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Sep 16

Rediscovering Fire: Basic Economic Lessons from the Soviet Experiment

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A book event

Marx argued that economic laws were contingent upon property relations. The Soviet Union tested his ideas on a grand scale. By eliminating private property, it was hoped a new, fair, and prosperous society would emerge. However, in managing an economy based on public ownership, Soviet leaders discovered that they could not repeal economic laws. By managing the consequences of their policies, the Soviets unintentionally relearned the basics of economics from scratch – essentially, rediscovering fire.

In Rediscovering Fire, Guinevere Liberty Nell visits this historical social science laboratory to study the lessons in basic economics that it teaches. She examines not only the policies based on Soviet theory, but also the reforms planners then had to implement when their policies ran up against the unchangeable economic laws they sought so strongly to deny. The parallels between these examples and our current U.S. policy debates are striking.

I am really impressed by the book: the careful collection of excellent quotations, a well-balanced approach (quite rare!) and transparent organization of ideas.
– Janos Kornai, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University

Guinevere Liberty Nell works on economic modeling and policy analysis at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. Her research focus includes Austrian economics and Soviet economic history. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals and also presented her dynamic agent-based economic modeling at interdisciplinary conferences.

More About the Speakers

Guinevere Liberty Nell
Research Programmer, Center For Data Analysis, The Heritage Foundation

With commentary from
Arnold Kling
Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute

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