deserving poor’, but this seems another territory altogether. Continue reading “Obama’s Nobel Prize”

An Outline of the Economic Problems in the History of the Soviet Union

The eventual downfall of the USSR has often been seen as a self-evident example of the failure of central planning, both as a principle and especially in practice. The critics of the USSR also point to the low standard of living of the population during its existence, the prevalence of famines, the low availability and shoddy quality of consumer goods, and its continued lagging behind the United States in production as more proofs of the failure of ‘socialist construction’. Although these criticisms are not entirely without merit, they need to be contextualized and qualified strongly to be properly understood. It is therefore important to provide a rough outline of the economic history of the collapse of the USSR and its meaning. Because the focus of this article is on the economic problematic, more detail than is usual will be presented about these issues, whereas some political, cultural and social developments of importance will be largely avoided. Continue reading “An Outline of the Economic Problems in the History of the Soviet Union”