Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-16 04:36am

BabelHuber wrote:Yes. But you miss the creative in "creative destruction".

A communist administration needs to actually plan such a change: The old supply chain needs to be replaced, a new one has to be established. It has to be decided what to do with the employees of the old industry, how to get them new jobs etc.

In capitalism, this usually is not necessary, the change is driven by market forces once after the invention occured...

What's "creative" here? Do you even understand the meaning of the word "creative"? Destroying the old supply chain and old market for goods without any plan for people previously involved in producing, transporting and selling the goods doesn't sound creative at all - it sounds chaotic and clueless, and requires little conscious action.

And indeed, replacing steam trains with diesel locomotives has basically removed the entire steam-train production facilities across the USSR. But workers did not lose their jobs - they got new positions. They did not have to actually think that the technical change will throw their entire existence into chaos and disarray.

If anything, creative destruction is a much more adequate description in this case than in the case of, say, a stellar example of capitalist "destruction" and malinvestment - the ill-fated Fordlandia.
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Being unable to foresee the development of synthetic rubber, massive investment into a venture that was never going to work occured. In the end, it is the people, and not the capitalist, who suffered because of this. Capitalists never had a plan for these people. That's destruction, but not of the creative kind.

Under capitalism, technical progress is like a tsunami that destroys people's lives without any plan for their fate after the change. There's no consideration for the workers of companies which go under, nor for their families - wives, children, elderly. Towns are built and then wiped out in a matter of an instant. Of course, such an order is more capable of innovating, as it just throws the innovations out into the fighting ring and then the weak die, the strong survive. People are only caught in the gigantic whirlwind of capitalist development, but they have no power over it; the impersonal logic of the market decides the fate of everyone.

That's just natural selection applied to human society - a form of social darwinism, and nothing more. It is prime natural chaos. What's creative about natural selection? Where is the creativity? Living beings adapt to the conditions because they have to - they do it without a plan, in fact, their genes do it for them in an entirely unconscious, uncontrolled process. Same with the market.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Tribble » 2016-08-16 08:09am

So what exactly is being argued here? That communism is superior to capitalism, or vice versa? Or that each system has advantages and disadvantages?
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Kingmaker » 2016-08-16 10:46am

Guardsman Bass wrote:That matters, because a democratic society is at least in theory* answerable to the populace and can thus respond to public unhappiness and make changes in state-owned enterprises and output (certainly there are a fair number of public services that run reasonably well, and cases like the VA where major reforms were undertaken that improved it in the US).


Authoritarianism exacerbates the issues with central planning because the State Planning Committee may not give a shit about what the populace wants and is willing to inflict tremendous human costs if that's what the plan requires, but it's not the fundamental problem. Central planning sucks because you cannot plausibly acquire and process the information necessary to actually manage the economy with anywhere near the efficiency of a market-based system. A vote every couple of years just isn't sufficient. (And even if a wizard came by and gave you the technology to do it, it would be horribly invasive to collect the necessary information and require dramatic limitations on personal freedom to carry out the plan.) There's a good reason why a lot of socialists dumped central planning in favor of other schemes (though many of those ideas are at least as goofy as central planning). Or just dumped socialism entirely and became liberals who like high G/GDP, extensive social welfare programs, and heavy regulation i.e. social democrats.

Public services can be run decently well (though they are frequently not) because they are, essentially, firms that happen to be publicly owned and aren't run at a profit. Managing a public service (or a private firm, for that matter) is an incomparably simpler task than managing a whole economy.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Guardsman Bass » 2016-08-16 11:50am

Kingmaker wrote:
Guardsman Bass wrote:Authoritarianism exacerbates the issues with central planning because the State Planning Committee may not give a shit about what the populace wants and is willing to inflict tremendous human costs if that's what the plan requires, but it's not the fundamental problem. Central planning sucks because you cannot plausibly acquire and process the information necessary to actually manage the economy with anywhere near the efficiency of a market-based system. A vote every couple of years just isn't sufficient. (And even if a wizard came by and gave you the technology to do it, it would be horribly invasive to collect the necessary information and require dramatic limitations on personal freedom to carry out the plan.) There's a good reason why a lot of socialists dumped central planning in favor of other schemes (though many of those ideas are at least as goofy as central planning). Or just dumped socialism entirely and became liberals who like high G/GDP, extensive social welfare programs, and heavy regulation i.e. social democrats.


The Calculation Problem at work. That's why I'm not in favor of a socialist economy, and probably why there's a vigorous debate over Market Socialism vs some other kind of Socialism on the Left as an organizing model (personally, I think the Market Socialists have the upper hand there even if some of their ideas on restructuring the financial system are bad - see this market socialist critique of ParEcon).

I just brought the topic up as a reminder that there isn't a binary choice between authoritarian socialist societies and democratic capitalist ones. Most socialists these days don't support a Soviet-style form of socialism, versus a variety of ostensibly democratic forms of governance ranging from Market Socialism to ParEcon to Syndicalism.

Side-note, but authoritarian socialist societies seem unsustainable in real life - the Soviet Union had greater entanglement in legal and illegal markets as time went on, North Korea repeatedly had shadow markets pop up in everything (they're now sort-of-tolerated by the existing government), and so forth. Maybe that's the Calculation Problem at work, pushing people to bridge the failures with exchange.

Stas Bush wrote:Under capitalism, technical progress is like a tsunami that destroys people's lives without any plan for their fate after the change. There's no consideration for the workers of companies which go under, nor for their families - wives, children, elderly. Towns are built and then wiped out in a matter of an instant. Of course, such an order is more capable of innovating, as it just throws the innovations out into the fighting ring and then the weak die, the strong survive. People are only caught in the gigantic whirlwind of capitalist development, but they have no power over it; the impersonal logic of the market decides the fate of everyone.


There's nothing fundamentally capitalist about mass suffering from economic dislocation - people lose their livelihoods, but we could build systems to ameliorate the pain and help them adjust to new kinds of work, etc. We just don't do that because of human selfishness, anti-tax resistance in politics, etc.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-08-16 12:26pm

Tribble wrote:So what exactly is being argued here? That communism is superior to capitalism, or vice versa? Or that each system has advantages and disadvantages?
For myself, I am arguing that the Computer Revolution is an excellent example of the type of area where capitalism is superior to communism. However, this superiority comes from specific, precise sources. While the advantages of capitalism over communism in this area are significant, they are not necessarily universal.

And I oppose attempts to generalize "A is better than B" by either side. Because my own belief is that capitalism is a great system for allocating resources, but one that nonetheless requires the state to exercise a lot of control in order to make capitalism stable and livable for the public. Ideological commitment to either pure communism or pure capitalism tends to result in this basic truth being forgotten.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby BabelHuber » 2016-08-16 02:04pm

Simon_Jester wrote:I have seen people, including you, try to use "freedom" as an ideology-based argument about why one economic policy is better than another many times. I have therefore become insistent that when we use "freedom" as a term in economics, we be precise about what is meant and why it is significant. Not all conceivable freedoms are even desirable in an economic system- the freedom to cheat or deceive comes to mind.


OK, I see where you are coming from. I didn't mean it that way, but perhaps it came along this way.

Simon_Jester wrote:I fail to see how this makes capitalism uniquely good at creative destruction. It makes creating a new system harder in a communist economy, in the sense that more labor and planning is involved. But it does not make creative destruction a special property of capitalism alone.


Not the "destruction"-part. Of course a command economy could decide to replace e.g. steam locomotives with Diesel ones.

It's the "creative"-part which is the key difference: An entrepreneur creates a new product which starts a process that affects the whole society, even if this is totally unintended at times.

The first CPU, the Intel 4004, was a custom chip for a calculator. The designer, Federico Faggin, thought that a fully-programmable, flexible chip is the best approach for this. Hence the CPU was born.

When the 4004 was sold to the general market, it found new use cases. Other people loved this concept and so chips like the iconic Z80 or 6502 were designed. The Apple II and the Commodore PET were both powered by the 6502.

In a command economy, you need some higher-level executives to make such decisions. Probably in a command economy Federico Faggin would have been told something like: "We don't need programmable chips for our calculators. We have enough chips to produce the number of calculators we need, and their functionality is also sufficient. Please focus on the tasks you have been assigned to instead."

Simon_Jester wrote:The problem here sounds like one of currency supply, not of the German government getting distracted. The structural problem was East Germany's inability to participate in the international market, which existed for a variety of reasons, their command economy being only one of them.


I would say that their command economy was the problem. The GDR produced machine tools which were competitive on the world market until ca. 1970. Then these privately owned companies were finally socialized. As a consequence, the GDR didn't have competitive machine tool manufacturers a few years later anymore...

Of course other issues played a role as well, but I think that this was the most important one.

Simon_Jester wrote:I will note that the ease of finding new jobs for the skilled workers is not necessarily the norm, and moreover the hardship for the work force sounds like it would have been more serious if not for the presence of unions, which are not an element of the capitalist system and which capitalist systems often try to destroy in order to increase profits.


I am not advocating a laisser-faire economic system. Unions are important as a counterbalance to the power of big corporations in a capitalist society, as well as democracy, free education, public healthcare and giving long-term unemployed at least an apartment and something to eat, to just name a few.

Simon_Jester wrote:Don't compare 1980 Russia to 1980 West Germany when the West Germans were richer, and had always been richer, than the Russians.


But Russia was not poor because of some forces of nature in 1980. What made Russia poor was first the Tsar and then the communist party and its rulers.

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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby BabelHuber » 2016-08-16 02:20pm

K. A. Pital wrote:What's "creative" here? Do you even understand the meaning of the word "creative"? Destroying the old supply chain and old market for goods without any plan for people previously involved in producing, transporting and selling the goods doesn't sound creative at all - it sounds chaotic and clueless, and requires little conscious action.


Don't shoot the messenger - I haven't invented the term "creative destruction" to describe such processes.

K. A. Pital wrote:Under capitalism, technical progress is like a tsunami that destroys people's lives without any plan for their fate after the change. There's no consideration for the workers of companies which go under, nor for their families - wives, children, elderly. Towns are built and then wiped out in a matter of an instant. Of course, such an order is more capable of innovating, as it just throws the innovations out into the fighting ring and then the weak die, the strong survive. People are only caught in the gigantic whirlwind of capitalist development, but they have no power over it; the impersonal logic of the market decides the fate of everyone.

That's just natural selection applied to human society - a form of social darwinism, and nothing more. It is prime natural chaos. What's creative about natural selection? Where is the creativity? Living beings adapt to the conditions because they have to - they do it without a plan, in fact, their genes do it for them in an entirely unconscious, uncontrolled process. Same with the market.


But only in the worst case. Of course we do have countries like e.g. the USA, where long-term unemployed only get food stamps, but no apartment to live in. I don't agree with this approach.

European countries have a much more balanced approach to this, with higher levels of social security. I also think it is paramount to have free education, so the offspring of poor people has at least a chance of living a better life.

Just look at the German Ruhr valley: The area lived from heavy industry and coal mining 50 years ago, but after most of these companies vanished, the government tried to convert the area to other industries. This is not always successful, but it's much better than letting the whole region simply rot.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-16 02:34pm

Guardsman Bass wrote:There's nothing fundamentally capitalist about mass suffering from economic dislocation - people lose their livelihoods, but we could build systems to ameliorate the pain and help them adjust to new kinds of work, etc. We just don't do that because of human selfishness, anti-tax resistance in politics, etc.

Economic dislocation is a result of pure market forces - and as such, it is fundamentally capitalist. Anything that the government does which alters and deforms the market actually is an act against the market. It may not be an act against capitalism itself (the order adapts to survive), but it is an act against the pure manifestation of market forces at work.
Guardsman Bass wrote:Side-note, but authoritarian socialist societies seem unsustainable in real life - the Soviet Union had greater entanglement in legal and illegal markets as time went on

More like, the USSR had more market (1920s), less market (1930s), more market (1950s), less market (1960s, 1970s), more market (1980s), then collapsed. The dismantling of the market mechanisms in late 1950s-early 1960s brought almost all economic activities under the command system, but it also coincided with the greatest expansion of citizen welfare (rapid improvement in rural diets, mass production of housing).
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-08-16 03:52pm

BabelHuber wrote:In a command economy, you need some higher-level executives to make such decisions. Probably in a command economy Federico Faggin would have been told something like: "We don't need programmable chips for our calculators. We have enough chips to produce the number of calculators we need, and their functionality is also sufficient. Please focus on the tasks you have been assigned to instead."
I would not be so quick to assume this; a fair number of engineering innovations did occur in various communist countries. And a culture of "let's not change anything to make it significantly better," like the one you describe, would tend to suppress all such innovations, not only the 'radical' ones.

For that matter, was Mr. Faggin the first person to design a microchip at all? If not, then it is quite likely that a number of other people were told by business executives "we don't need programmable chips for [application X], we need dedicated processors that are sufficient to perform the functions we need of them, now please focus on making them cheaper" or some such.

Capitalism may win races but it is unwise of us to adopt a mental model of command economies so simplistic that we find ourselves going "hah hah they're too stupid to accomplish anything because dumb bureaucrats lol."

Simon_Jester wrote:I will note that the ease of finding new jobs for the skilled workers is not necessarily the norm, and moreover the hardship for the work force sounds like it would have been more serious if not for the presence of unions, which are not an element of the capitalist system and which capitalist systems often try to destroy in order to increase profits.
I am not advocating a laisser-faire economic system. Unions are important as a counterbalance to the power of big corporations in a capitalist society, as well as democracy, free education, public healthcare and giving long-term unemployed at least an apartment and something to eat, to just name a few.
Very well- but it is worth noting that this indicates a very sharp limit to the value of capitalism as a socioeconomic system. Namely, that it basically stops working entirely as soon as the 'commodity' being priced is labor or human welfare.

So long as we are mindful of this, many of the downsides of capitalism can be mitigated... But we should not take for granted, when promoting capitalism's power as an economic engine, that everyone is going to remain mindful of this.

Simon_Jester wrote:Don't compare 1980 Russia to 1980 West Germany when the West Germans were richer, and had always been richer, than the Russians.
But Russia was not poor because of some forces of nature in 1980. What made Russia poor was first the Tsar and then the communist party and its rulers.
The point here is that, quite simply, Russia's prosperity increased by a factor of four from 1913 to 1973, despite massive damage caused by wars.

Meanwhile, the prosperity of capitalist Anglosphere nations (in particular the US, which enjoyed much more favorable circumstances during the same time period) increased by about a factor of three.

This fact suggests that, even if we agree that capitalism generates more growth, we should not assume that command economies are incapable of significant growth. And we certainly should not assume that Russia's state of poverty relative to other developed nations in the 1970s and '80s was caused by communism. It is not logical to suppose that a condition which predated communism was caused by communism. If Russia was always relatively poorer than the capitalist Anglosphere nations, and actively narrowed the gap or at least kept it roughly constant during the communist period, then communism did not cause so much economic stagnation as we might otherwise believe.

It also means, in the context of specific comparisons like "in 1980 there were a lot more computers in American offices than in Russian ones," you have to seriously consider the cause of the problem. Perhaps the cause was that communists are too stupid to design new technology. But then again, perhaps the cause was Russia's ongoing status as a nation which had started the industrial revolution fifty years late, fought two massive land wars and a civil war, and whose population began the twentieth century in economic conditions more like those of Mexico than like those of Germany, Britain, or the US.

Because Mexico didn't become an economic powerhouse either.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby BabelHuber » 2016-08-18 12:09pm

Simon_Jester wrote:For that matter, was Mr. Faggin the first person to design a microchip at all? If not, then it is quite likely that a number of other people were told by business executives "we don't need programmable chips for [application X], we need dedicated processors that are sufficient to perform the functions we need of them, now please focus on making them cheaper" or some such.


Microchips already existed back then. He invented the microprocessor, or CPU (central processing unit).

Before the Intel 4004, the processing logic consisted of several chips. With the additional input/output logic (for keyboard, screen, printer and whatnot), you needed at least about a dozen chips, usually several dozen.

With the Intel 4004, you needed 4 chips as a whole (plus the memory chips, obviously).

As I already have stated, it was intended to be used for calculators. Only after it was released to the general market, people used it to build actual computers.

Simon_Jester wrote:Capitalism may win races but it is unwise of us to adopt a mental model of command economies so simplistic that we find ourselves going "hah hah they're too stupid to accomplish anything because dumb bureaucrats lol."


In my experience, bureaucrats don't help you in most cases, they delay your work instead.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-08-18 01:33pm

BabelHuber wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:For that matter, was Mr. Faggin the first person to design a microchip at all? If not, then it is quite likely that a number of other people were told by business executives "we don't need programmable chips for [application X], we need dedicated processors that are sufficient to perform the functions we need of them, now please focus on making them cheaper" or some such.
Microchips already existed back then. He invented the microprocessor, or CPU (central processing unit).
Yes; that's my point.

Federico Faggin designed the first microprocessor. It is far from obvious or certain that he was the first person to imagine a microprocessor, though. There are a lot of reasons someone might say "I want to build the first microprocessor" and either wind up saying "but I can't" or be told "no" by an outside party.

The point being that you cannot say "only under capitalism would Faggin or someone like him have invented the microprocessor; in a command economy he wouldn't have the freedom to do it." It's not like Faggin was in business for himself, he was an employee working in a larger operation. As it happens, he presumably got permission to work on an elaborate multi-functional microprocessor because some executive saw a potential for profit in the invention... but this doesn't mean that his Soviet counterpart couldn't have gotten approval to do the same thing. The Soviets did have research laboratories and did perform a variety of pure and applied research, after all. They were not just mindlessly emulating things other people had invented.

This is not to say that a capitalist economy isn't going to have advantages, when it comes to inventing new technology and disseminating it. The point is that it isn't immediately obvious that this advantage is vast or overwhelming.

As I already have stated, it was intended to be used for calculators. Only after it was released to the general market, people used it to build actual computers.
Yes- but the idea of using a product intended for one purpose, to serve another purpose, is also not unique to capitalism. The Soviet Union had its share of hobbyists, tinkerers, and improvisers, after all.

What I suspect was far more crippling to Soviet computing in the '70s than the lack of engineers with the freedom to invent things... would be the industrial issue. The Soviet Union, with roughly 1/3 the per capita GDP of the richest Western nations, and with import restrictions stopping it from buying semiconductor fabricators from said Western nations, would not have been in a good position to duplicate Western microchips.

But other countries in a similar position of relative poverty had the same problem- and you will note that none of them were world leaders in computer manufacture and design either. And that, like the USSR, they wound up with a lot of inferior computer hardware, or imitations of other people's hardware. The main difference is that nations not part of the Soviet bloc could simply buy modern computers from US manufacturers (or from other countries like Japan).

Simon_Jester wrote:Capitalism may win races but it is unwise of us to adopt a mental model of command economies so simplistic that we find ourselves going "hah hah they're too stupid to accomplish anything because dumb bureaucrats lol."
In my experience, bureaucrats don't help you in most cases, they delay your work instead.
So? That isn't a response to what I actually said.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby crueldwarf » 2016-08-19 12:45am

It is pretty common mistake that people do all the time - a direct comparison between 'prosperity' of 'Western capitalist' nations (especially USA) and Soviet Union.

It is simply uncomparable things and they have very little to do with respective economic system. Try to imagine United States of America suffering the devastation on the level of WW2 at home? Third to half of entire infrastructure in the most developed part of the country is simply wiped out. 15 to 20 million people dead, more than half of them are from most active and productive part of the demographic.

But it is not only limited to that. It could be said that Soviet Union lost majority its elite during the war. People who actually believed in the cause. Only ~4% of the population of the Soviet Union were members of the Party but in the same time about 10% (more than 3 million) of the war deaths were communists.

You should not be surprised that Soviet Union was lagging behind in the computer industry in the end. You should be surprised that Soviet Union had the computer industry at all after all that.

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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby FTeik » 2016-08-19 05:21am

It wasn't just WW2, although that did huge damage, too. The purges of Stalin and the famines following the collectivization of the agri-cultural sector cost millions of people their lives (alone for the former Sovjet-republic Ukraine the estimates range between five and fourteen million people). Considering how many better educated people were among those purged, the Sovjets didn't need the Nazis to screw themselves over.

Although to be fair, one could also argue, that much of the wealth of the Western World is based on exploiting the Third World (and without doing that it would be a lot smaller), while Russia (Tsarist and Communist) always only had its own people to exploit.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-19 07:24am

I would say the war and the purges was certainly more damaging than the collectivization in terms of industrial development. Collectivization's primary victims were peasants, who were largely illiterate, while the war wiped out a huge share of the urban population, especially in such intellectual centers as Leningrad, and the purges wiped out thousands of high-ranking officials and competent specialists.

Tsarist Russia had colonies (Poland, Finland, territories in North-Eastern China), so it is not entirely true that there was no colonial posessions to exploit. However, it is true for the period 1922-1939, where the USSR lost most of former Russian Empire dependencies and had no external colonies. That aside, Ukraine could not have lost 14 million in the famine as the entire population in 1927 was ~29 million and in 1939 it was ~31 million (instead of the projected 35 million). A loss of 14 million would have been 50% of the pre-famine population and could not be restored in decades, much less years.

But with such initial conditions, it is indeed surpising that the USSR developed a computer industry at all, much less was one of the front-runners for over a decade.

Another nation that was ravaged by civil war on a similar magnitude in the XX century and was also locked out of foreign technology (China) developed a high-tech sector only after decades of opening up and substantial tech transfer from abroad. Immediately after its civil war and the famine - in the mid-1960s - China could barely produce enough food to feed its people - it was not ready to compete in space industry, computer industry or any other high technology sector at all. It also never had universal medical care or freely accessible education that were the norm in the post-WWII Soviet Union.

So while the USSR lost the race, it was at least a good runner and gave effort. That much can't be said for many other nations that started with inferior position to the US in the XX century, with few exceptions.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Guardsman Bass » 2016-08-22 10:51am

crueldwarf wrote:It is simply uncomparable things and they have very little to do with respective economic system. Try to imagine United States of America suffering the devastation on the level of WW2 at home? Third to half of entire infrastructure in the most developed part of the country is simply wiped out. 15 to 20 million people dead, more than half of them are from most active and productive part of the demographic.


You don't need to make a comparison with the US, when you can compare the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries with the western European countries after World War 2. Heavy devastation, but the ones that became capitalist democracies became more and more prosperous and rich compared to their counterparts on the other side as time went on. Or look at Korea, both South and North of which got wrecked in warfare.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-08-22 11:20am

FTeik wrote:It wasn't just WW2, although that did huge damage, too. The purges of Stalin and the famines following the collectivization of the agri-cultural sector cost millions of people their lives (alone for the former Sovjet-republic Ukraine the estimates range between five and fourteen million people). Considering how many better educated people were among those purged, the Sovjets didn't need the Nazis to screw themselves over.
Yes, but it's at least fair to blame communism for the Stalinist purges and the famines, because those disasters were the direct consequences of actions taken in the name of establishing communism in the Soviet Union.

So for purposes of comparison, if BabelHuber argues "the USSR was poorer than the US because capitalism is better than communism," and I reply, "Stalin's purges are to blame for that," BabelHuber would rightly reply "Oh, I accept your concession, then."

On the other hand, it was clearly not the responsibility of communism that the Soviets were invaded during World War Two. Nor was it the responsibility of communism that Czarist Russia was inherently a poorer country than its rivals further west in 1913.

So when comparing the Second World (the Soviet bloc) to either the First World or the Third, we should control for only those variables which were not caused by the actions of the communists from 1917 through 1991. Russia being significantly poorer per capita than, say, Germany or the US falls into this category, and should be controlled for. Russia being hit with political purges and ideologically motivated disruptions of agriculture does not fall into that category, and should not be controlled for.

Fair is fair.

Guardsman Bass wrote:You don't need to make a comparison with the US, when you can compare the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries with the western European countries after World War 2. Heavy devastation, but the ones that became capitalist democracies became more and more prosperous and rich compared to their counterparts on the other side as time went on. Or look at Korea, both South and North of which got wrecked in warfare.
True, although in these cases the nations on the US's side of the Iron Curtain enjoyed advantages their rivals on the Soviets' side did not. Such as cheap access via trade to the products of the US's advanced and undamaged industrial base. And such as (on the whole) less destruction of the elite.

In Poland the Nazis methodically targeted and tried to destroy the educated intelligentsia because they were trying to reduce the Poles to the level of slaves, and they wanted to ensure their slaves remained ignorant.

In France, the Nazis did not methodically target the intelligentsia because they had no long term racial goal of destroying or enslaving the French population.

It is unsurprising if the French academic and technical establishment was more robust than the Polish one after the war, even if all other variables are ignored.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-22 11:24am

Population losses in most other nations were significantly smaller than in USSR, Poland and Yugoslavia (in both relative and absolute numbers) - with the notable exception of China, perhaps. Greece was also badly mauled. Restoring Germany and Japan was a matter of national importance and as such, cannot be easily compared without comparing the economic conditions of the respective hegemon.

In the post-war decades, Soviet GDP per capita rapidly exceeded that of Greece, Portugal. It took Southern European nations a while to catch up. Meanwhile, Greece just got a quarter of its GDP wiped out and thrown to the 1980s numbers without any war.
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I can understand the desire for simplistic explanations, but they hardly work here.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby crueldwarf » 2016-08-22 12:09pm

Guardsman Bass wrote:You don't need to make a comparison with the US, when you can compare the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries with the western European countries after World War 2.

You miss out on a very important thing here. Warsaw pact countries were both dependant on the Soviet Union (which had smaller economy because of above mentioned reasons) and in the same time they were dominated by the foreign power which installed an ideology unsupported by significant part of the population in them. Is in't obvious that a country under foreign occupation (even if relatively mild one most of the time) wouldn't develop that well?

Guardsman Bass wrote: Heavy devastation, but the ones that became capitalist democracies became more and more prosperous and rich compared to their counterparts on the other side as time went on. Or look at Korea, both South and North of which got wrecked in warfare.

This is also not a really good example for a several reasons.
Firstly, South Korea wasn't even close to the modern democracy for more than a half of the Cold war period and by the 90s North Korea became essentially isolated state. It is quite an interesting note that people mostly run to the North in the 50s and 60s, not other way around.

Secondly, devastation level is not really comparable either. Only North was subjected to a systematic bombing campaign of such magnitude that by the end of the war US Strategic Air command essentially run out of targets to bomb. And they simply continued to bomb random civilian targets to apply more pressure on North Koreans on the peace talks. North Korean industry was literally leveled during the war and for the most of the time the war itself was waged on North Korean territory while South Korea was subjected to the effects of the war in the beginning only when North Koreans hoped to capture the country intact, so they didn't engage in the campaign of the systematic destruction of the infrastructure.

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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-23 03:39am

To make the point clear graphically:
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby BabelHuber » 2016-08-23 12:21pm

crueldwarf wrote:Secondly, devastation level is not really comparable either. Only North was subjected to a systematic bombing campaign of such magnitude that by the end of the war US Strategic Air command essentially run out of targets to bomb. And they simply continued to bomb random civilian targets to apply more pressure on North Koreans on the peace talks. North Korean industry was literally leveled during the war and for the most of the time the war itself was waged on North Korean territory while South Korea was subjected to the effects of the war in the beginning only when North Koreans hoped to capture the country intact, so they didn't engage in the campaign of the systematic destruction of the infrastructure.


While this is of course true, North Korea is no "communist" country in my opinion. It rather is a dictatorship out of hell, or an absolutist monarchy of the worst kind.

With any halfway sane leadership, North Korea's economy surely would skyrocket.

K. A. Pital wrote:Population losses in most other nations were significantly smaller than in USSR, Poland and Yugoslavia (in both relative and absolute numbers) - with the notable exception of China, perhaps. Greece was also badly mauled. Restoring Germany and Japan was a matter of national importance and as such, cannot be easily compared without comparing the economic conditions of the respective hegemon.


I absolutely agree. A better comparison probably is West Germany vs. East Germany. Both countries roughly had the same level of devastation in WW2. Of course the economy of East Germany was additionally burdened with soviet reparations (at least initially).

Note that the GDR was basically bankrupt in 1980 and was rescued only by a West German credit, so the values below have to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Nominal GDP of East and West Germany
Year GDP, bln € GDP per capita, tsd €
East West East West
1950 37 262 2,0 5,2
1960 73 574 4,2 10,3
1970 113 897 6,6 14,8
1980 164 1179 9,8 19,1
1989 208 1400 12,5 22,6

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_o ... c_Republic
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-23 12:38pm

Data is taken from this paper
http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/h ... sequence=1

Surprisingly, it shows that the gap in GDP per capita between East and West Germany was greater in 1950 (starting point) than in 1989, meaning that East Germany was catching up to its Western counterpart. Indeed, 2/5,2 is 38%, while 12,5/22,6 is over 55%. That considering the fact East Germany's respective hegemon (USSR) was poorer than the USA, and thus could provide much less assistance to Eastern Germany, while Western Germany had free trade with the world's largest capitalist nation and access to all US tech, not to mention the Marshall plan.

I think that this was a comparison you have made without thinking through if it bolsters your point. After all, I am only using your own numbers...
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby BabelHuber » 2016-08-23 01:26pm

As I said, these values need to be taken with a huge grain of salt:

- The GDR was basically bankrupt in 1980 and had to be rescued by credits, backed up by West Germany
- People waited up to 14 years to get a Trabant
- Things like bananas were a rarity in East Germany
- Products which could be exported to the West usually were exported, e.g. most kitchen stoves manufactured in the GDR. As a consequence, citicens of the GDR had to buy kitchen stoves made in other Warsaw Pact countries, which had worse quality
- Industrial infrastructure was helplessly outdated
- Most of the industry wasn't competitive with the world market, hence unemployment skyrocketed after the reunification (although partly the quick introduction of the DM can be blamed here)
- Pollution was a much bigger problem than in West Germany, e.g. in the area of Leuna where you had chemical factories, some of them still running with 19030s equipment. The air was hardly breathable there.

Not to forget the fact that in the GDR you could be arrested for stating your opinion...
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-08-23 02:40pm

I for one will be entirely unsurprised to see evidence that West Germany outperformed East Germany.

Quite frankly, the Cold War wouldn't have ended the way it did if it weren't for the fact that market economies are good at mobilizing resources efficiently, while command economies are less good at it. Without that, it is almost impossible to explain why communism not only lost geopolitical Great Power status but also lost virtually all hold as a political ideology avowed by governments.

I just want to make sure we make intellectually honest comparisons- and East versus West Germany has the potential to be one.

BabelHuber wrote:I absolutely agree. A better comparison probably is West Germany vs. East Germany. Both countries roughly had the same level of devastation in WW2. Of course the economy of East Germany was additionally burdened with soviet reparations (at least initially).
And conversely, West Germany had considerable support from the US and other Allied powers, precisely because the rest of NATO valued it as a buffer state.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby FTeik » 2016-08-24 06:31am

Simon_Jester wrote:
FTeik wrote:It wasn't just WW2, although that did huge damage, too. The purges of Stalin and the famines following the collectivization of the agri-cultural sector cost millions of people their lives (alone for the former Sovjet-republic Ukraine the estimates range between five and fourteen million people). Considering how many better educated people were among those purged, the Sovjets didn't need the Nazis to screw themselves over.
Yes, but it's at least fair to blame communism for the Stalinist purges and the famines, because those disasters were the direct consequences of actions taken in the name of establishing communism in the Soviet Union.

So for purposes of comparison, if BabelHuber argues "the USSR was poorer than the US because capitalism is better than communism," and I reply, "Stalin's purges are to blame for that," BabelHuber would rightly reply "Oh, I accept your concession, then."


Only I wasn't answering to BabelHunter, but to CruelDwarf, who argued, that WWII was the deciding factor for the poor economic development of the Sovietunion, not communism.

Simon_Jester wrote:On the other hand, it was clearly not the responsibility of communism that the Soviets were invaded during World War Two.


To be honest I'm a little ambivalent on the invasion of the Soviet-Union. Not on the fact, that more than twenty million people died, the destruction and the suffering. That was and is horrible, inhuman and barbaric. On the other side the Sowiets were already occuppying the Baltic States, the Ukraine, they had shown themselves to be a murderous regime intent on spreading their ideology and they were conspiring with the Nazis to invade and divide Poland between them. And then they end as one of the winners of World War II, sit as judges at the Nuremberg Trials and their influence reaches into the centre of Europe.

Simon_Jester wrote: Nor was it the responsibility of communism that Czarist Russia was inherently a poorer country than its rivals further west in 1913.


No it wasn't, but it was perhaps the one condition, that allowed the Revolution to succeed in Russia, when similar revolutions failed everywhere else.

Simon_Jester wrote:So when comparing the Second World (the Soviet bloc) to either the First World or the Third, we should control for only those variables which were not caused by the actions of the communists from 1917 through 1991. Russia being significantly poorer per capita than, say, Germany or the US falls into this category, and should be controlled for. Russia being hit with political purges and ideologically motivated disruptions of agriculture does not fall into that category, and should not be controlled for.

Fair is fair.


I have to disagree on this. Russia might have started poorer per capita than Germany and the US but since the poor decisions of first the tsarist regime and then the communists are responsible for the situation not improving as well as it could (denying people things like freedom and education (although the communists worked on that), killing millions of their own people in purges and famines caused by communist mismanagment, eridacating the non-communist intelligenzia - all those things didn't help with economic development. (Communist) Russia has/had lots of space, lots of people and lots of resources (which makes it similar to the US), it only has/had to use them. So perhaps they might not be/have become as rich as the US or Germany, but they might have been better of, than they were under communist rule.

Also some countries being poorer than others isn't just a question of being a "capitalist-democracy" vs. "communist dictatorship". Even among the worlds capitalist-democractic countries, there are huge differences. And if the differences aren't between the countries themselves, they are between their citizens.
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Re: Why did the Soviet fail to develop a computer industry

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-08-24 09:46am

Indonesia has lots of people and lots of space. And it is poor.

Also all the communists, feminists and just about everybody to the left of Pinochet were physically terminated in the 1960s.

Why is Indonesia still poor and much poorer than most former communist nations with the exception of North Korea?

Same question about India, too. Lots of people, lots of territory. Why not suddenly better than the US?

It is not a simple matter of "territory, resources, people" = win. Life is not a strategy game.
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