New MRU course on the economics of the Soviet Union

by on June 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm in Economics, Education, History, Uncategorized | Permalink

It is taught by Guinevere Liberty Nell, and you will find it here.  Here is Guinevere’s biography:

Guinevere Liberty Nell earned an MA from the University of Warwick in Soviet economic history after studying the subject independently for several years, as well as studying and publishing in the field of Austrian economics. She is the author of Rediscovering Fire: Basic Economic Lessons from the Soviet Experiment (Algora, 2010) and Spontaneous Order and the Utopian Collective, which focuses on Lenin’s utopian ideas and the early years of the Soviet experiment (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2014).

We will have a class (mostly by me) on International Finance , coming soon, other offerings too.

1 we live in interesting times. June 10, 2014 at 12:43 pm

It really will be different this time (tongue in cheek.)

It just wasn’t implemented the right way. (RME)

2 prior_approval June 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Always such modesty here when reporting about an author’s professional background – ‘Guinevere Liberty Nell is a research programmer and policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.’

Just ask the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center how that works –

3 TMC June 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm


4 Sigivald June 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm


Keeping the bio relevant; for teaching a class on Soviet economics, her degree in Soviet economic history is relevant, as are her Soviet historical publications.

That’s why you’d mention them – they show qualification for the task.

5 prior_approval June 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Always such modesty here when reporting about an author’s professional background – ‘Guinevere Liberty Nell is a research programmer and policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.’

Just ask the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center how that works.

Is it possible that is no longer possible here to link to a GMU faculty member’s home page?

6 prior_approval June 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Why yes, if the link is to

7 prior_approval June 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Or not, as the case may be – still, something concerning Prof. Tabarrok seems to be filtered (at least for my posting), much like a link to a notable early 3d physibles site.

8 Axa June 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Got it, the moral here is “the guy’s CV is more important that any idea he could say”. Brilliant.

9 Brandon June 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Uh, that’s kinda Prior’s whole shtick.

10 prior_approval June 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Well, apart form the comments that tend to get deleted with actual dollar figures, or how to hide policy institute contributions behind the veil of respectability of ‘endowment,’ or mentioning the actual names (or even just nationalities) of people I used to work with at GMU.

The fact that someone works for the Heritage Foundation would seem to suggest that even the fig leaf of libertariarism offerd by the institute formerly known as the Charles Koch Foundation is unnecessary at a web site that like to proclaim itself as something other than conservative – a distinction the Heritage Foundation is unaware of.

11 Sigivald June 10, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Is the idea that Heritage employees must be shunned entirely by All True Libertarians, even if they’re teaching Soviet economic history?

(And are you trying, seriously, to tell me that Charles Koch has a mere fig-leaf of libertarianism about him compared to his not-very-apparent arch-conservatism?

He founded Cato with Murray God-Damn Rothbard. How can one possibly establish more thorough libertarian bona fides than that?

I suppose by those lights Reason is really the Menshevik version of the Bolshevik Weekly Standard?

As Lord Julius said, “Find out what he’s been smoking … and have a few ounces sent to my chamber”.)

12 mofo. June 10, 2014 at 4:33 pm

To the truly obsessed, all links are relevant.

13 GiT June 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm

“He founded Cato with Murray God-Damn Rothbard. How can one possibly establish more thorough libertarian bona fides than that?”

This doesn’t really suggest what you think it does, considering Rothbard’s role in Paleolibertarianism and the libertarian alliance with social conservatism.

14 prior_approval June 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm

As an experiment, just visit this man’s bio on the web – – and tell me after reading it that several posts here of the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center (an accomplishment placed in front of any GMU recognition by that particular GMU Econ Dept. prof.) don’t beome obvious in retrospect.

15 Affe June 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Can I interest you in a nice mug, or perhaps a t-shirt ?

16 Jan June 10, 2014 at 5:53 pm

A lot of people hate the FDA.

17 liberty June 11, 2014 at 3:40 am

Not really sure what this is all about, but if the concern is that relevant information about affiliations is being omitted, I no longer work at The Heritage Foundation (I’ve just reminded Palgrave-Macmillan to update that page).

18 Go, Kings, Go! June 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm

That phrase, the “Soviet Experiment” lacks…information. How about Soviet Catastrophe. Or Mania? Self-Inflicted Genocide?

And Lenin’s “Utopian Ideas” can be similarly improved. He didn’t consider them Utopian and I don’t think common usage of “Utopia” includes his consciously murderous intentions.

19 Jan June 10, 2014 at 8:19 pm

As many people in former Soviet countries say, “It was better before!”

20 derek June 10, 2014 at 9:45 pm

A german woman said to me, in all sincerity, that before the Nazis you couldn’t walk the streets without being bothered. They cleaned that up. The only ones who had trouble were those who caused problems.

Am I to take it that you are an authoritarian manque?

21 Jan June 10, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Yeah, these are people who really believe the Soviet days were the good ol’ days. I guess I can understand that by many objective measures, their lives were better. But on balance it is a statement that for us in the West just does not compute.

Yes, about the authoritarian manque thing, obviously.

22 So Much for Subtlety June 10, 2014 at 10:44 pm

People remember their childhoods differently to how they were. This is well known. They edit out the bad stuff. That is why every 40 year old is nostalgic about their High School and most of them actually go to their Reunions. They usually couldn’t wait to get away at the time.

Freeman Dyson married a German women. His Father-in-law was in the Wehrmacht and told him that the invasion of Russia was the greatest fun ever. It was brilliant. So good that if it wasn’t for the Americans, they would do it all again.

23 liberty June 11, 2014 at 5:08 am

My reading of the vast, extensive writings of the Bolshevik leaders, including Lenin, and of their actions and policies, leads me to believe that they did not have “murderous intentions” (with the exception perhaps of the Tsars and a few elites? ~ even the execution of the Romanovs though can be explained by the common political position post-revolution; as Trotsky said of it: “We decided it here. Ilyich believed that we shouldn’t leave the whites a live banner to rally round, especially under the present difficult circumstances.”)

Why am I so sure that Lenin’s intentions were not brutal, violent, genocidal, and were instead utopian, hopeful, progressive? Well, one can never be certain about another’s intentions, but 20 years worth of pre-revolution writings — from a prolific author and his equally prolific comrades — go into excruciating theoretical detail on this matter. They do not, unfortunately, adequately explain how they are going to achieve success, economically speaking, but they certainly outline their complaints about the pre-revolutionary system and their ambitions regarding its overthrow and their intended transformation of the economy and society after taking power. I go into great detail on this matter in the course and in my book Spontaneous Order and the Utopian Collective.

As for whether the “experiment” should be described as “utopian,” this is something that I also discuss in some depth in the course (there is a section on it – section 4, “Marxist Utopianism,” and one video especially addresses Marx’s rejection of the term and why it is still appropriate – “The Bolshevik Vision”), and also in my book Spontaneous Order and the Utopian Collective. The introduction gives a brief explanation – you can read it here: (especially pages xv – xvii).

24 Brett June 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I’m really looking forward to this one. I like the country-specific segments on the MRU site, so I’ll probably love this one like I loved the section on Mexico’s economic development.

25 Jan June 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Reading Vodka Politics convinced me that alcohol really was a significant contributing factor to the Soviet Union’s decline.

26 Dismalist June 10, 2014 at 9:31 pm

I had occasion to observe drinking habits among [low ranking] academic officials in East Germany, ca. 1984, and found them, err, dysfunctional. And again among Soviet economists ca.1989, and found them, err, unsurvivable? Policy or not, it all seemed kinda’ endogenous to me.

27 Tununak June 10, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Guinevere Liberty Nell … best name ever.

28 Axa June 11, 2014 at 5:53 am

I’m curious about the course. I was fascinated by the story of the guy who said Mendel was wrong I’d like to know the economics point of view of this story.

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