a brief flame...

Brad De Long delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU
Tue Jul 7 07:14:24 PDT 1998


>>And general secretaries are the salt of the earth? :-)
>The answer to this is 'yes of course!'. Compared to life under the feudal
>filth, humanity made progress under the general secretaries.

It is surely the case that under the General Secretaries life expectancy and material standards of living *were* higher than under pre-industrial despots, enlightened or otherwise (save for "extraordinary" periods like Cambodia 1975-1977, China 1958-1960, Ukraine and Russia 1931-1934). But what has always impressed me most is the enormous gap that opened up between the levels of material prosperity and the space for political thought in countries that were and were not ruled by General Secretaries...

By and large the regions were General Secretaries ruled were determined by where the armies stopped. There were places (South Korea, Thailand, Greece, West Germany, Finland) that looked, as far as social structure and industrial development at the start of this century are concerned, very much like their counterparts just within the lands of the General Secretaries (North Korea, Cambodia, Bulgaria, East Germany, Leningrad). Yet no matter which set of social indicators we look at, the lands of the General Secretaries appear to come off badly in terms of material prosperity (perhaps a quarter or an eighth as productive as their beyond-the-iron-curtain neighbors?) and space for political discussion...

Brad De Long

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