The Collapse of the Soviet Union

I have heard many a commentator say that the Russians attempt to match us in the arms race (specifically, the military exploitation of outer space) drove them into bankruptcy and collapse. I have yet to hear a single commentator (aside from libertarians) say that it was the Russian theory of economics, i.e. socialism, that drove them to bankruptcy and collapse. I have yet to hear a single commmentator comment on why the vast natural resources and population of Russia were unable to fund their military, nor why the previous enourmous military expenditures of previous Russian governments did not create a collapse at that time.

So I perform the following thought expariment: (1) I imagine a commonwealth with the institutions of the Englightenment (secret ballots, universal suffrage, representative limited government, civilian control of the military) that foolishly decides to overspent its taxes in military ventures; and (2) I imagine a socialist imperium that keeps its military expenditures within reasonable limits needed for defense, but has a command-and-control system of owning goods rather than a market, so that there is no way even theoretically to estimate the efficiency of production of any goods, and all goods are produced by quota.

Socialist theory promises to outperform market economies, and promises the market economies will fail. In my thought-expariment, after many years of mass-murder, torture, falsification, and growing misery, one of the tyrants unwisely allows his subjects to comment on the obvious difference between the promised utopia and the abundant misery socialism creates. The consent of the governed is eroded.

I can see why the second state would fall; it seems obvious to me. I cannot see why the first state would necessarily fall, rather have the current administration undo the overspending of the previous one, while a loyal citizenry gamely suffers through the lean times their previous folly caused.

The collapse of the soviet union in the 1980’s seems to have everything in common with case #2 given above, and almost nothing in common with case #1.

As for the commentators, it is as if they were studying the corpse of a man who died of alcohol poisoning, and they keep mentioning liver failure as the cause, and never mention his lifelong habit of immoderate drinking, and never bring up why his liver failed. Livers do not fail, of their own accord, for no reason. Governments who are heavily in debt do not fail, of their own accord, for no reason.

To extend the metaphor, imagine if we saw a drinking contest. The commentators see Reagan drink Gorbechev under the table, where he dies, and they blame the death on that one drinking bout; but they never notice that Reagan was in the prime of health, able to hold his liquor, while Gorbechev was a chronic drunk, his nerves and liver already ruined by many years of bad living.